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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.

ALP Intensive classes are scheduled to be in-person in 2022.

Students unable to take classes on campus should consider our remote (online) Semi-Intensive class.

For information on how Columbia is keeping students safe on campus during Covid see here.

Because of the time needed to get a visa appointment, travel to the U.S. and possibly quarantine for 10 days before classes begin, we recommend that those who wish to travel to the U.S. start the application and F-1 process as soon as possible. 

Click here to watch our 2021 Information Session and learn about the program.

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.
  • 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.  

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

Summer Sessions Note 

Summer A, B and C are 4-week sessions, which meet for 18 hours per week. 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 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.

Fall 2021

Spring 2022

Summer 2022

Fall 2022

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. For online courses this includes phone/video appointments, accommodations for approved disabilities and access to workshops and training.
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 you have this much money on your financial document. 

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

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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,