College tours are an excellent way to reach out to foreign-educated students. Who takes your college tours? High school students and their anxious parents? Fluent English speakers?
Recognizing the value of attracting foreign-educated immigrants to their campus, some community colleges have begun to partner with their ESL departments to offer specialized tours and workshops for non-native English speakers.
For students who are studying ESL at its extension sites, Bluegrass Community & Technical College in Kentucky holds an annual open house that introduces them to the main campus and showcases the college’s degree and certificate programs. Bluegrass partners with its ESL instructors and community-based organizations like Kentucky Refugees Ministries and the Migrant Network Coalition to spread the word about the event. The open house, held in the evening to accommodate working students, includes an introduction and welcome by college staff. Tours of the college are led by current community college students who speak the principal native languages of the ESL students, including French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Nepali and Swahili. Bluegrass has found that these tours are most successful when ESL instructors accompany their students, offering a supportive, familiar presence.
Westchester Community College in New York has a Welcome Center which offers information sessions for ESL students that provide an overview of the U.S. higher education system and the college’s own resources, including career services, financial aid and scholarships. Students who have higher education credentials from their home countries gain information on getting their foreign credits evaluated and recognized. Run by a former ESL instructor, these workshops give ESL students a chance to ask the kinds of questions that aren’t necessarily on the minds of American high school students applying to college, and to do so in an environment where they don’t need to be embarrassed about making mistakes when they speak English.