Liberal Arts Education

The U.S. system of higher education may be quite different from that of your country. At the undergraduate level, most U.S. colleges and universities offer what is called a liberal arts education, the purpose of which is to ensure both breadth and depth of learning. Students gain exposure to a broad range of subjects by taking courses in the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. This broad base of learning serves to complement specialization in a major field of study.

A few students are initially hesitant about taking courses outside their major area, but most are delighted with the opportunity to explore various fields of interest. Some modify their academic plans because of the educational growth that liberal arts learning inspires: a pre-engineering major has decided to add a major in religion to her plans, and a recent graduate ended up majoring in both pre-medicine and humanities. Regardless of their majors, almost all students graduate with a deep appreciation of the value of a liberal arts education. We therefore urge you to keep an open mind and allow yourself the pleasure of sampling courses in a variety of academic disciplines.

Academic Majors

Many students from other educational systems mistakenly think that a bachelor’s degree is more or less equivalent to the academic major, as in many countries the major is all one studies at the university level. Some international students are, therefore, too concerned with the major at first. Most majors, as you can see by reading the catalog, consist of eight or twelve courses out of 34 required for graduation. Roughly, then, a major is one-third of the coursework for a bachelor’s degree.

Students are free to major in whatever subject they want; the University does not put limitations on their choice of major. Students are not admitted to one academic department or another – they are admitted to the University.

There is no need to declare a major until the end of the second year. You can also change majors – several times if necessary. Many students do change their intended majors, as first-year college students generally have an unrealistic assessment of their abilities and their interests. Since the first year is often a year of important discoveries, let this process happen! It is much better to explore in your first year or two and then settle on a well-chosen major than to be narrowly focused at first and then have to change everything towards the end when there is not enough time.

You can have two majors, if you wish. You could even do three, although it may well be impossible to fit all the requirements in your four years here.

The most important part of the major is the advanced coursework, generally done in the last two years. It is good to sample the introductory courses in a number of disciplines, including your intended major (s), in the first year.


The approach to education in the United States may be different from what you are used to and it may require you to change your study habits. What counts here is your daily performance throughout the semester, not the big test at the end. You will be expected—not just encouraged—to attend class regularly, to participate in class, and to keep up with regular reading and other homework assignments.

Professors evaluate student work quite frequently during the course of a semester through assignments and frequent quizzes. The final examination at the end of the semester often makes up only a small percentage of the final grade in a course. Professors will tell you on the first day of class what they expect from you and how they will evaluate you.

In most courses, class participation is strongly encouraged. Students are expected to ask questions about points they do not understand, to share their opinions and comments, and to contribute to the class. Furthermore, it is not considered disrespectful to question the instructor. Professors welcome lively discussion if it is to the point; it is their way of making sure that students are following the lectures and understanding the material properly. Do not be afraid to admit that there are parts of the material you do not understand; if you do not understand them, it is likely that others in the class will share your confusion, and the resulting discussion will benefit everyone.

If you still have additional questions after the class discussion or if you are really interested in the material and want to explore it to a greater extent, feel free to go see your professor in his or her office after class. By visiting your professors when you have a problem, you demonstrate your interest in the course and your seriousness about your academic responsibilities.

Courses in literature and the social sciences will often require a lot of reading. Emphasis is on understanding and on synthesizing the various authors, not on memorizing details. Professors are looking for originality of thought and for the ability to analyze material. For written work, emphasis is not on eloquence, but on having good arguments, expressed clearly and supported by reason and evidence.

Choose your courses carefully. Do not overload yourself, especially during the first semester. Do not automatically assume that you can handle more course work than the average U.S. student; you must leave yourself plenty of time to understand and adapt to our system and to new ways of studying. Ohio Wesleyan courses are difficult and our professors' expectations are high. Students balance their course load by taking one or two lighter courses, which do not require too much reading or written work, with two more difficult courses.

Genius alone will not get you very far in the American system. If you don’t produce the work, on a regular basis, you will fail.

Get to know your fellow students. Group study and exchange of ideas often help you to understand how the system works. Other students are ready to offer help if you ask for it. You can benefit a lot from discussions with your classmates and vice versa.

Go to your professors, your academic adviser, or IOCP staff if you have any problems. We are here to help you and we encourage you to let us know when you are having difficulty. Don’t be too shy to talk to your professors and advisors for they won’t know that there is a problem – until they see your grades!

Students from other countries who come to Ohio Wesleyan tend to be well prepared academically. We are confident of your ability to achieve success here. Students tell us that it takes about one semester to adjust to the system and feel comfortable with it, and as a result, the first semester can be stressful as well as exciting. You will find a lot of support here—from our office, from your professors, and from other students. By giving you information in advance about academics at Ohio Wesleyan, we hope to prepare you to meet the initial challenges of adjustment and make a smooth transition.

Academic Honesty

Authenticity and the ethical use of information are highly valued in academia. The integrity of the academic community depends upon norms of conduct that support cooperation, honesty, and respect in the use of all information and academic resources. All members of the academic community are expected to promote adherence to the principles of honest academic conduct. Participating in, allowing, and even ignoring academic dishonesty are unacceptable.

Your professors are themselves scholars and they will generally expect you to behave as scholars. A presumption of good faith and honesty underlies all student-professor interactions. Professors trust you to behave honorably and honestly. Violations of our policy on academic honesty will result in penalties. Furthermore, such violations are viewed by professors as a betrayal of their trust in you, of the implicit student-professor contract. Aside from any stated penalties, there may be unspoken penalties for violating this trust that affect your standing in your major department, the respect and goodwill afforded to you by your professors, and recommendations for graduate school or employment. We urge you to take very seriously your professors' trust in you.

Sometimes it is hard, especially for new students, to pin down the spirit of academic honesty. Professors might not discuss their expectations explicitly. And whereas a certain amount of group work might be required in a lab, for example, it might be strictly prohibited in another course. It is your responsibility to know what is acceptable and what is not in each course. If you are unsure, talk to your professor. And in general, when in doubt, error on the side of caution. The spirit of academic honesty should infuse all academic work—from major examinations down to the smallest homework assignment and including all interactions with professors and other students.

You are strongly encouraged to become familiar with our policy on academic honesty. Information can be found in the catalog, and the full policy in available on the OWU Student Academic Resources page.

Despite making a special effort to publicize this policy, every year a few students are found guilty of plagiarism. They are generally shocked at the penalties, which can range from an F on an assignment or exam to failure in the course (even for one incident which may, to the student, seem trivial), to expulsion from the University. The professor is generally the one who decides the penalty and a report is made to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A second offense could be very serious indeed.

Advanced Placement and College Credit

Advanced placement and/or college credit may be granted for advanced coursework completed at a secondary-level institution and evidenced by results on the CEEB Advanced Placement (AP) Examinations, the SAT II Examinations, the International Baccalaureate Higher Level Examinations, the GCE Advanced Level Examinations, and other such credentials. Proficiency examinations administered by OWU departments may also provide advanced course placement and/or college credit.

CEEB Advanced Placement (AP) exams: Advanced placement and/or college credit may be granted in relation to scores earned and departmental standards. See the University Catalog section Advanced Placement. Students who wish to receive credit should have their official examination results sent to the Office of the Registrar for evaluation.

International Baccalaureate: Ohio Wesleyan grants course credit for specific performance levels on the higher exams. For each higher exam on which the student scores a 5, 6, or 7, two units of credit will be awarded, except in the departments granting specific credit or additional criteria. For more detailed information, see the University Catalog section International Baccalaureate. Students who have completed the International Baccalaureate and wish to obtain credit should have their official examination results sent to the Office of the Registrar for evaluation.

GCE Advanced Level Examinations: Students who pass A-Levels in Economic with a C or better will received a total of two credits; one for ECON 110 and one general unit of lower-level Economics credit.

OWU Examinations for placement and/or college credit: Examinations for placement in a foreign language course will be administered without charge during Summer Orientation and at other times specified by the department. No college credit is granted, and the examinations may not be repeated.

Examinations for college credit in other courses may be taken by any student during the first semester of the freshman year without charge. Arrangements to take such examinations should be made with the appropriate academic departments. For detailed information, see Examinations for Placement and/or Credit in the University Catalog.

English Competency

Regardless of your TOEFL or SAT verbal score, you may be anxious about your ability to communicate effectively in the U.S. dialect and idiom. You may have difficulty at first with conversational English until you get used to the accent and some new vocabulary, especially slang. Many students indicate that within one semester they have few or no problems.

The University does offer English language support courses for new students who can benefit from additional, advanced, English instruction to assist them with their transition to academic life in an English-speaking classroom. Selection to participate in such courses is based upon submitted test scores and other evaluative criteria.their room. Very few students actually do this, instead students just buy a cell phone.

Contact Info


International & Off-Campus Programs Office
Merrick Hall
Delaware, Ohio 43015
P +1-740-368-3075
P +1-740-368-3070
F 740-368-3073

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Office Hours

Academic Year (August through May): Monday to Friday from 08:30-12:00 and 13:00-17:00
Summer (June and July): Monday to Friday from 08:30-12:00 and 13:00-16:30