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Best Pathway Programs for International Students in the USA

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UniSearch - Best Pathway Programs for International Students in the USA

Not quite sure whether you meet the eligibility requirements of your dream US degree? A pathway program may be the answer to your dilemma! Pathway programs are great opportunities for international students aiming to study in the USA to transition into their target bachelor’s or master’s degree. Be it your English proficiency, your familiarity with the American classroom, or the academic foundation you need for a specific degree, pathway programs give you a head start toward your goal. Here’s our quick crash course on pathway programs for international students in the USA.


What You Need to Know About Pathway Programs in the USA

Typically one year long, a pathway program could be your route to your dream degree at a US school. You may be familiar with pathway programs by other names. Foundation year, pre-bachelor’s or pre-master’s, diploma, graduate certificate, accelerated master’s, etc., are all pathway programs. They essentially serve the same purpose - getting your skills and knowledge where they need to be to meet your target degree’s minimum entry requirements. Pathway programs for international students in the USA are a fantastic option for foreign-born students who learn under different education systems compared to the US system. If your qualifications are not equivalent to the minimum entry requirements in the USA, a pathway program can help you bridge that gap to qualify for your degree. For example, pathway programs in the USA may be the best route for Indian students with local qualifications to transition into an American degree program.

Some pathway programs build up your qualifications so you can meet the entry requirements for most American schools. Other universities offer programs that directly transition you into said universities’ programs. The latter tend to include credit-bearing courses as part of the program. In other words, you can earn a set number of credits while completing the program. You can then transfer these over to the degree program you want to study. Some universities offer conditional admission into bachelor’s or master’s degrees through pathway programs. If you can maintain a certain degree of academic performance, you can directly move on to your chosen program at your chosen university!

Note though that not all pathway programs lead to conditional admission. As with university research, you need to look carefully into whether or not your pathway program opens admissions options up for your chosen degree.


Why Study a Pathway Program in the USA?

1. Get Your English Language Skills Where They Need to Be

English language skills are a big component of the minimum requirements to study at a US school. As the most commonly spoken language, you need to have a good grasp of the language for both the classroom and daily life. A key requirement you can expect in any university application for a bachelor’s or master’s is proof of your English language proficiency. Universities and immigration officers want to see that you’ll be able to keep up with the level of academic English in classrooms. At university level, you will generally encounter and need to use more complex, technical, and diverse language skills. Your English language proficiency levels are a predictor of your success in these university programs.

Typically, schools will set out their score requirements for tests like the IELTS Academic, PTE Academic, and TOEFL. Some universities and colleges also set specific score requirements for skill sections like Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking. Not meeting these requirements can disadvantage your application.

This is where pathway programs to build up your English language skills come in. As an international student, you can apply for an English as a second language (ESL) program to prepare for your end-goal degree!

2. Ease into the American Way of Learning

The jump from the learning environments you grew up in into an American classroom can be drastic. In the USA, classrooms are hubs of discussion and participation. Your professors will actively encourage you to engage in discourse over class material and beyond. In fact, your participation in class may contribute to your overall grades.

This might be daunting to students transitioning from small classrooms into large lecture halls in a US university. Many pathway programs intentionally cap off their classroom sizes to keep them relatively small. With a closer-knit community, usually made up of other international students like yourself, you can ease into the American education culture. As you work your way up to your target degree alongside your peers, you get a taste of the way of life in the USA. You learn how to navigate the classroom and student life in the USA, stepping into your degree program better prepared for it.


3. Acquire the Skills and Knowledge You Need to Succeed in Your End-Goal Program

English language skills might not be the only things you learn, depending on your pathway program. Some universities specifically offer programs to help international students from different education systems access the academic skills, resources, and knowledge they need to qualify for their chosen degree. These may be the types of skills you need for university-level learning, e.g. academic research and writing skills, as well as subject-specific knowledge for a sound foundation to build your degree.

Oftentimes these courses are credit-bearing, meaning they contribute to your degree completion. Moreover, universities often offer more than just academic support. With pathway programs in the USA keeping international students in mind, universities often focus on creating an enriching student experience for you. This includes support with academics, career guidance, and adapting to the American way of doing things.


Undergraduate Pathway Programs for International Students in the USA

International Pathway Program

Manhattan College

  • One- or two-semester course designed to meet Manhattan College’s minimum English requirements
  • You’ll take for-credit classes for college at the same time as English classes
  • You can complete the program with up to 9 credits you can then transfer to your degree program at MC


English Language Institute - Bridge Pathway Program

Columbus State University

  • Two- to four-semester program
  • Take classes at Columbus State University while building up your English language skills
  • Credit-bearing courses can contribute to your degree completion at CSU


English for Speakers of Other Languages

Albany State University

  • A program designed to build non-native users’ proficiency in English up to American college standards
  • Alongside your English skills and degree-level programs, you learn vital soft skills
  • Students may be able to take some college-level classes while enrolling in the ESOL program


International Pathway Program

Clark University

  • Along with English language courses, you will take degree-level courses that contribute to your bachelor’s degree completion
  • The pathway program equips you with university-level soft skills including communication, creativity, and critical thinking, as well as hard skills like research
  • Students enjoy a unique experience that goes beyond the classroom. You get to connect and network with domestic and international students and go on excursions to iconic American landmarks


Pathway Program

La Roche University

  • Designed for international students who need to build up their language proficiency to qualify for a US bachelor’s degree
  • You can take credit-bearing courses alongside your English skill-building courses which contribute to your degree completion
  • The program is available through either a one-semester or two-semester pathway


Graduate Pathway Programs for International Students in the USA

Direct Master’s Accelerator Program (Direct Map)

Adelphi University

  • Designed for international students looking for a rigorous academic experience to transition into graduate programs at Adelphi University
  • Students earn one semester’s worth of credits which they can transfer to their degree program
  • Classes are fully integrated, meaning international students attend the same classes as domestic students
  • The program creates opportunities to broaden your professional network under the guidance of career coaches and academic advisors


Master’s Accelerator Program

Auburn University

  • Designed for students with a bachelor’s degree from a different country transitioning into a US graduate program
  • Along with credit-bearing courses contributing directly to your master’s degree, you have access to academic and student experience support to adjust to the American way of life and learning


Graduate Pathway Programs

University of South Florida

  • A whopping total of 38 pathway programs are available to build your foundation for a USF graduate program in your field
  • The pathway programs are one to two semesters long and build up your academic knowledge and English language skills for specific degrees
  • You can study a graduate pathway program in the following fields:
    • Architecture
    • Biology
    • Biomedical Engineering
    • Business Administration (MBA)
    • Chemical Engineering
    • Civil or Environmental Engineering
    • Economics
    • Electrical Engineering
    • Engineering Management
    • Entrepreneurship in Applied Technologies
    • Environmental Science and Policy
    • Finance
    • Geography
    • Global sustainability
    • Industrial engineering
    • Learning design and technology
    • Management
    • Marketing
    • Mass communications
    • Materials science and engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Mechanical engineering
    • Microbiology
    • Music
    • Music composition
    • Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology
    • Physics
    • Religious Studies
    • Secondary Education: Biology/Chemistry/Mathematics/Physics
    • Statistics
    • Studio art
    • Teaching in English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
    • Urban and Community Design
    • Urban and Regional Planning


Master’s Accelerator

American University

  • Built to help international students easily transition into the American education system and lifestyle
  • You will have access to exclusive courses and credit-bearing modules that contribute to your AU degree, alongside English language courses
  • Two levels of accelerator programs are available: the Advanced Master’s Accelerator Program and the Master’s Accelerator Program. You can opt for the program of your choice based on the degree of support and tailored courses you’re seeking
  • You can choose between one- or two-semester pathways


Global Pathways

Northeastern University

  • Designed specifically for international students whose English language proficiency does not meet Northeastern’s Master’s program requirements
  • PhD-level instructors lead classes and create a welcoming environment for international students to familiarise themselves with the US education system and lifestyle
  • While going through intensive English training, you can choose one of two study tracks: Business and Humanities OR Engineering, Math and Computer Science
  • Part of the program includes one 2-4 credit-bearing course which you can transfer to your NU Master’s degree


Other Pathway Programs in the USA

Intensive English Program

University of Georgia

  • English language program designed to build student proficiency for American university requirements
  • Full-time students complete 18 hours of coursework per week
  • Full-time courses: Reading, Writing, Grammar, Listening & Speaking
  • Elective courses: Academic Vocabulary, Idiomatic Expression, Debating, IELTS Preparation


Intensive Academic English

Georgetown University

  • A program designed to help non-native English users transition smoothly into programs in the American higher education system
  • Key areas of instruction include academic writing, source use, critical reading, public speaking, class discussions, note-taking, etc.


English Language Institute Program

Savannah State University

  • 21 hours of class each week focusing on classes in Listening/Speaking, Writing/Grammar, Reading, as well as Computer-Assisted Learning
  • Built to help non-English users transition smoothly into undergraduate and graduate courses at American universities


Intensive English Program

Sonoma State University

  • University Preparation Program to help students transition into Sonoma State University programs or programs at partner universities/colleges
  • After the first semester, you may be able to take a limited number of SSU courses
  • You can apply for conditional admission to your target course by going through this pathway program to meet English proficiency requirements

These are by no means the only pathway programs you may have access to as a prospective international student in the USA. But we hope it’s a great place to start to find the right one for you!


Cost of Pathway Programs in the USA

Depending on the school, study level, and type of pathway program, tuition may vary quite a bit. Your pathway program fees may also vary depending on whether the institution is a public or private university. Typically, private university fees for US pathway programs skew higher. Below, we’re listing out the tuition fees per semester of the programs covered in this list!


Institution Name
Program Type
Tuition Fees
Manhattan College
International Pathways Program (Undergraduate)
USD 3,600 (per semester)
Columbus State University
English Language Institute - Bridge Pathway Program (Undergraduate)
2 classes a week - USD 1236
3 classes a week - USD 1854
4 classes a week - USD 2472
5 classes a week - USD 3090
6 classes a week - USD 4120

Albany State University
English for Speakers of Other Languages (Undergraduate)

Clark University
International Pathway Program (Undergraduate)
USD 26,000 (per semester)
La Roche University
Pathway Program (Undergraduate)
USD 15,667 (per semester)
Adelphi University
Direct Master’s Accelerator Program (Direct Map) (Graduate)
USD 14,716 – USD 16,390 (per semester)
Auburn University
Master’s Accelerator Program (Graduate)
USD 7,800 (per semester)
University of South Florida
Graduate Pathway Programs (Graduate)
Starting at USD 18,100 (per semester)
American University
Master’s Accelerator (Graduate)
USD 20,653 - USD 29,315 (per semester)
Northeastern University
Global Pathways (Graduate)
Starting at USD 16,609 (per semester)
University of Georgia
Intensive English Program
USD 1,990 (per semester)
Georgetown University
Intensive Academic English
USD 4,760 (per semester)
Savannah State University
English Language Institute Program
USD 1,931 (per semester)
Sonoma State University
Intensive English Program
USD 5,000 (per semester)


Our Concluding Thoughts

Education systems around the world vary quite a bit. This goes for everything from course curricula to state exams, down to classroom culture. For some international students, these differences can make transitioning into a study abroad program tricky. Pathway programs are an excellent solution to not just bridge the gap between your qualifications and your chosen degree’s requirements, but to do so while making progress towards that degree. Pathway programs for international students in the USA make your dream degree accessible no matter which education system you studied under. From polishing up your English proficiency to developing graduate-level skills, the right pathway program can ease you straight into your dream US university program. As with any study abroad program, the key is to research and pinpoint the right option for you.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does “pathway program” mean in the USA?

The name gives it away - these programs create pathways for students to access their target higher education programs. If you don’t meet the minimum entry requirements of your chosen undergraduate or postgraduate program, a pathway program can help you get your skills and knowledge up to the level where you can qualify for a full-time degree.


Does a pathway program automatically qualify me for my chosen degree?

Some universities offer conditional admission when you apply for their pathway programs. This means that by completing the program and maintaining a level of academic performance, you can transition to studying a full-time program at that university. Not all universities offer conditional admission though, so be sure to look into the specifics of any pathway program you’re considering.


How long does it take to complete a pathway program?

Generally, a pathway program is a year long. Some programs offer anywhere between one to four semesters of courses.


Will it take me longer to complete my degree if I take a pathway program?

That depends on the pathway program. Some programs offer credit-bearing courses. By completing the program, you earn a set number of credits that count towards your degree completion. Depending on the program, you may be able to transfer these credits to programs under different schools too. Other pathway programs exclusively prepare you for higher education eligibility, but you can’t earn or transfer any credits that contribute to your degree. This may extend the general timeline for getting your degree.


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