Are International Undergraduates Struggling Academically?


  • Barry Fass-Holmes University of California, San Diego, United States
  • Allison A. Vaughn San Diego State University, United States



academic acheivement, grade point average, international undergraduates, hierarchical modeling


Are international undergraduates struggling academically, and are their struggles due to weaknesses in English as a second language? The present study showed that 1) at most 10% of these students in three cohorts (ranging in size from N=322 to N=695) at an American west coast public university struggled (quarterly grade point averages below C) in their university classes; 2) up to 63% of them struggled with English (they were required to take a local community college’s English Composition and/or English as a Second Language classes, and up to 42% earned course grades of D or F in those classes); and 3) predictors shown to be statistically significant by hierarchical linear modeling each accounted for less than 5% of the total variance (“small” effect sizes). These findings suggest that only a minority of this university’s international undergraduates struggle in their university classes even though a majority of them struggle with English.

Author Biographies

Barry Fass-Holmes, University of California, San Diego, United States

Barry Fass-Holmes received his Ph.D. in Psychology from Clark University. He currently is SEVIS and Analytical Studies Coordinator for the International Students & Programs Office in the International Center at the University of California, San Diego. His research focuses on international students’ academic achievement. He thanks Lynn C. Anderson, Dulce Amor L. Dorado, Dr. Kirk Simmons, and Prof. dr. J.W.M. de Wit for their helpful suggestions. 

Allison A. Vaughn, San Diego State University, United States

Allison A. Vaughn received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Utah. She currently is an assistant professor in the Psychology Department at San Diego State University. Her research interests are social relationships (friends, significant others, work colleagues), mental health (anxiety, depression), and physical health (cardiovascular functioning like blood pressure and heart rate). 




How to Cite

Fass-Holmes, B., & Vaughn, A. A. (2014). Are International Undergraduates Struggling Academically?. Journal of International Students, 4(1), 60–73.



Research Articles (English)