What’s the best English school?

The best English school is an EF English school of course! No, but seriously, there’s no Olympics of English Schools or Nobel Prize for English Schools. And anyway, the best English school depends on who you are and what you’re looking for.

Imagine it. Each student who arrives in an English school is unique: different learning style, different experience of the English language, different expectations, different demands, different level of motivation, different budget, different age, different culture, and on and on. How could any one English school be the best English school for all these different students? It’s impossible!

English schools come in all shapes and sizes. Some schools are oriented toward a young summer crowd with lots of mingling and parties. Some are oriented toward scholarly students preparing hard for university entrance exams. Some are full of busy professionals or tourists or retirees. So how do you go about finding the best English school for you? Here’s what we recommend:

  1. Visualize your best English school. Close your eyes and daydream about it. No fuzzy daydreams here! Look at the teacher. Look at the other students. Look at the course material. Look at the classroom. Now walk out and look at the common areas. Picture an entire day at this amazing school. Picture coming in the morning, having class, having a meal, returning home. Picture a weekend.
  2. Answer some questions. Use your daydream and the list below as a guide, but feel free to add your own questions too. Your goal is to write down as much as possible (with as much detail as possible) about your ideal English school.
    • Where is your best English school located (city/campus/rural, or maybe you have a specific city in mind)?
    • What does the school look like, both inside and out?
    • How do you get there?
    • How long does it take?
    • Where are you living?
    • How many hours of class do you have a day?
    • What’s your class schedule like (class in the morning, spread throughout the day, evening, etc.)?
    • Are you studying anything specific, or general English?
    • How many other students are there in your class?
    • What are your classmates like (age, nationality, level of motivation, personality)?
    • What are the course materials like (photocopies, textbooks, tablets, etc.)?
    • What do you do after class?
    • Do you have homework? How much?
    • Who do you eat your meals with?
    • What are the meals like (restaurant, home cooked, food from your country, sandwiches, etc.)?
    • What do you do on the weekend?
  3. Turn your answers into a checklist. For example, if you were in a class of 8 students at your best English school, put down “class size: 8”. If your best English school is in a cozy little house on a country lane, write down “rural” and “house” and maybe “cozy”, each as separate items on the checklist. You don’t have to turn every question into an item, of course, but don’t leave out anything important.
  4. Use your checklist to research English schools. Do this any way you like – online or talking to an agency or contacting schools directly. In the interest of saving time, you can prioritize your checklist, so if you have three non-negotiable items, let’s say “Cambridge”, “businesspeople” & “evening networking events”, use those requirements to draw up a list of schools that might be your best English school. Try not to include more than 10 schools. Narrow them down using the rest of your checklist items.

Some of your research will be easy (a picture of the building inside and out, location, average class size, course types). Other characteristics will be harder to get information about. The school’s Facebook and Twitter pages are a good source of pictures of current students, activities, and an activities calendar. You can also reach out to people who follow a school’s page to find alumni. Online reviews are interesting, but remember that most reviewers either rant or rave. There’s not much in the middle. And really, schools themselves should answer your questions, no matter how detailed. If they don’t, well they’re probably not the best English school you can find.

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