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How to choose the right English Language program

“When the English Language gets in my way, I walk over it.” – Billy Sunday
The U.S. is widely recognised as the ‘Land of Opportunity’, a place where success knows no boundaries and ambition can truly thrive. It should therefore come as no surprise that America represents the world’s leading study abroad destination, and as a native English-speaking country with world-class facilities, the U.S. is the ideal location to pursue English as a Second Language (ESL) training.

But as a prospective international student looking to hone your skills in one of the most influential vernaculars the world has ever known, typing ‘ESL School USA’ into your Google search and seeing 925,000 results in 0.6 seconds can seem a little more than daunting…

Yes, there are a lot of schools to choose from, but that just means more chance of finding the perfect one for you. The real challenge comes with trying to identify exactly what you’d like to get out of your U.S. ESL experience.

To make the job a little less tricky, we’ve identified five things to look for in an English Language program – stick to these when considering your application and you’ll master the language in no time at all!

1.Look for a school that will challenge & inspire

First and foremost, you need to decide on a region you know you’d happily call home. It seems simple enough, but you’re not going to have a good time if you hate the place you live, no matter how much you enjoy your particular program of study.

Remember – this place really is going to be your home for the foreseeable future. Root around; check out the surrounding area and the school’s proximity to major cities, international airports and other public transport systems. Consider the vibrancy of the nightlife – or the tranquillity, if that’s what you prefer – then check out the campus itself; the accommodation, the student union, the school facilities and anything else you’d look for when deciding on a place to live.

Let’s consider South Dakota State University (SDSU). With an annual enrolment of around 12,500 students from all 50 states and 81 different countries, SDSU represents a great option for students seeking cultural enrichment throughout their time overseas.

Nestled in the quaint college town of Brookings, the ideal SDSU student would appreciate small town life but would also enjoy the great outdoors, since Brookings plays host to plenty of exciting events, like outdoor summer concerts, the Brookings Summer Arts Festival, the Hobo Day Homecoming Parade and many more throughout the year. Brookings is located just 55 miles north of Sioux Falls on Interstate 29, a half-hour west of the Minnesota border, 200 miles from Minneapolis and 400 miles east of Rapid City and the Black Falls, making it the perfect university for students who love to travel and are seeking a bit of adventure to accompany their studies.

For students purely looking for a stellar education – which is, of course, the most important thing – SDSU’s experienced faculty, 95 percent graduate employment rate and US$10 million refurbished Student Center are factors that might sway your decision. For those seeking companionship and a general good time, the School’s 200+ Student Organizations may tick all the boxes for you.

2.Choose a student-centered program

When selecting your ESL pathway, it’s important for you to consider your individual learning style and match your program accordingly. One thing you don’t want is to turn up to your first day of class and find you’ve opted for a mind-numbing textbook-centric program that stifles diversity and limits real-life conversation.

At SDSU, an international university where diversity is not only celebrated but encouraged, the emphasis is purely on the student. The school’s English Language & Cultural Institute (ELCI) understands the value of soft skills like the ability to think critically and professionally alongside the ability to communicate effectively, so staff do their utmost to ensure each student leaves fully prepared for success in further education or in the wider world. It’s not purely about learning a language; it’s about instilling you with the expertise you’ll need to be the very best you can be.

3. Look for a program that promotes small & inclusive classes

Getting a degree in your home country isn’t something that comes cheap, and unfortunately, getting one overseas comes at an even greater price. If you’re going to fork out all that money for a world-class education, you want to make sure you’ll be able to get the attention you well and truly deserve.

At SDSU, the ELCI guarantees limited class sizes for all ESL students, meaning all English Language learners have access to direct, personalized attention from experienced professionals. Classes are delivered by qualified Masters and PhD professionals, and the Institute ensures this low student-to-teacher ratio is maintained the entire year through.

4. Identify a school that delivers focused instruction in all programs

The study of language incorporates a variety of mediums, so it’s important for your program to account for this. You’re never going to be an accomplished English linguist if you can hold a conversation, but struggle when it comes to the written word.

SDSU is again a perfect example, providing focused and intensive training in reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. The ELCI’s English language programs enrich all students with a deep cultural understanding and create a wealth of real-world communication opportunities so students can also develop their skills outside the classroom.

5. Choose an intensive program that offers progressive levels

The whole point of education is to advance, not to restrict. So if you choose a program that provides just a single level of instruction you are unlikely to make the progress you require. Schools like the ELCI at SDSU offer Level I, II and III training. Each level entails 25 hours of intensive English instruction per week for a 16-week term. All students are assessed for their English comprehension on the very first day, and then placed in the most appropriate English composition class based on their personal ability. Over 90% of students who successfully complete the ELCI are admitted into the undergraduate programs.

These layers of instruction ensure all international students are given the chance to flourish into the best ESL communicator they can be – and that’s why so many students around the globe keep coming back to the ELCI at South Dakota State University.

This article is sponsored by South Dakota State University, the largest higher education institution in the state, and provider of world-class academics and outstanding opportunities. Students can explore American culture, develop academic English proficiency, and learn to communicate with confidence at South Dakota State’s English Language & Culture Institute (ELCI), which prepares ambitious students for the rigors of post-secondary academics.

Image courtesy of South Dakota State University.

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