Participants are expected to be in good standing with their host schools, and to show honest and consistent effort in their academics, throughout the program. As such, they are expected to complete all school assignments and homework, attend all classes, and demonstrate effort towards participating in class as expected by teachers. For many host schools, maintaining a C average or above is also an important marker for good standing, and so it can be normal to encourage students to strive for that.
Schools, teaching styles, and class organization are just some aspects of academic life that can vary greatly from culture to culture. As a result, we cannot assume that participants will be familiar with how school and academics work in the US. We also can’t assume that adjustment to American schools will be easy or quick for participants. AFS provides host parents with the following helpful resources and guidance on the Help and Learning for Host Families platform, which we encourage volunteers to be familiar with:
- The days before school starts
- The first weeks of school
- School basics
- School emergency drills and procedures
- As the school year continues
- End of school year reminders
Academic expectations and important information on American High Schools can also be found in the Welcome to the USA Student Handbook and in the Welcome Video on School Realities for participants, available here, which we also encourage volunteers to look through.
Academics and Culture
Completing group work, completing homework, sharing answers, and reaching out to teachers for help are all ideas that may carry a different significance in many of the countries our participants come from. Therefore, to help them engage in schools and class time with the highest level of success, it can be quite useful to discuss how these concepts work in the host school to prevent the participant from being perceived as committing academic dishonesty or being seen as academically underperforming. Although the following handouts are designed by AFS for educators, the questions and ideas within can help guide host families, liaisons, and other AFS volunteers through conversations about these topics with participants.
Click here for the materials created for educators relating to students in the classroom.
Pursuing Credit on Program
Many participants choose to pursue academic credit for their year on program. If so, we encourage students to know- and communicate with their host schools- early in the year what requirements their home schools have for advancement at the end of the year. Please note that AFS defers to the rules and regulations of the host school in terms of what kind of credit and school documentation is possible. We also defer to the host school when it comes to determining what classes participants can attend. AFS cannot guarantee full course credit for students, nor can we guarantee that senior-level students will receive a diploma or be allowed to participate in a graduation ceremony.
Click here for more information on transcripts and obtaining an Apostille.
While not a nationwide requirement, many AFS teams and chapters recommend or encourage participants to take classes that further introduce them to American culture such as American History, English, or Civics. Volunteers are welcome to make this suggestion.
Lastly, AFS expects schools to serve for participants as an important space for socialization with Americans their age, and sometimes too with other exchange students. Students are highly encouraged to join at least one after school activity, club, or sport through their school when available.