Picking the best ESL school for you: Tips for ESL students in Los Angeles
Picking the right ESL school can be a daunting task for someone moving to Los Angeles for the first time. There are three critical factors to consider when choosing the right school for you, according to Ken Estep, Academic Director - Mentor Language Institute.
- Quality of teachers. Regardless of a pleasing location, fancy furniture, slick marketing, etc. the most significant factor in choosing a school is the quality of the teachers. All accredited schools in Los Angeles require teachers to hold a bachelors degree, but not all schools require teachers to have experience. When choosing a potential ESL school, be sure to ask how much experience the teachers have. The top ESL schools require a minimum of three years of prior teaching experience and/or a masters in TESOL.
One of my favorite quotes is:
“The difference between a beginning teacher and an experienced one is that the beginning teacher asks, "How am I doing?" and the experienced teacher asks, “How are the students doing?”
Quality of Curriculum. A good school should have a curriculum that can grow with you. Understandably, students’ goals can change over time. A student who starts in an ESL class may determine that they want to go college or university, thus needing a high TOEFL ® score. If your school doesn’t have a TOEFL ® program then you have to spend money and time transferring to a school that does. You’ll have to go through the process of ensuring that the school has qualified and experienced teachers as well as a solid TOEFL ® program to ensure that you can obtain the score you need.
TIP: Understanding common acronyms
ESL – English as a Second Language
EAP – English for Academic Purposes
ESP – English for Specific Purposes
Keep the acronyms above in mind when researching the best ESL school for you. Good schools offer a well-rounded offering of programs. EAP programs include: TOEFL ®, IELTS, TOEIC ®, GRE ®/GMAT ®. ESP programs include: Conversation, Business English, Life Skills or Vocational English. Make sure the school you attend can grow with you as your English abilities improve.
- Partnerships with colleges/universities. Be wary of an ESL school that doesn’t have strong partnerships with local community colleges and universities. A reputable school will have strong partnerships. This is an advantage to ESL students who intend to transfer.
Well-known community colleges in Los Angeles:
Santa Monica College (SMC)
West L.A. College (WLAC)
Glendale Community College (GCC)
Pasadena City College
Los Angeles Trade-Tech College (LATTC)
Many ESL students arrive in Los Angeles and think that they will never attend a U.S. college or university. However, within 3 months they have a change of heart and decide either to attend a few classes or actually pursue a 2-year associates degree or even a 4-year degree. So once again, be sure to choose an ESL school that can grow with your goals and ambitions.