English Course Schools

You know you can take an English course at a college or a university, but did you know there are schools devoted exclusively to teaching you English?

English course schools will help you build English fluency and use the language skills in real-life environments. Their classes can help students who want to study or work abroad, professionals who want to learn business English, or even someone who just wants to be fluent in the language so he can vacation comfortably in an English-speaking country.

Generally, English course schools offer a wider variety of courses than most colleges to help you hone your English language skills. You can take a general English course that will focus on basic reading, speaking, and writing skills, or you can take a business English course that will teach you to speak and write professionally in a business environment. Some schools even offer courses that will prepare you for graduate school exams or English language proficiency tests, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language.

Some English course schools offer “immersion programs.” In an immersion course, you will live on campus in a dormitory for several weeks to a few months, taking classes and practicing your English as part of your day-to-day activities. Other schools will arrange for you to have a private tutor in English or even live in the home of your English teacher, as a foreign exchange student would.

Immersion programs can be intensive and rigorous, because they usually restrict the language spoken by students and teachers to English. Because they immerse you in a purely English-speaking environment, they are also highly effective at teaching you the language. You will also learn the language quickly. In an immersion program, you typically can learn English in a fraction of the time that it would take you to learn it in a regular classroom.

English course programs are especially popular in Europe, but are also gaining a foothold in English-speaking countries such as the United States and Canada. Courses can range from a single week to year-long, live-in programs that will teach you the English language and familiarize you with the country’s culture and people, too.

The costs of attending an English course school can vary widely. Other factors that will affect the cost include the length of the program, the reputation of the school, and whether you live on campus. Where the school is located will also determine how expensive it is. A school whose dormitory is in the heart of London is necessarily going to cost more than one located in the suburbs of Pennsylvania. You should always inquire about the possibility of financial aid if a school seems to expensive. (Here is a great site for more information about financial aid: www.financialaidtips.org)

There are many advantages to choosing an English course school instead of a more traditional college English program. These institutions usually offer a wider variety of English courses, with a strong emphasis on becoming fluent in English. Their exclusive focus on teaching English also means they have honed some of the best practices for learning the language, which you may not find in an English program focused mostly on teaching literary analysis.

Most people know that they can take English courses at colleges and universities, but few are aware of the excellent language instruction available through English course schools. Whether your goal is to speak English fluently or to speak and write more professionally, these schools’ courses can be highly effective in helping you improve your English language skills.

Choosing an English Course School

English Course Schools

One of the best ways to learn English is to attend a course at an institution devoted exclusively to teaching the language. With so many English course schools available throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, how can you know which school will best meet your needs?

To begin the process of choosing an English course school, assess your needs and situation. Ask yourself:

  • Why do I want to learn English?
    How fluently you need to speak English is going to depend on your goals: do you want to work or study in an English-speaking country, or do you just want to be able to enjoy a trip to the United States or England? Do you want to learn business English or prepare for an exam?
    Look over the school’s course offerings. Does it offer a course that will help you meet your goals? One that only offers classroom courses focusing on vocabulary and grammar, for instance, will not be helpful if you need targeted instruction on passing a language proficiency test such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language.
  • What kind of experience do I want while learning English?
    If you want to learn English as quickly and as thoroughly as possible, an immersion course is the way to go. With an immersion course, you will either attend the school and live in a dormitory, or live with a host family off campus. Either way, you will be immersed in an English-speaking environment, which can be intensive but highly effective at teaching you the language.
    If you would like a more relaxed learning experience, you can choose to attend classes at the school and live on your own or in a hotel off campus. An independent living situation will give you more privacy and enable you to experience more local culture, but it is likely to be more expensive, too.
  • What is my budget for learning English?
    If you live on campus in a dormitory, you will generally have fewer expenses than if you live independently and have to pay for lodging, food, and transportation. An immersion program is necessarily going to be more expensive than if you take courses part-time. What you can afford will significantly affect the kind of learning experience you have.
  • When do I want to attend the school?
    Some English course schools offer courses year-round, while others only offer courses during the summer. If you are a working adult or college student, make sure the school has courses that fit your job or school schedule.
  • How long do I have to devote to learning English?
    English course schools offer programs that range from one week to a full year; you can also live on campus or attend individual classes. The time you can devote to learning English may not affect how you learn the language. If you are a working adult with a family, for example, living on campus as part of an immersion program may not be feasible. If you are a university student, you may only have the summer to attend a course.

Once you have clarified your own goals, time constraints, and budget, research the English course schools that you are interested in attending. What kind of reputation does the school have? What is the average class size? Does it offer a variety of accommodations, or require you to live in a dormitory? Most importantly, are the school’s courses likely to help you meet your goals?

Choosing an English course school can seem daunting, but it does not have to be. Once you have clarified your goals, set a budget, and determined the time you can devote to a course, it will be clear whether a particular school is the right one for you.

Applying To an English Course School

Though some English course schools will simply allow you to enroll in their courses, many of these schools do not admit every student. You must apply and be accepted, just as you would with any other college program.

Your first step will be to submit an application. Be prepared to spend a few hundred dollars just to apply to several schools. You will have to submit a non-refundable application fee ranging from $50-$200, depending on the school . You also may be required to pay a course registration fee or a tuition deposit. These charges, though required upfront, will be applied to the cost of the course, if you are accepted. Most schools will not even consider your application until all fees have been paid.

You will need to provide proof, either by a passport or a student visa, that you can legally study in the country. Fortunately, not having a student visa will not preclude you from being accepted, since many schools are willing to help you obtain one from the government prior to the start of classes.

The application will require detailed information about your work and educational history, and you may have to submit an essay explaining why you want to attend the school. The essay is important and will significantly affect your chances of being accepted.

Though you want to submit a compelling essay, make sure the writing reflects your actual language skills. If you report on your application that you are a beginning English speaker, but submit a well-written, highly polished essay, the school’s admissions committee may question your integrity. Likewise, someone who claims to be fluent in English but submits a poorly written essay may also have problems being admitted.

Remember: You are applying to a school designed to help you speak English fluently. Admissions committees for English course schools do not expect your language skills to rival a native speaker’s, or you would not need their services! In your application, focus on presenting yourself as a dedicated, reliable student and be sure to articulate how the school’s courses will help you meet your goals. English course schools want to help you succeed, but they want to know you will be an asset to their program, too.

When applying to an English course school, assure the admissions committee that accepting you will benefit both you and the school. Then you will have the best chance of being accepted and attending the English course school of your choice.

English Course School Rankings

If you are considering taking English courses, you may have heard that some schools are ranked higher than other ones. What does a school’s rank mean, and, more importantly, should it influence your decision about where to study?

One of the best- known rankings of English schools is issued annually by U.S. News and World Report, which ranks both undergraduate and graduate English programs. Keep in mind that rankings distinguish between universities and colleges. Universities offer undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees, and are focused more on research. Colleges, on the other hand, generally emphasize undergraduate studies and mostly award liberal arts degrees.

Even beyond this distinction, universities and colleges are ranked regionally. They are also ranked according to degree program, with English schools further ranked by area of study. A school may receive a higher overall ranking, but a lower ranking for its British literature program, for example.

Should a higher or lower ranking influence your decision about which school to attend? Maybe, but there is more to considering a school’s rank than just pursuing admission to top-rated schools.

To know whether rankings are relevant to you, you must first know what they mean. What criteria did the evaluating body used to rank the schools? Many magazines rely on surveys filled out by faculty, current, and former students, and these surveys can measure different items. Some surveys assess the quality of the program, while others measure how well a degree translates into job opportunities and higher salaries in the workforce. The quality of your education differs from how effective your degree will be to help you gain employment.

Rankings tend to be most important in academic circles; if you intend to go on to graduate school, it can be important to attend a higher ranked university or college. Even then, ranking is not as critical as whether the school offers and is well-known for the field of study you want to pursue. It will not do you much good to attend a higher- ranked college that does not offer the degree you want.

College rankings are really only one factor to consider—and possibly not even the most important one—when choosing an English program. The quality of instruction, availability of specific degrees, and your degree’s ability to help you pursue higher education or obtain the job you want should all be considered when choosing a school.

English Course School Accreditation

When choosing an English course school, you may notice some schools boast that they are “accredited.” What does this mean, and should it make a difference in your choice of school?

Accreditation is a process by which an organization evaluates whether an English school offers students quality instruction. The accrediting body will measure the school against its high standards. If the school meets the high standards, then it is awarded accreditation. Accreditation is usually an ongoing process, and English course schools must be re- inspected for the award every few years. This ensures that the quality of the school remains high.

When considering a school for accreditation, the accrediting body investigates the school’s teachers, facilities, services, student accommodations, finances, administration, and instruction. Evaluators will often observe classes. They will also interview students; current students about their learning experience and former students about the real-world benefit of the courses they took at the school.

Should you choose an accredited school over one that is not accredited? It depends. Accreditation assures you that the school offers high-quality instruction. If you want to study abroad, you may be limited to accredited English schools, since some nations will not grant you a student visa unless you are attending an accredited school. In addition, some countries will not grant you a student visa to study abroad unless you attend an accredited English school.

Because accreditation is voluntary, however, not all schools seek accreditation. Some English language schools may offer excellent language instruction, but simply do not wish to go through the rigorous, invasive process of accreditation. These schools choose to rely on their reputation instead of accreditation to attract students.

If a school has a program you think will best meet your needs, and it is not accredited, do not necessarily rule it out. You can assess the quality of instruction by speaking to former students, interviewing instructors, or even observing a class if the school is local.

Accreditation provides quality assurance and is designed to protect you, the student. An accredited English school means that the school has been examined and found to offer high-quality instruction for language learners. In some cases, you will be required to study at an accredited school if you want to study abroad, but most of the time, accreditation is only one factor to consider when choosing an English language school.

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