Learning English at a U.S. Boarding School


Find schools for students age 10-18

Choosing a secondary school and an ESL program may be one of the most important decisions you make in your lifetime. These steps below should be helpful.

1. How do you know if you need ESL?

Most applicants to U.S. universities have had exposure to the English language. However, your basic comprehension and grammar may not be sufficient to apply to a U.S. university or college. Ask yourself if:

  • You are able to read and comprehend most English texts
  • You have a high level of grammatical competence in writing and speaking
  • You have a strong command of vocabulary and functional language
  • You can follow and understand lectures. If not, a boarding school ESL program would be ideal for you.

2. How should you evaluate an ESL program?

  • Development of reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills
  • Flexibility in course selection
  • Content-based instruction as well as English language classes
  • TOEFL preparation and testing
  • Individual support and tutoring for both ESL and non-ESL courses
  • Motivated and well-trained faculty
  • Small student-to-teacher ratio
  • Encouragement in expressing ideas and opinions openly
  • Focus on study and organizational skills
  • Emphasis on time management
  • Incorporation of advanced technology in classes

3. What should you look for when choosing a boarding school that offers ESL?

  • Equal distribution of international
  • students from different cultures
  • School-sponsored activities to help integration with American students
  • A community where students feel at home, safe, and respected
  • Planned multi-cultural events
  • A strong guidance system in which students meet individually with an adviser to discuss their personal needs, worries, ideas, and goals
  • Opportunities for leadership in student government, clubs, academic areas, and dormitory life.

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The Bolles School

Before they begin classes at The Bolles School in Florida, new international students whose native language is not English are encouraged to enroll in the school’s four-week Summer ESL Program. They acquire additional proficiency in English and to become acquainted with the American way of life, and also get to know the faculty, students and the school activities. Because Bolles is located near a river, students enjoy swimming and boating in their free time.

In a study skills class, ESL students create personal lists of their own common errors in grammar for reference and correction in future essays. The class uses model essays for study and discussion, and students practice writing longer pieces.