English as a
Second Language

English as a <br>Second Language

Program Overview

The English as a Second Language (ESL) Program at Canisius is a part-time program intended to assist all international students with the improvement of their English language skills. Our ESL Program is not an intensive language program, but a special academic support program designed to assist both exchange students visiting for a study abroad experience and international students seeking a degree, all of whom have varying degrees of language ability. Many students in our ESL program combine ESL courses with courses in their majors and the core curriculum to enhance their academic growth. On some occasions, usually in the first semester, students with less than ideal language competencies can take as many as 12 credits of ESL in preparation for more demanding and challenging courses needed for their degrees. In all instances, ESL courses fulfill free elective credit requirements. In addition, some ESL courses fulfill core curriculum requirements.


  • Courses are offered in all four language areas including reading, writing, speaking and listening.  
  • The purpose of these courses is to assist students with the development of the language skills they will need in both academic and social settings. 
  • Classes are small and provide not only language instruction but social support.
  • Students can complete up to four ESL courses per semester for a total of  twelve credits and status as a full time student.
  • Some students are still developing basic English language skills and take introductory ESL courses exclusively for up to one year while other students with more advanced English language skills combine intermediate to advanced ESL course work with courses in their majors or the core curriculum. 
  • A typical schedule for a student solely focused on ESL course work and language improvement would include four courses, one course each in writing, conversation, reading and oral presentations. 
  • More advanced students combine courses in their major(s) with selected ESL courses targeted at improving key language skills for a total of four to five courses or twelve to fifteen credits.

Evaluation and Placement

  • All international students, including both exchange students and degree seeking students, must have their language skills evaluated.
  • Students are evaluated for placement into ESL courses based on a variety of factors.  They are initially screened based on application materials including scores on TOEFL or IELTS as well as transcripts indicating coursework in English at other institutions. The College uses these factors in combination with a comprehensive language assessment test given during International Student Orientation to identify  the best ESL course work for each student’s needs. 
  • ALL International students must attend orientation and complete the language assessment. Students who demonstrate proficiency in English will place out of ESL courses.
  • Exchange students who need ESL courses will use those courses for transfer back to their home institution.
  • International students seeking a degree will consult with their academic advisor to determine how their ESL courses will count for their degree.


International exchange students are advised by the appropriate Associate Dean or an advisor designated by the Associate Dean. International students seeking a degree should have an advisor in their major and should contact the department directly to have an advisor assigned if they do not already have one. All students should work closely with their advisor in their major(s) discussing career expectations, choosing their major electives, developing their entire academic program and planning their co-curricular or supplemental academic experiences.