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Student Studying Ivy League ESL

The Best US Ivy League Schools for ESL

As our country's history treks forward into the unknown, ESL (English as a Second Language) programs are being banned and, in some cases, reinstated by state legislatures. Massachusetts, Arizona, and controversially California, have replaced slow immersion with an immediate… immersion, for lack of a better term. In other words, teachers within these public schools who used to be able to translate material into a student’s first language for students who weren’t as strong in English, were told not to do so (for the sake of the students, of course). In contrast, as these state public education systems ban ESL programs in their schools, some other private institutions have flourished their systems, encouraging students of all backgrounds to apply regardless of English background.

Of course, this does not mean these institutions teach all of their courses in alternate languages but that they have programs set up to accommodate for cultural difference and assist in picking up English as an alternate language to their own. Ivy League schools, especially with an average of 13 percent of the student body being international students, have ESL programs and additional ESL options for those students who speak English as a second language. Below is a list of the Ivy League schools in alphabetical order coupled with their programs offered for students who need an English boost.

Brown offers an Intensive English Language (IEL) on their campus for high school seniors. Two sessions are offered, each three weeks long and meant to improve English writing skills and prepare students for English at the university level. Professors also recommend that their students visit the writing center to check for grammar mistakes and get writing tips and tricks once admitted. Brown is also home to the graduate school of ESL and cross cultural studies, so there must be plenty of tutors on campus.

Columbia has an American Language Program that prepares “students to develop communicative competence in English to function more effectively in academic, professional, and social settings.” They also provide free ESL courses at five different levels for individuals over the age of 18 in the New York City area. Columbia also has a writing center where grammar mistakes can be reviewed and edited by peers.

Cornell holds fall, spring, and summer “intensive learning experiences” for ESL or international students. They also provide English immersion programs in the summer for high school students. These programs allow students to immerse themselves in college life while exploring different majors and working with faculty. Cornell, as well, has a writing center for students to bring their papers for review under a second set of professional eyes.

Some international graduate students may be required to attend training for ESL students before the start of their term. They also train tutors for ESL students who go abroad to teach English, thus, more students on campus have the skills to tutor others about ESL. Dartmouth also has a writing center for their students to get trained assistance.

Harvard runs an intensive program in their summer school where adults, university students, and secondary students can learn English skills including listening, writing, reading and speaking. Harvard refers students struggling with English skills to the Cambridge Center for Adult Education which offers ESL classes to improve English language skills. Harvard also offers a writing center on their campus.

Penn offers an English Language Program (ELP) for students who need a bit of extra attention to improve their overall English skills. This program works to not only expose students to the language but also to U.S. culture with “ELP-organized social and cultural activities.” This program also umbrellas many other programs depending on desired intensity and course length. U Penn also houses its own writing center on campus for English edits.

ESL services are offered through both Princeton and Davis International Center to provide group English discussion times for all Princeton students, faculty, staff, spouses, etc. Princeton has established a system for ESL students to sign up with an English conversation partner, so students can practice their conversation skills one on one. The McCraw Center also offers ESL services to graduate students, and Princeton has also connected with local community organizations to provide more ESL resources. Princeton also has its own writing center for English help on papers.

Yale offers its own 12-week English Language Program (ELP) working “to support their English language academic and professional development needs” in writing, vocabulary, and speaking. They also encourage ESL students to attend a weekly English conversation class at the New Haven Library every Tuesday from 6pm-8pm. They list additional resources and online resources here. Yale also has its own writing center to help students develop strong English papers.

Finding satisfying ESL programs in the states can be difficult and discouraging, but the programs offered by these schools to international students and their families can be extremely rewarding and worth the buck. Conversational difficulties are common on campus, so don’t worry. Join a discussion group or take a few helpful courses – I promise it will help in the long run.

Photo Credit: English106
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