The transition from high school to college is challenging for any student, let alone for international students who may be maneuvering language barriers and cultural norms. Fortunately, there are programs to help international students gain the cultural and academic exposure needed to ensure success in college and life after graduation.
These programs are referred to as international student programs (ISPs), and they’re pivotal for helping students understand and navigate U.S higher education academics and culture.
Let’s briefly review what an international student program is before diving deeper into its extensive benefits.
What is an International Student Program (ISP)?
A dynamic international student program takes a holistic approach to education, offering students invaluable opportunities for academic growth, cultural immersion, and extracurricular discovery. Enriching programs leverage rigorous college preparatory curricula and create intellectual environments that cultivate a love of learning and lifelong curiosity.
Credible international student programs use teachers and staff strategically to forge personal connections with each student. These personal connections play a significant role in helping every student find success, whether academically, spiritually, or emotionally.
In general, ISPs help students:
- Improve language skills
- Broaden social horizons
- Create more diverse friendships
- Gain additional academic support
- Adapt more quickly to college-level academics
- Join and explore new extracurricular activities
- Foster moral development and holistic growth
While international student programs vary from school to school, here are a few common components:
- Field day
- College advising
- End of year luncheons
- English as a Second Language Program (ESL)
- College Preparation Language and Culture Program (CPLC)
3 Reasons to Enroll in an International Student Program at a U.S. High School
What better way to highlight the benefits of attending an international student program than to hear from alumni with firsthand experience?
The following excerpts from an interview conducted with a Paraclete alumnus will help you understand why students should enroll in an international student program at a U.S High School and the unique and intangible benefits of attending an ISP at Paraclete.
Based on personal experience and insights from Vincent Zhao, a recent graduate of Paraclete High School’s international student program and now a current freshman at Penn State University, here are three reasons to enroll in an ISP.
1. Improve English Skills
International high school students need strong verbal and written English skills if they seek success in U.S higher education. Students can practice their English skills in an ISP by speaking with other classmates. Many high schools will also offer English as a Second Language (ESL) programs for students who need extra practice. An ESL program is designed to help students learn or improve their English speaking, writing, reading, and listening skills.
Here are a few essential skills ESL programs teach:
- Speaking with confidence and oral presentation skills
- Proofreading and brainstorming paper topics
- Citing references and using MLA and APA academic styles
- Writing more clear and eloquent college scholarship and application essays
In addition to engaging ESL courses, a holistic international student program ensures student access to teachers, staff, and English language tutors who can provide close one-on-one attention.
At Paraclete, our size gives our students an advantage. We’re significantly smaller than the public schools in the area, enabling Paraclete teachers to connect with each student personally. Vincent had this to say about the importance of individualized academic support:
“I remember that I had, when I first came to school, not quite adapted to the language and learning environment, so that led to my low marks in English classes. My English teacher and the teacher in charge of the school came to ask me if I needed after-school tutoring to help me learn better, which made me very touched and thankful for their dedication.”
2. Opportunities for Cultural Immersion and Discovery
Cultural immersion is one of the most significant benefits of an international student program. Depending on the program, international students can study in a famous American city or near other culturally essential locations such as:
- National state parks
- Historic landmarks
- State beaches
- Ski mountains
- Prestigious Ivy League universities
At Paraclete, international students can explore the Antelope Valley and immerse themselves in various activities. The Greater Antelope Valley, with a population of close to 475,000, is a land of desert beauty. The two urban hubs, Lancaster and Palmdale, boast destinations for shopping, outdoor experiences, dining, and entertainment while keeping the pleasant small-town allure. The Antelope Valley is:
- An hour and a half from the Santa Monica State Beach
- 3 hours from San Diego
- 4 hours from Las Vegas
- 4 hours from Mammoth Lakes/Ski Area
- 6 hours from San Francisco
> Use this fact sheet to discover the attractions and advantages of the greater Antelope Valley, from sunny Southern California beaches and snowy mountain tops to large-scale shopping centers and high-end dining.
An effective ISP will also provide students with extensive opportunities to discover interests and unlock new passions. International students who attend U.S high schools have ample opportunities to participate in athletics, academic societies, and clubs. These opportunities to discover new interests may not be available overseas. It can be challenging to participate in extracurricular activities in certain countries due to the strict cultural emphasis on studying. An effective ISP is flexible to encourage growth and exploration beyond academics.
Vincent had this to say about the flexibility of Paraclete’s international student program:
“During the day, there is not much pressure to study, and students have enough time to do things they like, such as club activities, sports, etc. High school gives students more room to develop their strengths and interests.”
3. Ensure College Readiness
Earning a degree through the U.S higher education system can be difficult. It is vast, diverse, and often complicated to navigate. These challenges are accentuated for international students who have never been exposed to the culture and expectations of U.S. higher education.
Enrolling in an international student program – especially one at a private Catholic high school with a diverse student body and robust college-prep curriculum – helps prospective college applicants smoothly transition into U.S. higher education.
Here are a few ways international student programs in the U.S. ensure college readiness:
- Articulates U.S university expectations
- Bolsters confidence in American social situations
- Helps familiarize students with the U.S. grading system
- Provides a deeper understanding of foreign cultures and religion
- Teaches the fundamentals of classroom behavior and academic integrity
- Improves ability to communicate skills and experiences verbally and in written form
- Embeds a comprehensive college-prep curriculum to prepare students for a competitive four-year college
An international student program provides valuable insights into social and religious norms, terms, and habits. Exposure to social and religious norms will help international students better fit into the fabric of U.S. higher education. Exposing students to a Catholic perspective – regardless of their faith – can have positive overarching effects such as a deepened understanding of their religion and a broadened worldview which is crucial for understanding foreign cultures more effectively.
Vincent had this to say about the correlation between a successful ISP and college readiness:
“My high school years were my most memorable experiences…[helping] gradually integrate and learn American culture. I love my Paraclete very much! I also love my teachers! Because of your hard work and dedication, we will have a better future.”
Preparing the Next Generation of International Students for U.S Collegiate Success
A suitable ISP ensures international students understand the culture and academics of U.S. higher education and are equipped to navigate it successfully. These programs provide international high school students with invaluable opportunities to hone their English skills, pursue extracurricular activities, meet new people, develop a sense of belonging, and better acclimate to American culture.
Parents interested in learning more about Paraclete’s International Student Program should contact an International Student Program Advisor or download the application checklist for a comprehensive list of items you’ll need before applying for admission. If you would like to begin assessing if Paraclete High School is the right fit for your child, we recommend registering for a virtual tour and information session.
A special thanks to Vincent Zhao for helping us illustrate the benefits of an international student program (ISP). We wish you continued success in your academic journey.