Learning English in the United States
Nearly 100,000 students come to the United States to study English each year. Many come to prepare themselves to enter colleges and universities in the United States; others come to learn English while experiencing American life; still others come to improve their English, to qualify for a better job at home. Whatever your reason for coming to study English in the United States of America, it is important that you choose the right school for you. Here are some things to consider as you make this important decision:
College and University Programs
Many U.S. colleges and universities offer full-time intensive English programs. An intensive English program must meet a minimum of 18 hours per week for students to qualify for a student visa. Most intensive programs provide 20–25 hours per week of classroom instruction.
One advantage of these programs is that often English students live on campus and have full use of the college or university library, the recreation and sports areas, and other facilities. They can practice English with the university students they meet in their dorms and cafeterias.
In some schools, students in advanced levels of the English program may be permitted to take a few university courses while they are completing their language study. Another advantage of taking university-based ESL classes is that students on F-1 visas may work on campus up to 20 hours per week.
Intensive English programs usually are not part of the college or university’s academic degree program. Students enrolled in the language institutes are not necessarily admitted to that college or university, and while some universities give academic credit which may count toward a degree, most colleges do not.
Private English Language Programs
At private schools, schedules may be more flexible than at many colleges and universities. New sessions may begin every few weeks. This can be an advantage to those students who are interested in short-term study, for example, a two- or three-week program.
Some private English language schools also prepare students to enter U.S. colleges and universities. Many of these private schools are located on or near a college or university campus. Others are located in a downtown office building, hotel, or separate school building. Some schools provide housing; others do not.
At some private language institutes, advanced-level students may take one or two academic courses at nearby colleges or universities. Proprietary schools also offer vacation language programs in which students learn English while travelling to interesting places or participating in activities such as skiing.
In the United States the most common language program and test is the ESL (English as a Second Language). This qualifies you to reach many work or study opportunities in life however for college or university admission requires TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) test. To know more about these tests please visit www.ets.org
Accreditation and Professional Organizations
In addition to the regional accrediting agencies, there are two other accrediting bodies:
The Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA) is a specialized agency for the accreditation of English language programs and institutions in the United States. Accreditation by CEA means that an English language program has met the CEA Standards for English Language Programs and Institutions. You can find a list of the specific standards, as well as a list of schools accredited by CEA, at its website: www.cea-accredit.org.
Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) “ACCET accredits institutions providing non-collegiate continuing education and training programs” For information about ACCET, go to: www.accet.org.
There are also two important intensive English language program organizations which have established high membership standards; however, they do not accredit schools.
Intensive English language programs administered by accredited colleges and universities may apply for membership to the Consortium of University and College Intensive English Programs (UCIEP). Only after passing a rigorous self-study and on-site visit can a school become a member. UCIEP conferences, workshops and regular program evaluations by the organizations help schools adhere to the highest college and university standards. For a list of schools that have met UCIEP’s high standards, go to: www.uciep.org.
Another organization that screens its members and requires them to uphold its high standards is the American Association of Intensive English Programs (AAIEP). This organization was established to set standards for intensive English programs. College, university, and proprietary schools make up its membership. While AAIEP does not accredit programs, its members agree to follow standards of excellence established by the organization. For a list of schools that have met the standards and been accepted as members of AAIEP, go to: www.aaiep.org.