Thousands of students from all over the world travel to a country such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, America or Ireland to study English.
These students may stay in the school for one year or just a couple of weeks but the process of choosing the right place to study can be both daunting and frustrating.
You need to make sure you choose the right place for you and your needs. There is no need to choose the first school you find. Remember, as the student, you are in great demand. So you can choose from a huge selection of schools.
But how to do it? How to choose the right school for you?
I have created a few guidelines here to steer you in the right path. As you go through all these steps take time to think about what you need to look for in the English school and then at the end, there is a small list of questions you should ask the school administrator.
So let’s get started.
Choose a School that Has Been Around for Some Time
This probably goes without saying but it is a good idea to choose a school that has been open for several years rather than just a few months.
You want to know that the school has a great deal of experience in dealing with overseas students. If the school has only been open a short time how can they guarantee to provide you with the right care and service that you need?
Choose a School with Positive Online Feedback
This is so easy to check.
A simple search on Google can help you find out many things about the school you are researching. All you need to do is out the name of the school and the word review.
For example: Man Writes School of English review
Then click to see results.
It is well worth doing this to see what previous students think of the place. You could also see comments from teachers that worked at the school too. This will give you a well-rounded idea of the school you are considering.
You absolutely should do the most basic of research like this on the school of your choice. There is no excuse for it. Google every school you have under consideration.
Choose a School that You Like the Look Of
The English school you are thinking of attending should have a website.
If it doesn’t have a website, then you should dismiss it from your list immediately!
But assuming it has one, then there should be a lot of pictures of the school location and classrooms. What can you see? Do you like the look of what is going on in the pictures?
A picture can express a thousand words so any photographs you see on the school website should give you a better clue about the place.
If something appeals to you, then it could be the right choice for you.
For example, the school might be located in some beautiful grounds, in a big old manor house in England. If your instinct is sending you positive signals, then maybe this is a good place for you.
Or the school might be in the centre of a bustling city. In the pictures, you can see students enjoying big city life and doing exciting activities. This could be just right for you.
You should not make all your assessments based on some pictures but it can certainly help you get a better idea if the school is suitable for you.
So try to find as many pics of your choice of school online.
Use the school website, or maybe some pictures on social media.
Choose a School that Can Help You Realise Your Goals
The school has to deliver what your study goals are.
If you want to improve your IELTS skills for the test, then make sure the school has the right program and experience to help you.
If you want to improve your business English skills, then the school should have the right facilities for this too.
It would be a complete waste of your time to attend a school that cannot help you because they have no courses or experience for your study goals.
Make sure they have a close fit for what you intend to study. You are spending a lot of money so make sure the school can help you in the right way.
Choose a Student-Based ESL Program
This means no dreary ESL textbooks.
What it does mean is lots of activities, lots of after-class clubs and things to do, sport and outings to places of local interest.
If the whole course is based on you as the student sitting in one class after another throughout the day you need to consider another school.
The more student-based the program is, the more you will gain from it.
Choose a School with an Emphasis on ALL English Skills
Does the school have intensive classes in all the English skill areas? Reading, writing, listening and speaking?
You need a balance of all of these.
You cannot be in a school that practices emphasis on speaking or reading or anything else. You need ALL the English skills to use English effectively in your life.
Choose a School that has Levels of Progression
Don’t let the school just throw you in with all the other students in one big mixed group. I have taught classes like this and believe me it is no use — and no fun — for anyone. No one learns anything, and it is mostly a waste of time.
You need to see detailed levels so you can join the right level for you and then progress as you need to.
Most English schools have different levels of classes for their students.
But you need to know that you can progress up through these levels. You also need to know if you can move from one level to another if you think you are in the wrong class.
Teachers are not perfect and they may make a mistake and put you in a class that is too easy or too hard for you. If this is the case, then you need to have the choice to move out of this class if you can.
Talk to the school about this before signing anything.
Choose a School with Nice Facilities
You are paying so if the school has a swimming pool and tennis courts then why not choose that one over a school that comprises two shabby classrooms on the second floor of a dilapidated shopping mall?
No one wants to spend their time — or hard-earned money — in a school that is just uncomfortable to be in.
There are many schools now that try to create a great complex for students. Many are situated in coastal areas or near areas of natural beauty. Would that not be the best choice?
When looking at the school website check out all the facilities or other amenities the school can offer you.
Choose a School with Cool After-Class Activities
There should be sports clubs and other fun things to do after class.
I mentioned this earlier under student-based lessons. But it is worth repeating.
If you are trying to improve your English skills, you can do most of that outside of the classroom. That is why the school should offer you after-class activities and after-school clubs.
You need to do the things you like to do but in an English environment. This is where you will use English without even thinking about it.
The school should give details of all their club activities on their website.
Choose the Right Location
Which country do you want to study in? And why?
Do you want to study in the city or the countryside? And what attracts you to this kind of environment?
You need to think about what kind of place you like and where you like to spend time.
If you are interested in Australian culture, then going to Australia would be the logical choice. Equally, if you want to improve your knowledge of American culture for your work or for business, then studying in America would be the right thing to do.
But you also need to think of what kind of environment to stay in.
If you hate big cities, then avoid attending a school in London, New York, Vancouver or Sydney.
If the countryside makes you feel bored and isolated, then you should not study there.
There are English schools in every location you can dream of so you should be able to find one in the right location for you.
Choose the Right City
Are there good transport links to and from the school?
To other places and to local tourist spots?
And what about the climate of the city?
These are some questions you need to ask yourself about which city or town you choose to study in.
Think about this carefully. If you are spending the whole summer in this place you want to make sure you enjoy staying there.
Think About the Cost
London will be much more expensive than a small town in the Midwest of America or a small town in New Zealand.
The UK is more expensive than in other English-speaking countries. But it might be the right destination for you. If so, think about how much money you will need while you are there.
Many students often think they absolutely must study English in a big city or the capital city of the country they are going to. This is really not the case. You can just as easily study in a small town in any English-speaking country and have just as an effective study time.
But consider how much money the whole trip will cost you.
Is the School Fully Accredited?
The school you choose must be accredited.
This means that the school is officially recognised and accepted by the industry and the local education authorities of the country you are going to.
No accreditation means you should cross the school off your list.
You may find that to get a study visa, your school should be accredited.
Each country has different rulings for accreditation.
If you look at the school website, they should show all their accreditation details clearly.
You Do Not Need an Agent!
If you use an agent, make sure this person is accredited and legally allowed to act as an agent. I have heard horror stories of students handing over large amounts of money and never hearing from the agent again.
Do not do this.
You can find the school by yourself. If English is difficult for you, then find someone whose English is at a decent level to help you.
Why pay agents’ fees when you can do it all by yourself?
Also, an unscrupulous agent may try to put you in an unaccredited school and you could have visa problems if the school is not legal.
Questions to Ask the School
What is the class size?
You need to know how many students there will be in each class. If it is a class of 40 students, then choose another school!
Can I speak to an existing student there on Skype?
If you can make a Skype call from your country then ask to speak to a student already in the school and get their opinions of it.
Most schools are reluctant to do this so they may set you up to talk to a prearranged student. One that speaks positively of the school only.
How many Chinese or Indian students are there in your school?
There are literally thousands of Chinese and Indian students going abroad to study every year. If you are Chinese or Indian you don’t want to be in a school that is 80% Indian or Chinese. You want to be in an environment where there are students from all over the world.
If the students are mostly from your own country guess what language you will be speaking?
Can I easily move from one class to another if I feel I am in the wrong level class?
The school may put you in a class that is too easy or too advanced for you. If so, you need to be sure that you can move around if you need to.
Do the teachers provide regular feedback?
You want to get feedback from the teachers and see that they have given you notes on what to do in your own self-study time.
They should provide this weekly at least and should give you a clear indication of what you need to do.
What are the total fees for the course?
What are the total fees and what do they include? You need to know exactly what you are paying for. No hidden costs and no surprise last-minute fees.
What is the accommodation?
You will need to sleep somewhere. Does the school provide a dorm? Or will you be staying with a local family?
And where is the accommodation? It will be no use if it is an hour by bus to school every day. It should be relatively near the school or on campus.
Are the teachers all qualified?
This means they have a CELTA certificate at least. Ask to see evidence of these certificates.
Going abroad to study English can be one of the most important events in your life. It could lead to a whole new life abroad or to further education after completing the IELTS or TOEFL test.
So it needs careful consideration.
Do not just pick the first school you find online. And do not choose the same school your friend went to. It might not be right for you.
By going through all the steps I laid out above you can save yourself a lot of time, money and stress.
Find the right English school abroad and you could have a great time while you are there.
And as always… let me know in the comments below.