How and where to start school if you are new in the U.S and cannot go to high school?

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Moving to a new country is difficult. Leaving your home, family, and friends back in the country and coming to a new country to start from the zero point is not an easy task, especially if you do not know the language.

Following are few advices to the newcomers if they are over 18 and willing to learn the language or go to college to start a career. There is also an Arabic article with the same content if you would like to refer your friends to it:


Adult School:

If you want to learn English and you are above 18 (cannot go to high school), a good place to start would be adult school in an ESL (English as a Second Language) program where they test your English skill level (placement test) and put you in a level that matches your skills. Some schools have Introduction to literacy programs which would start from the alphabet and basic grammars and then allow you to start ESL upon completion of the basics. Most adult schools are free of charge, or they offer low-cost classes (you pay for the textbooks).

The following website has a directory of adult schools in California. All you need to do is to enter the zip code of the area where you live.


Community College:

Community Colleges also have ESL programs, but they cost more money where you have to pay for classes you register per unit. You can also go to college for job training or for an Associate degree.  They help you gain technical skills and improve English proficiency as well as playing an intermediate role before enrolling in a 4-year university.

An important fact about community colleges in the U.S for new international students is that until you become a resident, you have to pay a nonresident fee. This makes it harder for a person who just got to the U.S to pay for school. To clarify that: California resident is a person who was physically in California for the past consecutive 12 months preceding the day of the first day of the semester.

My advice to you if you want to start a new career or want to go to college to transfer to a university is to start in adult school to learn and improve your English skills before starting in a community college. During this year, get your driver license, start a job, get to know your area, and make sure you maintain any paper work that tells that you were in California for the past year (driving permit, bank account, pay stub from employers, DMV vehicle registration, any kind of bills …)

After 12 months and with sufficient proof you can apply for residency and from that point on, you do not need to pay additional fees.

Apply for FAFSA (The Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to get help paying for college.


The school will study your application and help you with the right amount of money. They can help with classes’ registration fees and books’ cost. Of course, that all depends on your annual income.

This was meant to be an introductory article just to help a person to get started. I know it is not easy to start school here. Some people need others to encourage them, please do.

My email is haladiab.faa@gmail.com . Please contact me if you need help with any school issues or if you do not know how to start. I was helped, and I am ready to help.

If you have questions about the community college application, residency application, or even FAFSA application, email me with your name and phone number and I will call you back. Do not be shy. We all have to start somewhere. All your information will be kept confidential.

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