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TESOL | International Students

International Students, Welcome!

The TESOL Program at American University welcomes and encourages international students to join our program. The TESOL faculty composed of native and non-native English speakers alike are all professionals with extensive international experience who understand that the road to better language learning and cultural understanding is a two-way street.

International students (and the language teachers they become!) enrich our program, enhance its standing, and allow our domestic students to learn through their eyes.

To help international students feel more at home, and to better support their efforts, the TESOL Program supports its students through such services as:

·       Graduate International Gateway Program for conditionally admitted international students who need additional support in achieving success in their graduate academic studies

·       TESL-096: Academic Writing for Graduate Students course that will assist international students in strengthening academic writing skills

·       International student orientation organized and run by the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS)

·       New Graduate Student Orientation organized by the College of Arts and Sciences for all new graduate students that introduces new students to the College and University

·       New TESOL student orientation run on Friday before the first day of the fall semester where students receive an introduction to the TESOL Program and campus and get a chance to meet their faculty and fellow students

·       Free tutoring for students taking TESL-500: Principles of Linguistics by a TESOL Program Graduate Assistant

·       A peer revision approach to class assignments where you work with fellow students as partners so that everyone's work improves

·       Extensive academic and personal support through a variety of campus resources, ranging from academic tutoring to assistance with cultural adjustment offered by the Academic Support Center

·       Extensive list of observation sites, volunteer teaching sites, and teaching practicum placement assistance

Frequently Asked Questions

To learn more about applying to U.S. colleges in general and getting settled in at American University specifically, please visit International Student and Scholar Services.

What are the MA academic admission requirements? A completed online application, $55 application fee, statement of purpose, 2 academic references, a minimum 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA) on all previous course work, a score on the Graduate Record Examination test (GRE), a minimum of 7 on the IELTS, or a minimum of 600 on the paper based TOEFL, 250 on the computer based TOEFL, or 100 on the internet based TOEFL. For applicants who score less than the required TOEFL or IELTS scores but otherwise have a strong application, American University offers the Graduate International Gateway Program each summer (see below for more information).


What are the academic admission requirements? A 3.0 GPA on all previous course work and a minimum score of 7 on the IELTS or of 600 on the paper based TOEFL, 250 on the computer based TOEFL, or 100 on the internet based TOEFL. The Graduate International Gateway Program is available for students who score lower than these required scores (see below). The GRE is required for the MA in TESOL.

What if my TOEFL or IELTS scores are lower than the ones required for admission? Can I still apply? Yes, you can still apply even if you scored lower than the required TOEFL or IELTS scores. American University does not make its admission decisions based on only one test score; it looks at your entire application. Therefore, if your score is 90-100 on the TOEFL iBT or 6.5-7 on the IELTS but otherwise you have a strong application, you could be conditionally admitted to the TESOL Program.

Conditionally admitted graduate students are placed in AU’s Graduate International Gateway Program. This program consists of rigorous Academic English classes to help prepare students for graduate-level coursework.

What documents are required to get my I-20 and my visa?

For the I-20:

For the F-1 visa (NOTE: Please check with the US Embassy that services your country. Every embassy has different visa application procedures; many are now requiring appointments for visa processing. Please check the US Embassies website for complete information on obtaining a visa.)

  • Valid I-20 or DS-2019
  • Paid SEVIS fee
  • ISSS travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 that covers the period you will travel and return to the US
  • Valid passport
  • Financial documents for at least one academic year, date within the last three months
  • Official university transcripts including pre-registration for the upcoming semester
  • Due to changes in INS policy, applicants to the TESOL Certificate Program, like students applying to Master's programs, must provide a statement of purpose. The statement of purpose should generally be two to three pages in length.

PLEASE NOTE: The TESOL Program does not handle the actual issuing of visas, I-20s or DS-2019s. To get definitive information on this topic, please check with International Student and Scholar Services Office

What are the steps in the application process?

  • Complete the application form, providing a statement of purpose and recommendation letters as required. The application fee of $55 must be paid before your application can be processed. Include the necessary immigration/visa documents (see above).
  • Once your application is verified complete, it is forwarded to the academic unit where faculty decide if they feel you should be admitted to the TESOL Program.
  • Once the academic unit has made its decision, a letter is sent by e-mail and then by mail informing you of that decision. You will either be offered full admission; conditional admission with the Gradute IGP Program; conditional admission with TESL-096 requirement, or denied admission. If you are denied admission you cannot be reconsidered for one academic year.
  • If an Offer of Admission letter is sent to you, you must respond by accepting the offer to receive your I-20.
  • Once you have your I-20, you can make an appointment with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country to be granted your F-1 visa.

When is the deadline for application? If you are interested in being considered for a Merit Award, you must apply by February 1 of your entry year to begin that fall. There are rarely Merit Awards available for students who begin in the spring semester and there are no Merit Awards for students who begin in the summer. If you are not interested in being considered for a Merit Award, your application should be completed at least three months before you wish you begin classes.

How long does the application process take? This depends greatly on you. The sooner your application is complete and all official documents have arrived, the sooner we can begin reviewing and processing your application. General processing takes 3-4 weeks, and academic evaluation at the Program level usually takes 7-10 days. It is recommended that international students planning to study in the U.S. allow 9 to 12 months for the application and enrollment process that includes taking the TOEFL/IELTS, GRE, having transcripts sent, getting bank statements, having appointments at the consulate, etc.

How much does it cost to study in the AU TESOL Program? Current information about graduate tuition is available here. The MA in TESOL is a 36 credit hour program.

What kind of financial aid is offered? 

The TESOL Program offers a limited number of Merit Awards to outstanding domestic and international applicants. A full-time award covers tuition remission of up to 9 credit hours per semester and a stipend. Recipients of full Merit Awards are required to work for the TESOL Program 20 hours a week. Partial Merit Awards are also available. To be eligible for a Merit Award, you must apply by February 1st of your entry year to begin that fall.There are rarely Merit Awards available for students beginning in the spring semester, and none for those who start in the summer.

If you are not selected as a Merit Award recipient for the semester you wish to begin, there are effectively no other sources of financial aid available from the university at this time. Merit Awards are usually only available to degree candidates; therefore, there is no financial aid available for the TESOL Certificate Program applicants.

Some students may benefit from private scholarships which aren't sponsored by AU itself. A list of some organizations that offer scholarships, financial aid or student loans to international students can be found on the ISSS website.

The Hart A. Massey Fellowship is awarded each academic year to one or more incoming Canadian students pursuing graduate studies full-time at American University. The fellowship is applied to tuition charges. It is renewable for one year to students who show satisfactory progress towards their graduate degree. This is a competitive award, and applicants must meet minimum University graduate admission requirements to be considered.

International students may also apply for a fellowship from the very competitive Fulbright Foreign Student Program. Applying to be a Foreign Fulbright Fellow can be done through the Fulbright Commissions/Foundation or through the U.S. Embassy in your home country. The Institute of International Education (IIE) arranges academic placement for most Fulbright nominees and supervises participants during their stay in the United States.

How do I apply a Merit Award? Simply check the "Yes" box on item 24 of the Graduate Application Form and you will automatically be eligible for any type of Merit Award you qualify for.

International Students are eligible for all awards that domestic students compete for.

What are my chances of getting financial aid? In the past four years, 1-3 students per year in the MA and MIP TESOL Program have received Merit Awards. The primary criterion for Merit Award selection is candidate's academic accomplishments. These awards are highly competitive.

How much financial aid should I expect to get? A full merit award usually covers tuition of up to 9 credit hours and pays a stipend. At the same time, a full Merit Award is not sufficient to cover all student's expenses. Therefore, you will need supplemental resources to to pay for books, food, housing, travel, and other incidental expenses. See AU’s cost guide for an estimate of these expenses.

I plan to return to my country and teach Kindergarten through 12th grade students. Do I need to enroll in the MAT:ESOL Program? No. The MAT:ESOL Program is designed to meet particular standards required to teach in public schools in the United States. The TESOL course work for the MA in TESOL and the MAT:ESOL program is essentially the same and our courses are intentionally designed so that you can tailor your learning to best prepare you for the students you intend to teach. Our faculty does its best to keep abreast of curricular developments in K-12 programs throughout the world, and we work with you to make sure that what you learn in the AU TESOL Program will prepare you for where you will be teaching when you leave our program.

After I finish my program, can I stay and teach in the United States? It is possible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows you to stay in the U.S. for up to one year after your graduation date to gain non-academic professional experience in your area of training. For the official details on OPT, please visit the International Student and Scholar Services website. You will need to work with an International Student Advisor at ISSS to receive OPT authorization.

What are some common obstacles faced by International Students when applying? One of the biggest obstacles is changing addresses. When you apply, you should be sure that the address you put on the application will be one where you can easily receive mail for at least one year. Making sure students provide a dependable email address will also ensure a smooth admissions process. Another issue that arises is missing official documents (e.g., transcripts, test scores, financial documents). Additionally, sometimes students do not have a good idea of how much an education in a private U.S. university costs. Some students go through the whole application process, receive admission, and then discover that they do not have the financial means to attend American University. See AU’s cost guide for an estimate of expenses.

What are some of the skills I will need to be successful in my courses?

  • You need to be able to read several lengthy articles or chapters on a topic, be able to synthesize what you have read, and be able to say what it means to you.
  • You need to participate in class, both to show your professor what you have learned and to collaboratively work with your fellow students, especially if you are working in groups.
  • You need to know your way around a university library, to be able to do on-line searches, and find articles on your topics of interest by authors recognized in your field.
  • You need to be able to write in an academic style, use appropriate citation techniques, collect and analyze data (whether it be literary or linguistic), and interpret it in a persuasive manner. Being able to write well is part of being a TESOL professional. To assist in this, the AU TESOL Program offers several resources available in the TESOL Program library (Letts Lower Level, Suite 5), which detail how to cite references for all graduate student research papers. For additional writing help, you can make an appointment at the Writing Lab or Writing Center on campus. You can also purchase an APA writing manual, which we highly recommend.
  • You need to be able to interact regularly with fellow students and professors. Sometimes this requires you to step outside of your cultural “comfort zone.”  For example, you may find that American class discussions are more open and direct than what you’re used to.  Remember that your TESOL professors are accustomed to dealing with cultural differences, so do not be afraid to ask them for advice if you are feeling anxious about how a class is structured.

Other Links of Interest

Interested in housing resources? Vist the Housing and Dining Web site.

International Student House (ISH) is a non-profit organization that operates a residence near Dupont Circle (15-20 minutes from the AU campus by metro or motorbus) for international students, scholars, and interns. ISH provides students with short or long-term accommodation, and also plans various social and cultural events. For more information and fees, visit the ISH website at ISH is not affiliated with American University.

International and Multilingual Students: Academic Support Resources. International and multilingual students can find support with their studies through a variety of campus resources, ranging from academic tutoring to assistance with cultural adjustment. For more information, visit the Academic Support Center’s Web page.

Still have a question? Feel free to email us at, or contact International Student and Scholar Services at