Top concern among students heading to America: Is my English good enough?

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Let’s say you’re thinking of attending a U.S. college or university. You’ll likely have to adapt to a new language and a new culture, as well as a new school.

The U.S. Department of State recently addressed concerns of students coming from other countries.

Zeynep Kasap of Turkey, a recent graduate of American University in Washington, explained that international students must take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam to determine their English proficiency. Requirements vary, so prospective students should check the website of each school they’re considering. Most U.S. schools have an Office of International Student Affairs, where such information is also readily available.

For students who worry about their English skills, Kasap cited the advantages of starting at a U.S. community college, as she did, before transferring to a four-year institution. Community colleges usually have an open-admission policy, so you can enroll even if your grades aren’t high enough for admittance to a four-year school. 

You can then take ESL (English as a Second Language) classes to complete your English-proficiency requirements before starting your full academic program. This gives you a chance to improve your English as well as your grades.

To ease the language adjustment, Paul McVeigh, a vice president at Northern Virginia Community College, advises international students to practice speaking English outside of the classroom. Don’t just meet with friends from your own country who speak your own language, he said.

You can also explore online apps for English learners and familiarize yourself with expressions taken from common everyday conversations. And take a look at  the State Department’s American English website, filled with English-learning tips, resources, and information about life in the United States.