ESL (English as a Second Language) at Eastman

The ESL (English as a Second Language) program is designed to aid students’ acquisition of American academic English at the collegiate level. Each ESL course focuses on the integration of the core language skill areas of reading, writing, listening and speaking. Course sequences begin with a focus on the receptive skills of reading and listening, along with a strong vocabulary component, to the productive skills of speaking and writing. All courses place emphasis on sustained speech in English through critiqued oral presentations.  In written work, students learn to incorporate evidence in support of a thesis along with the conventions of citation. While the courses address various contexts for English language use, the primary goal of ESL instruction at Eastman is to help students be full and confident participants in the Eastman community.

ESL Course Placement

All students who were required by Admissions to provide a TOEFL score take an English language placement test during orientation week before the fall semester. The placement test consists of a 75-minute, scored integrated reading, grammar and vocabulary test in addition to a writing sample. The writing section requires students to summarize a reading and offer a response.  Students should expect to take two hours for the placement test during orientation week.  Students are placed into ESL courses based on the combination of their TOEFL scores and placement test scores.  A minimum TOEFL score for acceptance into Eastman does not exempt students from ESL study.  While the TOEFL test can serve as a predictor of student success, the skills required for a successful TOEFL score are not necessarily the same skills required for successful academic studying in the English-medium environment.

Students are notified in the first week of the semester if they have an ESL course requirement, recommendation or exemption.

ESL Courses

The undergraduate ESL course sequence at Eastman


ESL 103/104

ESL for Academic Studies I

This course prepares undergraduate ESL students for reading longer texts and writing critical responses in English. The course introduces the writing process, from composing essays to revising and editing in English. Students develop skills in critical inquiry and increase their vocabulary through texts exploring themes in American culture. Instructor permission required.

ESL for Academic Studies II

Building upon ESL for Academic Studies I, this course prepares ESL students for their academic work at Eastman. Responding to readings, students practice skills of annotation and summary writing. In longer written assignments, students practice appropriate citation of sources.  In focused discussion groups, students learn and practice various negotiation strategies to communicate their ideas. Instructor permission required.

The graduate course sequences at Eastman


ESL 101/102

English Language Review I
In this course, students will develop a foundation in the core structures of English and academic vocabulary in natural, real-life contexts.  Students integrate these structures in their listening, speaking, reading and writing.  Working closely with the Academic Word List, students begin to develop their knowledge of word forms and incorporate new vocabulary in their writing. Topics concern academic culture in the United States. Students begin to develop a portfolio of materials demonstrating their competency in English.  Instructor permission is required.

English Language Review II
Building upon English Language Review I, this course introduces more advanced level grammatical structures in real-life contexts. Students learn to form an expanded argument in speech and in writing, incorporating newly learned vocabulary. Students exit the course with a portfolio of written assignments and a videotaped oral presentation. This portfolio may be used as evidence of ability to handle academic work in English. Instructor permission required.


ESL 105/106

Communication Strategies for ESL Graduate Musicians I
This course is designed for high-intermediate ESL graduate students for their academic study in English. In the first semester of the course sequence, students increase their confidence to communicate effectively through a series of oral presentations on topics connected to their area of study. Students gain familiarity with American speech patterns through listening and speaking tasks and discrete pronunciation tasks. Exploring American cultural themes, students increase vocabulary and knowledge of idioms. Instructor permission required.

Communication Strategies for ESL Graduate Musicians II
This second part of the course sequence prepares graduate ESL students to handle the rigorous demands of reading and writing in the English-speaking academic environment. Working with authentic readings, students practice problem-solving strategies for successful comprehension and production of texts. Responding to readings, students practice each stage of the writing process, from planning and drafting, to revising and editing work. In a final research assignment, students work with evidence and develop grammatical and lexical strategies for successful paraphrase. Students learn and practice citation skills for accurate documentation sources and present their work in a final oral presentation. Instructor permission required.


ESL during the Eastman Summer Session

The Eastman School of Music occasionally admits students whose TOEFL scores do not meet the accepted minimum proficiency standard.  The Admissions department may require intensive ESL coursework over the summer for students of lower English proficiency. The intensive summer ESL course meets each year during the six-week Eastman summer session.

ENG 080

English Language Skills for ESL Musicians

This noncredit summer course gives international students an introduction to English academic skills and to the culture of Eastman in order to prepare them for Eastman’s academic requirements. Students practice written exercises and do oral presentations to build a solid foundation in academic English. Group projects help students learn the aspects of American culture necessary for living abroad. Through observations of classes such as Music History, Review Dictation, or Review Analysis, students gain exposure to the academic environment at Eastman. Students explore the culture of the Rochester area through guided weekly field trips to places of local interest such as the Memorial Art Gallery, the Genessee Country Village Museum and the George Eastman House.


Additional Supports for International Students

The Eastman Writing Center

In addition to support in the ESL courses, students can get help for their written language through the Eastman Writing Center. Consultants work with students individually. Help in the Eastman Writing Center is available throughout the academic year.

ISO (International Services Office) at the University of Rochester

The International Services Office advises international students on all immigration matters in addition to issuing visa documents. A representative from ISO is available at the Eastman campus on a part-time basis to answer questions regarding immigration and maintaining status as an international student in the U.S.

RIC (Rochester International Council)

The Rochester International Council offers a variety of programs for international visitors, including a variety of programs for international visitors, including the friendship volunteers program, which connects international students with American hosts to introduce them to the Rochester community.

Websites of Interest for English language support:
The learning English exercises on this site foster vocabulary, listening and reading skills
The BBC has an excellent resource for grammar, reading and vocabulary with its current events-related articles.
Dave’s ESL Café was one of the first websites to bring the international English language learning community together. Resources include discussion forums for international students and language quizzes.