ACADEMIC INTEGRITY & learning resources



If you are relatively new to the American school system, one thing that might come as a shock is its emphasis on academic integrity. Most domestic students are aware of this since it has been part of their education and are less likely to run into serious problems, so it is particularly important for new international students to understand the scope and severity of the code of academic integrity and the relevant Penn policies. Unfamiliarity with the principles or negligence are rarely an excuse when it comes to student conduct penalty, so be sure to read through the the code here: (

In the student testimonial below, we have collected some responses to the culture transition with regard to academic integrity.

Q: What did academic integrity mean to you before coming to the US

“It simply meant that I wasn’t supposed to cheat on exams or copy homework from any of my friends. That’s basically it”

Q: If you attended high school outside the US, were your assignments required to be completely your own work?

“We could always copy many things from the internet. Some teachers didn’t like that when they noticed it and would deduct 5 points if we did it repeatedly. […] If an assignment was take-home, we could copy sentences from the internet we researched as long as we didn’t copy from our classmates”

Q: What shocked you most in the US about Academic Integrity?

“How serious teacher penalize it! One of my friends from Korea received a strict academic warning and failed his class because he copied a part of his midterm paper from online sources. His semester was ruined because of that”

Q: Was there any case you found Academic Integrity rules to be less strict in the US?

“Yes actually, my first math exam, everyone was using cheat sheets with all the formulas they needed for the exam written down on them. Meanwhile I spent the whole previous week memorizing all these equations, as I did back in Lebanon. The fact that cheat-sheet are completely allowed was very shocking. They have the word cheat in them!”



Your first resources should always be your professor and Teaching Assistant (TA). Professors are very open to questions and you should take advantage of their office hours. The same goes for the TAs. If you have a scheduling conflict, email them to set up a time. Penn also has a variety of other learning resources such as Weingarten Learning and Resources Center which offers help with time management and balancing your workload and the Penn Tutoring Center where you can get a private tutor who will meet with you every week. The Penn Tutoring Center offers a variety of services including private tutoring for many core introductory and intermediate courses, satellite tutoring at many locations on campus such as the college houses, special events near finals such as ‘Cram ‘n Jam’ and ‘Graveyard’, and student-led workshops. The best part is that all of these resources are absolutely free for Penn students so you should definitely consider making use of them!

The Weingarten Center also offers workshops which aim to provide international students with tips and strategies needed to be successful in the US higher education system. They are offered in both the fall and spring semesters. You can sign up for these here.

The Writing Seminar

A writing seminar, used in order to fulfill the writing requirement, is a course that all undergraduate students are required to take regardless of their school or major. The Critical Writing Program offers various seminars that cover a range of interesting topics, from photography to anthropology. Enrollment in a writing seminar consists of the completion of reading and written assignments that are related to the topic of the seminar. The course culminates in the completion of a final portfolio. It is not mandatory for students to take a seminar during their freshman year, however, it is highly recommended that students do. International students who do not have a strong grasp of certain aspect of American English have the option of taking the seminar, Global English. This seminar is better suited for these students because it provides instruction in the conventions and demands of American English college writing. In addition, students can receive additional support from tutors that are freely available in the Marks Family Writing Center. The specialists at the Writing Center are a great resource for any aspect of the writing process:

  • Analyze your writing assignments or professor feedback to determine what s/he wants
  • Brainstorm topics for a paper or personal statement
  • Help you plan, write, stage, or revise a research paper
  • Give you feedback on cover letters, applications, proposals
  • Teach you strategies for writing and organizing lengthy papers and reports
  • Show you how to strengthen sentences, paragraphs, transitions, diction
  • Give you tips on how to make your writing more powerful and engaging
  • Identify patterns of errors in grammar and mechanics

For the critical writing seminar, the Center can even provide specific help on assignments since they have been extensively trained in the Critical Writing Program’s approach.

Places to Study

There are 15 libraries at Penn which include the Biddle Law Library, the Biomedical Library, the Engineering Library, Fisher Fine Arts Library, and Van Pelt which is the main undergraduate library. Each library is equipped with computers and also provides laptops on request for use in the library. You can also borrow DVDs from the DVD collection in Van Pelt and even video cameras if you need them. Penn is also part of larger network of libraries known as ‘Borrow Direct’ which allows students to request books and materials which may be present in the libraries at Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Brown, and Columbia universities. EZ-Borrow is PALCI’s (Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium, Inc.) web gateway that allows simultaneous searching of academic library catalogs in Pennsylvania. This means that if there is some resource which Penn’s own libraries don’t have, you can still access it through these two services.

You can also reserve study rooms in the libraries and Wharton students can book group study rooms in Huntsman Hall. There also a number of quiet spaces in each of the college houses as well as computer labs. Check your college house’s brochure for specific information on these.