How to Find Accredited English-Language Schools


Published May 15, 2023 · 4 Min Read

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International students may want to enroll in an English-language school before attending college in the U.S. Here are some tips to help you find the best fit. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

If you're an international student hoping to attend college in the U.S., you may want to attend an English-language school in the U.S. before starting college.

English-language schools are postsecondary programs designed for students with basic English skills who want to improve their speaking, reading, and writing abilities in an academic setting. The fast English learning prepares you to do well in college classes taught in English.

Intensive English Programs (IEPs) allow you to focus on mastering English without having to take other classes. These programs often help students who've been conditionally admitted to a U.S. college or university receive full admission.

With over 500 accredited IEPs in the U.S., finding the right fit for you might seem overwhelming. While there are many points to consider when comparing programs, the most important is that you choose an accredited English-language school that meets your needs.

How Does English-Language School Accreditation Work?

You can find IEPs in two settings: as standalone schools and as special programs offered by colleges and universities.

In the U.S., two national agencies accredit English-language schools: the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) and the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA).

If you apply to a standalone IEP, make sure your program is accredited by one of these two agencies to ensure you receive a quality education.

Some language schools are available at colleges and universities with institutional accreditation. This type of accreditation indicates that the overall institution and its programs meet certain quality standards.

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Why Is Accreditation Important for English-Language Schools?

Attending an accredited English-language school is important because of U.S. law. The Accreditation Reform Act of 2020 requires that all English as a second language (ESL) programs certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program hold regional or national accreditation in order to be recognized by the Department of Education.

In other words, the only way to be eligible for an F-1 student visa is to attend an accredited program.

If you enroll in an unaccredited English-language school, your course credit may not transfer to another institution. You may also not qualify for certain scholarships or financial aid.

If you switch to an unaccredited language school, your F-1 visa could be revoked by the U.S. government and you may be asked to return to your home country.

How to Find an Accredited English-Language School: 6 Tips

Choosing the best English-language school for you may seem challenging, but we're here to help! Here are six tips to help you find your perfect program.

1. Choose a Big City

One easy way to immerse yourself in the English language and American culture is to attend a language school in a big city. Living in a diverse, bustling metropolis allows you to interact with a variety of people and cultures.

Additionally, if your city is a popular tourist destination, you can readily explore museums, historical landmarks, and local sights with your classmates and new friends. There's nothing worse than being stuck somewhere where there's nothing to do after a few days!

2. Consider School Type

Your English-learning experience can differ greatly depending on the school setting you choose. As a reminder, IEPs come in two forms: as standalone English-language schools and as programs at full-fledged colleges and universities.

Standalone institutes may or may not provide designated housing, transportation, and meals. You might prefer this option if you want to live with friends or relatives, cook for yourself, and spend time away from classmates.

In contrast, IEPs on college campuses usually provide housing, meal plans, and a more intimate student community. You'll also get easy access to campus activities.

3. Verify the Program's Accreditation

To ensure you're enrolling in a quality program, confirm that your English-language school is accredited by either ACCET or CEA.

If an IEP is offered by a four-year college or university, make sure the institution holds regional accreditation.

Remember that you must attend an accredited English-language school to qualify for an F-1 visa.

4. Prioritize Active and Culturally Diverse Campuses

As an international student, you want to ensure the school you attend feels welcoming to other cultures. A diverse student body means you'll likely feel more comfortable as you settle into your new environment.

Student diversity also means there's a higher probability that you'll meet someone with a similar background as you.

Similarly, a quality accredited English-language school will include a bustling social activities calendar. Learning a language by participating in cultural events and excursions is not only fun, but also provides you with a convenient way to flex your language skills.

5. Think About Teaching Methods

When comparing English-language schools, consider what teaching methods the program uses and whether those match your learning style.

For example, does the coursework focus mostly on speaking and listening or grammar and translation? Are the classes chock-full of lectures that require extensive note-taking, or do they incorporate more hands-on lessons using dialogue and role-playing activities?

Knowing how course material will be delivered and your ideal learning style is key to your success in an IEP.

6. Consider Overall Cost and Value

The final consideration when selecting an English-language school is the overall cost of the program. Spend time weighing the costs with the value of the instruction you'll receive.

Program costs can vary anywhere from $3,500 to $9,000 per semester, not including housing. Make sure to factor in the price of tuition, student fees, books, housing, food, transportation, and excursions when creating your budget.

You should also take into account the length of the IEP, teacher qualifications, and class sizes. While you might save thousands of dollars by opting for a cheaper program, you don't want to sacrifice educational quality.

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