Foreign Exchange Programs, Vocational Schools, and More
Foreign Exchange Programs / Foreign Exchange Students
Many schools have foreign exchange programs, which allow foreign exchange students to come study in the United States for a few months or more. If you wish to study in the US as a foreign exchange student, you will need an exchange visitor visa (see J-1 Visa - US Exchange Visitor Visa for US Exchange Programs for visa information).
Regardless of what type of youth exchange program you might be involved with, you need to remember the following:
- There may be fees charged by the secondary school or school district participating in the foreign exchange program (in order to pay the cost of educational services for someone not paying local taxes);
- The period of any foreign exchange program is fixed and cannot usually be extended; and
- As a result, you cannot expect to use a foreign exchange program as a stepping stone to becoming a regular student and graduating from a US secondary school.
More information about international student foreign exchange programs can be found at the US school you are interested in, or at a school or U.S. Educational Advising Center in your home country (see US Educational Advising Centers in Your Country: Study in USA). You may find that foreign exchange program information on U.S. school websites primarily address the needs of US exchange students. You should contact the schools if you would like information specific to your own situation.
For an example, see: The Fund for American Studies
For links to over 750 education-abroad programs, see the Institute of International Education.
If you are an advanced student, you may be interested in the Fulbright Program, a foreign exchange program for graduate study, teaching, or advanced research in the U.S. You should contact the Fulbright Commission or Foundation in your country.
For more foreign exchange programs, you might try these links:
- How to Find a Job or an Internship in the USA (Council Work Exchanges)
- Council for International Exchange of Scholars
- Association for International Practical Training
- CDS International
- Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
Vocational Schools, Community and Technical Colleges
Vocational education is designed to train you with practical or specialized job skills, including industrial or commercial occupations. In the US, such training may be obtained through vocational and technical schools, as well as community colleges. Many vocational schools in the US do not require a high school degree, though they may request some sort of high school equivalency score.
Community colleges in the US, also called junior colleges, provide two years of academic instruction, as well as technical and vocational training. Graduates of a community college usually earn an "associate’s" degree (which is not equivalent to a four-year college or university degree). Many students begin at a community college, and then transfer to a regular US college or university to earn a typical undergraduate (bachelor’s) degree. US community colleges often do not demand as high TOEFL scores as universities in order for you to be accepted. While a score of 475 probably would not get you into many US universities, a community college would be more likely to accept you. The student visa requirements for community colleges are similar as for universities, although you should ask the school for specific details (you may also see Student Visa: Student Visas for International Students, College Study in US and More for more information). Community colleges are often less expensive than regular US colleges and universities.
As an example, Greenville Tech in Greenville, South Carolina, encourages international students to attend and has a web page devoted to informing foreign students about the school (although you will see that it requires a minimum TOEFL score of 550). In addition to other programs, Greenville Tech has two programs designed for students who wish to continue their education at a four-year college or university. Another school, the Atlanta Technical College offers 33 diploma programs and 34 technical certificates and provides services for students with limited English proficiency. Yahoo offers a fairly comprehensive listing of US community and technical colleges. For more, see Additional Sources of Information for International Students: Scholarships, Financial Aid, and More.
For a detailed guide for foreign students / international students, see: If You Want to Study in the United States: Technical and Vocational Studies