One hallmark of a quality Intensive English Program (IEP) is that these programs provide many valuable services outside of the classroom. "Full-service" IEPs will, of course, provide you with the help you need when first applying and starting your studies, such as assisting you with enrollment, housing, course registration and program orientation. In addition to these critical "initial" services, IEPs, particularly those that cater to "academic" students planning to go on to a college or university, offer an indispensable "transitional" service by hiring staff members whose duties include assisting students as they research, choose, and apply to the college or university that's right for them. For example, at UCLA Extension's American Language Center (ALC), academic advice and services begin even before students enter the United States. Our brochure includes information about study options after their ESL studies. Full-service IEPs like ours are able to provide those students bound for a college or university with the following information:
An introduction to the U.S. educational system:
This helps determine the type and level of school to apply to.
Choosing the "right" school:
Students enrolled in the ALC Academic Intensive English Program (AIEP) begin with a self-assessment reflecting upon their strengths, interests, and background; evaluation of their English ability; and their academic background. The advisor explains the four-point system generally used in the U.S.A. and computes each student's "Grade Point Average" or "GPA." Next, the search narrows to several schools that meet the students' criteria. The advisors introduce them to general reference materials and specific school websites. If the IEP has established conditional admission agreements with particular institutions, the advisor will inform the students of the terms of the agreements (for example, completion of the highest level in the IEP may qualify a student for admission consideration without the need for scores on an English test such as the TOEFL or IELTS).
Applying to schools:
The advisor can assist in a number of ways. These include: (a) informing the student if an application can be completed on-line; (b) explaining procedures and deadlines for submitting official transcripts and letters of recommendation; and (c) providing guidelines for writing an application essay (or "personal statement").
Our ALC advisors schedule individual, follow-up appointments in order to check on students' progress in selecting schools and submitting application materials by the posted deadlines. One former ALC student faced the prospect of going to an expensive private school in Hollywood to earn a certificate in animation; I steered him to the excellent program at Glendale Community College which, due to its proximity to the Disney Studios, has several faculty members who came from Disney. Another student wanted to study fashion design at an art institute with tuition at $25,000/year but instead she applied to Los Angeles Trade-Technical College which has an excellent program due to its outstanding faculty and its location near downtown L.A.'s garment and fashion districts. Tuition is one quarter of that amount. She went on to open her own fashion design studio in her home country. It is at this final stage - more than in any other - that the critical role IEPs play in placing their students in a college or university is made clearest: the advisor will make customized school recommendations and help with troubleshooting for any errors or omissions that may exist in the application. In the end, success in obtaining acceptance to a school lies with the students themselves; astute advisors equip their students to take a proactive role in fully accessing and making best use of the advising staff and services.
By Robert Baldwin
Robert J. Baldwin is Academic Advisor at the American Language Center, UCLA Extension.