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Intensive Academic English Program

Teacher interacting with two students in class

Offered 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.

In Spring and Summer 2021 the ALP is planning to offer the intensive in-person (on campus) in a modified format. Around 50% of intensive classes will be face-to-face. The rest will be offered remotely via Zoom for health and safety reasons.

Attendance in person is required for all on-campus classes. Students unable to take classes face-to-face should join our remote (online) classes.

Note: In-person classes are only possible if the infection rate remains low and New York State and the University permit the campus to remain open. If the health situation changes, classes may switch to 100% online. 

Because of the time needed to get a visa appointment, traveling to the U.S. and quarantining for two week before classes begin, we recommend starting the application and F-1 process as soon as possible.

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.
  • 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 different themes to provide content for students to discuss and write about. In summer project-based courses, 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 oral and written feedback to help learners become more conscious of their language, and to help them 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 constantly 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 students to be inquisitive and curious learners, and to really question what they 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. At present most activities are virtual. 

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. (currently closed. Access depends on New York State guidelines).

Columbia University’s ALP is the world’s best academic English course. It is truly wonderful to be able to study this course online with friends having the same purpose all over the world in a relaxed environment at home.”

-Yoshiaki, Japan.  Spring 2020 intensive student who had to switch to an online course in the middle of the semester.


  • 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
  • 1-2 hours of homework every evening; one writing assignment per week

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


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 straightforward information in English (CEFR A2 level) 

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

Summer Sessions Note 

Summer A, B and C are 4 weeks, 18 hours per week.

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 will 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.

Dates and Prices

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

For a full explanation of fees, see below.

Spring 2021

Summer 2021

Fall 2020

Apply to the Intensive Program

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; and non-refundable $350.00 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

ALP Levels, Placement & Testing

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Learn more about American Language Program at Columbia University or contact the program advisor.

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Commission on English Language Accreditation

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The Advanced Academic Preparation Program is accredited by the Commission on English Language Accreditation (CEA) for the period of August 2019 through August 2029. For these offerings, the American Language Program agrees to uphold CEA Standards for English Language Programs and institutions. The U.S. Secretary of Education recognizes CEA as a national accrediting agency for English language programs and institutions in the U.S.