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International Student Handbook

This handbook provides basic information on what being a student in the United States would entail, including details on the academic system, weather, housing, health insurance, and how you can get set up monetarily upon arrival.

Academic System

Wheaton College has organized the academic year on the semester system. This academic year has two periods of 18 weeks each the first beginning at the end of August and the second in January. Generally speaking, international students are admitted to begin classes only at the fall term, which begins at the end of August. This allows students new to the North American continent the time required to become adjusted before the cold winter weather begins. Exceptions are made occasionally for students already studying in the U.S. A third, shorter, semester is held immediately following the spring semester, usually beginning the week after graduation. The subjects studied in any semester are completed during that semester. New courses are begun at the beginning of the following semester.

The semesters at Wheaton are divided into "quads." Some classes are taught for only one quad--for one-half of the semester. Others are taught for the full semester. Credit hours refer to the number of credit hours given for each class. Quad courses receive 2 credit hours, while semester classes receive 4 credit hours. The number of credit hours needed for graduation varies from one program to another, but each semester all international students must carry a full class load, which is 12 credit hours. Undergraduate students usually carry an average load of 16 credit hours.


The State of Illinois has a varying climate with four distinct seasons. Temperatures vary for each of these seasons. During the fall and spring seasons temperatures are cool and a medium weight coat is advised. In the winter months, heavy jackets or overcoats, hats, scarves, gloves, and boots are needed:

  • Coats: Is it washable? If it is, it will save money on dry cleaning bills. Many ski-type jackets made with nylon are washable. Look for labels inside the jacket that tell you how to keep it clean. The label will usually say - MW or machine wash (wash at the laundromat or in your own washing machine). If the label says "dry clean", then you will have to pay as much as $3.00 to have it cleaned each time. A nylon jacket with a dacron lining may be very light but will be warm. Some ski jackets are lined with goose down. This also is light and warm but is usually much more expensive that dacron lining or fill. A hooded jacket is convenient, but you will usually need a cap under the hood also.
  • Scarf: Usually wool, acrylic or dacron. Helps to keep your face and neck protected from wind on cold days.
  • Mittens or gloves: Mittens and gloves come in many styles, and prices vary. Knitted gloves are less expensive than lined leather gloves. Make sure they are heavy enough and warm. You might also consider a pair that is waterproof.
  • Caps: Many styles are available but probably the warmest are knitted caps (for both men and women). Purchase something that can cover your ears on cold days.
  • Sweaters: A sweater worn under a heavy coat increases the insulation and warmth. Many styles are available-both wools and acrylics are warm.
  • Boots: A good fit, warmth and waterproofing are important points to look for. Most American students choose boots that they can wear indoors and outdoors on campus.

Summer is warm and humid. It is advisable to have a rain jacket for summer as well as the fall and spring because there is a moderate amount of rainy weather.


All undergraduate students are required to live in college-assigned housing. Standard double rooms are furnished with single beds, dressers, study desks, and closet space. A limited number of single rooms are available.

College dormitories are closed between semesters and after the second session of summer school ends although college apartments are open year round. Student housing is administered through the Student Development Office. Information is available from the Assistant to the Dean of Students for Housing. Find the Residence Life staff and other undergraduate housing information at Living at Wheaton. 

Health Insurance

All international students are required to have insurance. Please read through all the information provided about student health insurance requirements.


If you have a checking or savings account with an American bank which has a "correspondent" relationship with a bank in your home country, it will shorten the time necessary to receive the money. The American bank can tell you if it has this status. You should have the following information for each transfer:

  1. The name of the individual sending the money.
  2. The name and location of the bank sending the money.
  3. The date the money was sent.
  4. The method by which the money was sent.
  5. The exact destination of the money (bank name, street address, and branch number.)

All money transfers take time. Sometimes uncontrollable factors can lengthen the time necessary to receive a transfer. It is wise to maintain a savings account to meet your living expenses if such a problem should occur. You should make plans to receive the money well ahead of the time you need it.

During Orientation, we typically have a representative from Chase Bank here to assist students in setting up a checking account here in the States. Chase Bank is the closest bank to Wheaton's campus, and an ATM is located on school grounds.