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Intensive Academic English Program

Teacher interacting with two students in class

Study in Fall, Spring and Summer

The ALP has one of the oldest intensive English programs in the U.S.

Our courses help students whose first language is not English improve their grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, speaking, listening, reading and writing skills.

The intensive program can help you achieve your language goals:

  • prepare to get a degree from a U.S. college or university
  • achieve professional success in the U.S. or abroad
  • fulfill a personal dream of studying in New York City

I'm planning to study international law for my master’s degree. Studying at ALP has given me the chance to cultivate my English skills and learn more about topics that are related to American society and the world, like history, art, and globalization. Learning these topics and many others has enhanced my knowledge and prepared me for my graduate studies. It has helped me in my future career, because in Saudi Arabia people have better job opportunities if their English skills are strong."

Arwa Sharif - Saudi Arabia

Program Highlights

  • Academic English – our courses focus on preparing students to study at university in the US. This includes essay writing, presentations, note-taking and discussions. But these skills are useful in other contexts too, such as the workplace.
  • Integrated skills – each class focuses on more than one skill, which is a more natural way to learn a language.
  • Thematic learning – grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation are best learned in context. In fall and spring semesters teachers explore many different themes to provide content for students to discuss and write about. In each summer project-based course, teacher explore many aspects of one main theme.
  • Error correction – making errors is an important part of the learning process. We encourage as much spoken and written communication as possible, and provide plenty of feedback to help you become more conscious of your language, and to help you improve.
  • Team teaching – each Intensive course is taught by two or three instructors, who work together to create courses specifically tailored to the students. Each teacher brings their own style and expertise, so learning is always varied.
  • Critical thinking – it’s not just about learning the language, but about learning to engage with themes and topics in individual ways. We teach you to be inquisitive and curious, and to really question what you see and read.
  • Authentic Materials – as soon as possible, we introduce as much authentic material as we can, from newspaper and magazine articles, to novels, plays, lectures, movies and music. Reading, listening to and watching real English all help expand vocabulary, improve comprehension, and make the language more ‘automatic’.
  • U.S. Culture – learning about New York and the U.S. helps to make the learning experience richer and expands learning beyond the classroom.
Activities Program

Intensive program students can also take advantage of our activities program, with events, workshops and social occasions to help build community and help students enjoy New York City.  

It's so much more than English!

Students in the program will have access to Columbia University facilities, including the university libraries and computer labs. Students may access the Dodge Fitness Center (gym) by purchasing membership.


The ALP has eight levels of instruction, from pre-intermediate to very high advanced.

Important Note: The ALP does not teach beginners (level 0 and level 1). If you speak no English, or speak just basic English, the ALP is not the right program for you at the moment.

Level 2 pre-intermediate students applying to our program must be able to:

  • speak and write about familiar topics in English
  • be able to understand and read simple information in English (CEFR A2 level) 

Applicants scoring below level 2 on the Oxford online placement exam will not be admitted.


  • 18 hours of instruction per week
  • ‘University style’ schedule – classes are usually at different times every day, at least one class every day (any time Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 6:00pm)
  • Small classes (maximum 16)
  • 1-2 hours of homework every day; one writing assignment per week

Summer Intensive

Summer A, B and C are 4-week sessions. Each session is a separate course. 

Students can study for one session (A, or B, or C), two sessions (A+B, or B+C), or all three sessions (A+B+C).

In each session students will study different material and topics, and will usually have different instructors. Materials and topics will be different in each session. Students who choose A+B+C will be in classes with students studying one, two or all three sessions. A+B+C is not a separate course.

Summer Intensive program levels 3-9 follow a project-based curriculum. In each session, participants study academic skills and improve their English by exploring different aspects of one main topic. The work will lead to the creation of a written and spoken project that will be presented at the end of each course in a Project Fair. Level 2 follows a textbook-based curriculum.

Limited on-campus housing is available for ALP Summer students. Apply early to get a space!

Dates and Prices

Click on the red '+' to see the information for each session.

Tuition and fees are subject to Board of Trustee approval and may change.

For a full explanation of fees, see below.

Summer 2023

Fall 2023

Explanation of Fees*

Health Insurance: All ALP students in Fall, Spring and 8 or 12 week Summer courses are required to have Columbia Medical Insurance. It is not possible to waive (= not pay) the Insurance charge unless you have comparable US health insurance. Visit Columbia Health for details.
Health and Related Services Fee: All ALP students are required to pay the Health and Related Services Fee. This fee covers access to Columbia health services such as medical, counseling, wellbeing, sexual violence response and disability services.
SPS Activity Fee: this covers SPS expenses relating to orientation, handbooks and events. 
Instructional Support Fee: this covers class materials and expenses such as playbooks, novels, newspapers, photocopying, theater tickets, museum or event entry. 
ALP Student Services Fee: this covers I-20 processing fees and other SEVIS transactions.
Technology Fee: this covers SPS technology expenses, including access to online course management software, Canvas, and tools used to develop online course content.  
Housing: this is the cost for students in Columbia University Housing. Columbia Housing is currently unavailable for ALP students.
Living Expenses: this includes food, transportation, everyday expenses, and accommodation. This gives an idea of how much money is needed to live in New York so you can plan financially. Students are not billed for living expenses, except for any ALP/Columbia Housing. 
Textbooks: this is an estimate. Instructors assign books at the beginning of the session and students must buy them. Students are not billed for textbooks. 
Total: When you apply for an I-20 you must show the total amount of all applicable fees on your financial document. 


*Note: not all fees are refundable if students withdraw from the program. For a full explanation see the Withdrawal and Tuition Refund page of the ALP website

Apply to the Intensive Program

The ALP is open to any applicant aged 17 and older who has reached a pre-intermediate (CEFR A2) level of English proficiency.

Prospective students should read Visa Procedures and Regulations for International Students before applying.

Only online applications are accepted.

  1. Completed online application form.
  2. Non-refundable application fee: U.S. $150.00 for online application; a $1,000.00 tuition deposit, payable by credit card only. These fees are paid when you complete the ALP's online application.

In general, an F-1 (student visa) is required for study in the US. International applicants are required to request an I-20 in order to obtain the F-1 visa and must enroll in a full-time program (18 hours per week).

If you are already holding an F-1 visa and attending another school you must also transfer your SEVIS record from your current school to the ALP. Please speak to your Advisor at your current school.

To receive an I-20, please upload your ALP admission letter with the following documents (see below) to the online I-20 application page (Compass). You will receive your admission letter and I-20 instructions after you are admitted to the program.

  1. Bank statement: this document must be in English and dated within the last three months. It must be from checking or savings accounts and must show sufficient available funds to pay the estimated tuition, fees and living expenses

          • To see required balance for I-20, please see the "Total" amount for your program, above.

     2. Sponsor letter: If you are sending your own bank statement you are not required to submit a sponsor letter. The sponsor letter is necessary only if a bank                 statement will be submitted on your behalf by another person. The person whose bank statement you will submit is your sponsor.

         Your sponsor must submit a letter (sponsor letter) stating that s/he will provide you with full financial support during the period of your study in the ALP. Full                 financial support includes: tuition, fees, and living expenses. The sponsor letter must be in English and dated within the last three months. It must also be                   signed by the sponsor.

     3. Photocopy of your passport’s identification page.

         • The page in your passport that shows your photograph, your name and your date of birth.

Once your completed application and accompanying materials and fees have been received and processed, you will receive a US government I-20 A-B form. Take the I-20 A-B form, along with your letter of acceptance and original financial documents, to a US embassy or consulate in your country to apply for a student (F-1) visa.

 Apply online here

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Commission on English Language Accreditation

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Columbia University American Language Program Intensive English Program is accredited by the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA) for the period August 2019 through August 2029 and agrees to uphold the CEA Standards for English Language Programs and Institutions. CEA is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency for English language programs and institutions in the U.S. For further information about this accreditation, please contact the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation, 1001 N. Fairfax St., Suite 630, Alexandria, VA 22314, (703) 665-3400,