ESL Program

The International Student Experience

Solebury School's English as a Second Language (ESL) Program is a vital part of the school community in which international students are prepared to successfully meet the academic and personal challenges of studying in a foreign country.

The program is led by ESL Director Cinnie Wappel (shown), a true expert in the ESL field who has been at Solebury since 1990. Students are encouraged to always speak English and express their ideas and opinions openly in order to build strong communication skills with faculty and American students. Assimilation into Solebury’s community is made easier by joining clubs and sports teams, as well as participating in dormitory and weekend activities and community service trips. Once a level of confidence has been reached, students may then apply for leadership positions in student government, academic areas, and dormitory life, which are essential for admission to a competitive college.

To help an international student face these challenges, an advisor is chosen. This advisor, a faculty member of the student's choice, helps to guide them through their Solebury School career, keeping them focused and on target for graduation and fulfilling the role of parents who are half way around the world. It isn't long before students find themselves practicing their English more often and immersed in the American culture in a small, safe environment. It is this experience that spells success!

Meet former Solebury School ESL students:
Cornell University graduate Junhua (Richard Wu) '13
UCSF dental surgery student Susan (Huang) Keefe '14

Our three-year ESL (English as a Second Language) Program is built on content and skills courses in three interconnected levels:

1. A Foundations Level designed to develop language skills and introduce American culture and education experience,

2. an Intermediate Level designed to solidify language skills and begin the mainstream transition process,

3. and a Transitions Level designed to ensure students are fully prepared to succeed in the American system going forward.

TOEFL scores — along with a student’s recommendations, grades, and interview — determine a student’s entry level into the program. Once accepted into the program, students commit themselves to the entire process, completing all required courses from the point at which they enter the program. They follow the established path until they are fully mainstreamed. TOEFL scores are NOT used to exit the program before it has been completed. For example, a student who joins the program at the Intermediate level must complete all the required courses at the Intermediate Level, then all the required courses at the Transitions Level before completing the program to become a “full mainstream” student.


The Three Levels of Solebury SchooL's ESL Program

1. Foundations Level

Foundations Level courses:

  • Communications I 
  • Mechanics of Writing 
  • Novels and Short Fiction 
  • Mainstream Math (level determined by placement test) 
  • Mainstream Science (usually Conceptual Physics or Honors Physics)

At the Foundations Level students do not receive grades in their ESL courses at the end of the first trimester. This is to give students time to become comfortable with the American system of education and the challenges of learning a second language. We believe that if students do not have to worry about grades in their first trimester, they can focus on all aspects of Solebury life, and better adapt to their new environment. This gives students more opportunities for success as they proceed forward. 

2. Intermediate Level

Intermediate Level courses:

  • Communications II 
  • Reading and Composition
  • Exploring Civilizations 
  • Mainstream Science 
  • Mainstream Math (level determined by placement test) 
The Intermediate Level is a crucial step in the program where essential content is learned and necessary skills are strengthened, even though very few outward signs of “English as a Second Language” remain. 


3. Transitions Level

Transitions Level courses:

  • Writing Portfolio
  • Literature Seminar 
  • Mainstream Science 
  • Mainstream Math (according to level of placement)
  • One Other Mainstream Course (based on interest and placement) 

By the time students enter the Transitions Level, all traces of traditional ESL are gone, and all courses use mainstream textbooks. 

For ALL LEVELS: students may take additional mainstream classes as long as they fit into their schedule of required courses.


Bridging the Distance

Solebury teachers are experienced in teaching English to international students, and they are especially sensitive to our students' need to adapt to living in the United States. Under the guidance of the ESL Director, the faculty and dorm parents help them integrate into the community, support them in classes, and especially, deal with being so far away from home. We work equally hard to help parents stay connected to their child by sending pictures of them in their activities, emailing updates about their progress and posting video and audio clips from events on the school's website.

Study in the States

Living Options

Students who join Solebury at the Foundations or Intermediate levels of ESL must be boarding students and live in the dormitories. This ensures that they receive essential English practice, and because our experience shows that boarding at these levels leads to the greatest long-term success. After living in the dormitory for at least one year, students may petition to live with their family if they live locally. Permission to do so will be determined by the administration and the Director of the ESL Program and based on a student’s academic success and active involvement in the community.

Students who join Solebury at the Transitions or Mainstream Level may live with an American host family, or with their own family, so long as they live locally. We have partnered with GoStudents, a company with years of experience and expertise in managing homestay programs. They work hard to find the perfect pairing of host family and student, and they remain in close contact with the student, their parents and the host family to ensure that this experience is terrific for everyone. Living with a host family is a wonderful opportunity to not only get extensive practice in English, but also to have a profound exchange of culture and ideas, and to form relationships that will last a lifetime.

All aspects of this program ensure that young people have a wonderful experience here at Solebury. We believe that a strong education goes beyond academics to include interpersonal skills, character development and leadership training. Our familial atmosphere and one-on-one mentoring build healthy individuals, lifelong friendships, and unforgettable college applicants.


In Good Company

International students have attended our programs from many countries including Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkino-Faso, Czech Republic, China, Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Lithuania, Malaysia, Puerto Rico, Rwanda, Santo Domingo, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Spain, Sudan, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Venezuela, Vietnam, Ukraine, and Zaire.



This is a big decision, and we're here to help you. Please feel free to contact Scott Eckstein, Meg PerryJordan Reed or Rashad Shabazz in the Admission office with any questions you may have.