4 Keys to Succeeding in a US College as an ESL Student 1

4-keys-to-succeeding-in-a-us-college-as-an-esl-studentThe United States has been a melting pot of cultures since it began more than 200 years ago. People have been coming to the US to find their fortune or to receive an education that may not be available in their own country.

Today, there are more than 180 different languages spoken in American schools and students who speak English as a second language are a growing percentage of school populations, especially at the college level. These four tips can help ESL students not only achieve their educational goals, but also allow them to find greater success in their academic endeavors.

1. Watch Television

Although most people look at television as a distraction when it comes to education, it can actually help improve language skills in ESL students. Watching television in English for 30 minutes each day can help train the ear to understand the nuances of the English language. It may help to watch with Closed Captions which are designed for deaf viewers. The words that are spoken will appear on the screen helping the student connect the spoken word with the written word.

2. Interact with Other Students

The best way to develop language skills is to learn from the people who actually speak the language. Find someone who is bilingual who can speak in both English and the student’s native language. Encourage both students to use English as much as possible to help the ESL student better understand the words. One suggestion is to find a study partner whose first language is English but who may also understand the student’s native language.

3. Perfection is Not Necessary

In some cultures, not being able to do something perfectly suggests failure. When it comes to learning the English language, it is important for ESL students to understand that they will not be able to speak, read or write English perfectly immediately. It takes time to develop an understanding of any language, but English is one of the most complicated.

Add the fact that many areas of the country have their own dialect or slang and it is easy to see how difficult learning the language may be for others. ESL students need to recognize that it will take much practice to perfect their understanding and that they should not give up simply because they are not perfect at it right away.

4. Set Milestones

One key to achieving education success is through goal-setting. However, it is also important to break those goals down into steps. These steps, or milestones, can be as simple as finishing a conversational English course online or watching 30 minutes of English television each day for one month. As the student achieves those milestones, they move closer to completing their goal. This process can be used for any academic endeavor, regardless of whether you are enrolled in a master of healthcare informatics program or your standard MBA degree.

ESL students have the added pressure of learning a new language on top of their already rigorous college studies. These four tips can help them develop a better understanding of the language and improve their ability to learn.


Anica is a professional content and copywriter from San Francisco, California. She loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Plan to Attend a University in the USA? | So, You Think You Can Teach ESL?

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