Extension and English programs: Preparing international students for North American universities


Extension and advanced English programs can be an excellent way for international students to improve their English proficiency, study skills and experience the North American education system.

These entry level courses are specifically designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need in their careers and personal lives. A lot of the courses focus on improving the English proficiency of non-native speakers both for academic or professional purposes. They also equip students with study and research skills, develop critical thinking and familiarize them with university culture and communication.

While many institutions offer these courses to prepare students for ongoing studies, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee them a place. However the experience of studying at some of the most renowned universities in North America is often an experience in itself.

Many North American universities are located close to attractive neighbourhoods in their respective locations, be that in diverse downtown Austin or by the beaches of Santa Barbara in Southern California. Most also have excellent recreational facilities that provide something different all year round, this way allowing students to immerse themselves both in academics and in campus life.

For Yusuke Masuoka from Japan, who studied at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), one of the highlights was to experience “many things that I had never done in my country, including visiting the beach and seeing the sunset every day”.

Very often the courses prepare students for a successful transition into a North American university or a position within the global marketplace, but students can also see the courses as an excellent opportunity to make new friends, improve their conversation skills, gain practical skills to make them more competitive and learn about local culture.

Seuyeun Park from South Korea said studying at UCSB Extension was one of the best experiences he’d ever had: “During my stay, I had two primary goals which were to improve my general English skills and to take various lectures offered only at UCSB. As a student in two programs—the AEP and UIP—I can say for certain that I reached my goals.”

Students studying extension and English programs may also be able to transfer the credits earned back to their home university. Here is a list of just some of the excellent extension programs on offer in North America:

The University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) is located on the coast of sunny Southern California and is the ideal destination for international students seeking a combination of natural beauty and intellectual stimulation. The campus is located a short bike or bus ride from beautiful Santa Barbara and overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The safe, local community has a small-world charm and the excellent weather year-round makes it ideal for surfing, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, swimming or running. Wide sandy beaches and beautiful mountain trails are all located nearby.

UCSB is highly regarded as a research university and ranks 8th among all public universities in the U.S. The diverse student body comes from over 75 different countries and they regularly report a high degree of satisfaction with the campus experience. Chilean student Matias Epinoza said UCSB was a “great university” with a beautiful campus and perfect weather. “The university has really good teachers and a nice, friendly and perfect orientation,” he said.

UC Santa Barbara Extension offers a number of options for those wishing to elevate their English and advance their study skills. The Advanced English Program is for high-level English students who wish to pursue one of the following two tracks. The Academic English track is designed for those who desire to continue their studies in North America, while the Business English track is for students seeking a career where high English competence is required.

The University Immersion Program is another option for international students to experience the North American education system, study at UCSB, a top research university, transfer credits to their home university, and/or earn a professional certificate.

The University of Alberta is considered one of Canada’s top five universities with 170 graduate programs, 200 undergraduate programs and 450 active summer groups. This top teaching and research university serves more than 39,000 students. The university is located in the vibrant city of Edmonton, which is home to one million residents and renowned for being a place of the arts, social activism and entrepreneurship. The campus itself lies in the North Saskatchewan River Valley, covering a space of 50 city blocks.

Image via University of Alberta

The English Language (ESL) programs offered at the University of Alberta offer multiple levels from introductory English to English for academic purposes, preparing students for graduate studies and helping many course participants meet the English proficiency requirement for undergraduate admission at the University of Alberta itself. Beyond this there are also testing services in TOEFL iBT, intensive courses varying in length form one day to four weeks, and other part time options. English language and cultural seminars are also offered in a variety of subject areas from health sciences to nursing, law and business. All courses are taught by highly qualified instructors.

The University of Texas (UT) is a public university located in Austin and home to 51,000 students and 3,000 faculty. UT is the flagship of the Texas university system and has a proud history thanks to some brilliant past alumni, including everything from entertainers to journalists and politicians to scientists, and its regular high ranking performance on world and North American university lists. The Texas capital itself is home to development centres for many technology corporations and known for its many musicians and live music venues.


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Posted by University Extension (UEX) – The University of Texas at Austin on Monday, 18 May 2015


The University of Texas has developed a number of educational opportunities for individuals seeking resources and educational experiences. Amongst these extension courses are three different online course formats that can be taken anywhere a student has Internet access. They are designed to further a student’s progress or even enable them to catch-up with their degree requirements, and they do earn college credit that is transferable.

The Real-Time Online format enables students to login anywhere but they must attend classes through a set schedule and can interact with their instructor and classmates. The On-Demand Online courses follow the semester calendar, but lectures and assignments can be followed any time through each week of the course. Interaction with classmates and instructors is through discussion boards. The Self-Paced Courses offer the most flexibility and are best for motivated and self-directed students. Courses cover everything from languages and literature to natural sciences and mathematics, and more.

The California State University, San Bernardino is located in inland Southern California in the foothills of the San Bernardino mountains. The university serves 20,000 students and ranks in the top four percent in the nation. The student population is very diverse with high numbers of African American and Hispanic enrolments. The university offers over 70 traditional baccalaureate and master’s degree programs, educational credential and certificate programs and a doctoral program. It also has an English Language Program (ELP) for international students, professionals or those seeking to improve their English.

Image via California State University, San Bernardino

The ELP program is part of the College of Extended Learning for international students, particularly those who wish to enter the university’s undergraduate or graduate programs. Courses offered through the ELP focus on reading, writing, listening, speaking and American culture and complete admission requirements to other courses. The program runs five days a week for 10 weeks and is limited to 15-20 students to maximise the personal attention given. The curriculum consists of six levels from beginners through to advanced and combines academic work and some on-campus activities and group excursions.