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English as a Second Language (ESL)


Please review these common questions about taking ESL classes at the College of San Mateo. If you have additional questions or need help registering, contact Araceli Arias, ESL Program Services Coordinator. If you are an international student who wants to attend on an F1 visa, contact

New students who want to take classes at the College of San Mateo must apply online at the College of San Mateo website. Follow the instructions on the website for creating an account and completing the application. There is no cost to submit an application.
The ESL Department offers a core curriculum of intermediate and advanced-level ESL courses in writing/grammar, reading/vocabulary, and listening/speaking. We also offer supplemental courses in grammar review and pronunciation as well as lab-only courses for reading, writing, vocabulary, and listening and speaking. Watch this introductory video to learn more about the ESL program and classes.
Yes, the ESL Program offers three certificates of specialization for each level. A certificate of achievement for transfer-level courses is coming soon. For questions about how to receive a certificate if you have completed all of the necessary courses, contact Araceli Arias, ESL Program Services Coordinator.
No, the ESL classes at College of San Mateo start at a low-intermediate level. New students looking for beginner level classes should contact Cañada College or San Mateo Adult School.
After applying to CSM, students should make a ESL Assessment Appointment to determine their level for each skill. Students can then review our courses to determine the best fit based on their goals and interests. Our ESL Program Services Coordinator, Araceli Arias is available to speak with you about the different courses. Students who are part of a learning community or who want to earn an educational certificate or degree should speak to a counselor about course selection.

The cost of a class is determined by how many units it has and whether or not the student is considered a resident of California for tuition purposes. There are also book costs and additional fees students may:

  • For the spring 2024 semester, most students who live in San Mateo County and are residents of California will qualify for the “Free College Waiver.”
  • Some students who have recently immigrated to the United States may be eligible for the non-resident tuition fee waiver.

For all questions about class costs and waivers, please contact Araceli Arias, ESL Program Services Coordinator.

Some students, including undocumented students, may be eligible for reduced or no cost classes. Please speak with Araceli Arias, ESL Program Services Coordinator to find out what support is currently available and if you are eligible.

Generally students who have been residents of California continuously for 1 year by the start of the semester are considered California residents for tuition purposes. However, there may be some exceptions if you are living in the United States on certain visas. Students who have lived in California for less than 1 year and are only taking ESL classes may qualify for resident tuition. Please contact Araceli Arias, ESL Program Services Coordinator for help determining your residency status.

Undocumented students should contact our Undocumented Community Center for assistance in applying and questions about costs.

College of San Mateo has two regular semesters and one shorter summer session. For specific dates, review the academic calendar for the current year.

  • Fall semester begins in August and ends in December.
  • Spring semester begins in January and ends in May.
  • Summer semester runs from June to July and is 6-8 weeks.
Yes, students must be available to attend the entire semester.

Most of our courses are offered weekday mornings and afternoons. We also have a few weekday evening classes. Evening classes are normally 1-2 days per week.

For students who have limited availability or would like the option of Saturday appointments, we also offer our independent study lab-only courses.

Check WebSchedule for current class schedules.

International students with questions about taking ESL classes at College of San Mateo should contact our International Education Program for assistance.

Prospective students need to check the terms of their visa to see if they are allowed to enroll in semester-length college courses. Those on a tourist visa are not allowed to take courses at the College of San Mateo. Please contact the Admissions department for assistance with this question.

If you are on an F1 student visa, please contact the International Education Program.