FAQ for International Students

What is the academic year calendar?

The school year at American colleges and universities is usually divided into two semesters. The fall semester at Panola usually starts in mid-to-late August and ends in mid-December; the spring semester usually begin in January and ends in May. The final exams in December mark the end of the fall semester. There is a three-to-four week long break that lasts until January when spring classes begin. The end of the spring semester marks the end of the academic year, though some students may choose to enroll in summer courses, which are shorter and more intensive than the regular semester courses.

At Panola, there are a couple of short and long breaks during the academic year. During the fall, students have a few days off for Thanksgiving (fourth week of
November). In the spring semester, no classes are held during Spring Break (usually mid-March). In addition, there may be a few single day holidays throughout the academic year, such as Labor Day, the first Monday in September.

American students usually choose to go home or travel during longer breaks, and many international students visit their newly-made friends at their homes or plan
trips to other parts of Texas and the United States.

Residence halls close at the end of each semester and during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring Break periods. During closes periods, all residents must be out of the residence halls by posted times. Students who plan to return after the Thanksgiving and Spring Break closings may leave their belongings in the rooms without going through the complete check-out procedure. Any student planning to return for the next semester (i.e.
Christmas break) may leave their belongings but must unplug and empty refrigerators and turn in keys.

Is there an application fee?

Yes, there is a $50 application fee.

What classes will I take?

Upon arrival, you must take our assessment test for course placement in English,
Reading and Mathematics (Accuplacer exam). This assessment will indicate the
level of class in which you need to begin. You could be required to take review
classes before beginning your studies.

Do you offer an English as a Second Language (ESL) program?

No, we do not have an ESL program.

Do you offer an orientation session for international students?

Yes. All new F-1 students are required to attend a one-to-one orientation with the International Student Advisor. We will review college policies, regulations, and Resources as well as immigration policies and regulations. Make sure you bring your stamped Form I-20, your passport, visa, and I-94 card. You will also need to bring copies of your insurance information with you.

Can I transfer my courses from Panola to a university or any other college?

Panola has articulation agreements with Texas public senior institutions and some private institutions for the acceptance of transferred Panola credit (usually not more than 66 semester hours) toward university degree requirements. If you intend to transfer, consult with your advisor.

What is a semester credit hour?

Academic credit is expressed in semester credit hours (SCH). Generally, one class lecture hour per week for the semester earns one SCH. A class meeting three lecture hours a week, therefore, has three SCH.

How does the course numbering system work?

A course number has four digits. The first digit identifies the level of the course: "0" indicates a developmental level, "1" indicates freshman, and "2" indicates sophomore level. The second digit indicates the SCH credit value of the course. The third and fourth digits distinguish the courses within a program area. For example, English 1301 is a freshman level (1), three semester-hour course (3).

What is a GPA?

Grade point average (GPA) is calculated by multiplying the semester hour value of the course by the point value of the grade earned. An "A" in a three-hour course earns 12 grade points; a "B" earns nine points; a "C" earns six points; a "D" earns three points; and an "F" earns zero points. The grade point average (GPA) is calculated by dividing the total points earned by the semester hours completed with grades.

How many distance education courses can I take as an international student?

Since January 1, 2003, no more than the equivalent of one online/distance education class or 3 SCH per semester may be counted towards the "full course of study" requirement.

Do you have student clubs or organizations?

Yes we do!! We have more than 20 different student organizations for you to choose from. They are ethnically, academically, and socially diverse and a great way to make new friends.

What is the procedure once I receive the Form I-20?

When you received your acceptance letter from Panola, along with the Form I-20, you will then contact the American embassy/consulate in your home country to make an appointment for your interview.

What is expected of me from the Embassy/Consulate?

You will need to show that you have sufficient financial support, and demonstrate that you clearly understand your major of study and how it will benefit you in your home country upon return. You will be required to show that you have strong ties to your home country, confirming your intent to return upon completing your studies.

How should I prepare to depart my home country?

Before you arrive in Carthage, you should make sure you've packed all the essentials, as well as things that will help you adjust to life in the United States.

Passport: Be sure that your passport will be valid for at least six months beyond your anticipated arrival date. If not, renew it.

SEVIS: After receiving the Form I-20, you must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee at www.fmjfee.com

Visa: Schedule your F-1 visa interview at the appropriate US consulate or embassy as soon as you have received your acceptance letter and Form I-20.

I-94: Besides your passport and visa, be sure to bring your SEVIS fee payment receipt. You will be given the I-94 card on the airplane prior to landing in the US.

When you land in the US, your paperwork will be reviewed by a Customs and Border Protection officer. After the officer has completed his/her review of your paperwork make sure you have all your IDs (passport, visa, I-94 card, stamped Form I-20, etc), money, Panola College documents (acceptance letter, etc) and any medications you might be taking.

Try to pack lightly, but efficiently. The dress code at Panola is pretty casual - students usually wear jeans and T-shirts in class - but it's good to have at least one or two sets of nicer clothes when you and your friends go out.

How do I get to Carthage and Panola?

The closest international airports are DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth) and George Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport (Houston). Both are at least 3 hours by car from Carthage.

DFW does offer daily connecting flights to Gregg County Airport, also known as East Texas Regional located in Longview, TX, approximately 30 minutes from Carthage.

Shreveport, Louisiana has an airport and is approximately 45 minutes from Carthage, TX. You may be able to purchase a ticket from Greyhound Bus Service (www.greyhound.com) or Kerrville Bus Lines (www.coachamerica.com).

Do I need insurance?

Yes. Although Panola does not have a student insurance policy available, you can contact the International Student Advisor and she can provide information about policies. Don't be without insurance!!

When does school start, and when should I physically be in town?

Residence halls usually open a couple of days before classes begin. If you have plans to reside on-campus and you arrive in Carthage earlier than this, you will want to plan to stay at one of the local hotels. Your Form I-20 will reflect the start date of classes for the semester so you can gauge when residence halls will open based on that information.

You may not enter the US more than 30 days before the program date on your Form I-20. You will need to report your arrival to Carthage to the International Student Advisor located in the Student Success Center office, Martha Miller Administration Building on the Panola campus. You will need to bring your stamped Form I-20, your passport, visa and I-94 card when you come to the office. The International Student Advisor will conduct an orientation session at that time.

What happens if I become less than a full-time student?

According to immigration law, you must pursue a "full course of study." This means you need to be enrolled in 12 semester credit hours to keep your status as an F-1 student. Under certain circumstances, your instructor may withdraw you from class and issue a grade of F. Dropping below 12 hours will affect your immigration status, which means you will lose your status as an F-1 student.

If I lose my F-1 status, what do I need to do?

You may need to leave the United States to re-establish student status by re-entering the country with a new Form I-20 or by filing a reinstatement request with the Department of Homeland Security. For more information, please see your International Student Advisor to determine the best course for you.

How do I finish my degree program if I'm not complete by the date on my I-20? 

You will need to meet with the International Student Advisor to determine how much time is needed to complete your degree program. Then you must present new financial documents to verify the financial support needed to extend the date of your Form I-20. Your International Student Advisor will advise you. We can extend your program's end date in annual increments if requested by the student BEFORE the end date on your Form I-20. If you fail to extend the date, you may lose your F-1 status.