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Let’s get started The Leader in High School Exchange


welcome! Congratulations on being accepted into EF’s high school exchange program. Are you ready for an amazing year? My name is Kate, and I’m a Regional Placement Manager here at EF. My job is to help match students like you with host families across America. In other words, I’ll be finding you your home for the next year! The process of connecting you with your ideal host family starts with you completing one very important step: an awesome, impressive, well-prepared student application. The application is your chance to show your personality and to present yourself to all those host families that are eagerly waiting to welcome a student into their home. You should have fun with it! In this book, I’ll guide you through the steps of preparing your application. I will tell you a little more about EF, I’ll explain the different parts of the application, and I will give you detailed information about host families and high schools in the United States. Let’s get started!

Kate Erstling, Regional Placement Manager

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About EF

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Host Families

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High Schools

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High Schools

Preparing the Application

Host Families

About EF

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Preparing the Application

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About EF

Host Families

High Schools

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Preparing the Application

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About EF

Br e a k ing dow n ba r rie rs f o r 5 0 y e a rs Choosing to do your exchange with EF was a great decision. For almost 50 years, EF has been breaking down barriers of language, culture and geography through its travel, language and student exchange programs. With all this experience and expertise, we know what it takes to make an exchange year successful, for you and for your host family. And it all starts with our unbeatable support staff.

EF ’s m at ch m a k e rs: R egio n a l P l ace m e n t M a n ag e rs ( RPM ) Right now, Regional Placement Managers in EF’s main office in Boston, Massachusetts, are working to match students like you with host families across America. How do we do it? »» RPMs read through student applications and figure out which students will fit best in which communities across the United States. »» RPMs review host family applications and speak with families to get an idea of their personalities and lifestyles. We then decide what kind of student would fit best with each family.

Katherine, Regional Placement Manager

High Schools

W i t h yo u e v e ry s t e p o f t h e way The best thing about doing your exchange year with EF is that we will always be there to support you, from your first meeting to your flight home at the end of the exchange. Whether it’s a Regional Placement Manager (RPM) helping to connect you with your host family, or your local International Exchange Coordinator (IEC) guiding you through the year, our dedicated staff will make sure your year runs smoothly. If you ever have any questions or concerns, any time of year, day or night, EF is always just a phone call away.

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Host Families

»» With this in-depth understanding of the students and host families, RPMs work with International Exchange Coordinators (IECs) to make the best matches!

“Our number one goal is to create a rewarding and unforgettable year for everyone.”

Preparing the Application

The World leader in high school exchange

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About EF

Host Families

High Schools

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Preparing the Application

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About EF

Your number one job right now is to finish your student application. We can’t start to look for your host family until you do! You’ll prepare the application online on your MyEF site. For forms that have to be filled out and signed, you can scan and upload them to the site or deliver hard copies to your local EF office.

Remember, all information in your application should be written in English. And be sure you present yourself in a positive, clear and honest way!

A c c e s s t h e o n l i n e a p p l i c at i o n :

http://my.ef.com 10

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High Schools

You should do whatever you can to finish your application within three weeks of being accepted into the program. As soon as it’s done and you’ve confirmed that you’ll be doing the exchange, your local EF office will look over your application and pass it along to the EF office in the USA. That’s when we start looking for your host family. The sooner we have your completed application the better, as it gives us more time to find you the best host family.

Host Families

Do n’t wa i t— S ta r t n ow

Preparing the Application

It’s easy


About EF Preparing the Application

APPLICATION DUE in THREE WEEKS! We need your completed application as soon as possible (no later than three weeks from your acceptance date). Download the necessary forms from MyEF, fill them out completely, and upload them into your profile. You may also send the paper copies to your EF office.

Dig i ta l photos

H e a lt h ce r t if icat e

Aca de mic t r a n s c rip t

Letter of r ec o mm e ndat io n

On this form you give us information about yourself, your family, your hobbies and your background. Your future host family wants to know who you are, so being honest and providing us with complete information is key.

Upload a passport-size color photo of yourself. This is an important part of your application—it’s one of the first things people will see—so don’t forget to smile!

You’ll also upload photos of you and your family. These are an important part of your application and will be seen by EF staff and potential host families. Make sure to show your personality and interests in a positive light!

Authorities in the United States require that you visit your doctor for a complete check-up, and that they fill out and sign the health certificate. Be sure you’ve had all the vaccinations and tests specified on the form, and that your parents sign the emergency medical release. Please don’t leave out any information. If you need more space to explain, just add a separate piece of paper. If you have strong allergies or any other medical issues, be sure to let us know. Depending on the state you will be living in and the school you will attend, you may be required to get additional inoculations.

Your academic transcript shows what subjects you’ve taken in school as well as your grades. You should fill out the form and get it signed by a teacher or administrator. Your school in the USA will need this as a record of your academic background.

This should be written by a teacher who knows you well. Pick a teacher who can speak about your character and personality in a positive way. Your creativity, adaptability, responsibility and academic motivation are the most important qualities.

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High Schools

Dig i ta l c o l o r pa s s p o r t pic t u r e

Host Families

S t u de n t a p p l icat io n f o rm


About EF Preparing the Application

Show us your best smile

Host Families

Picking a photo that clearly shows you is important. Here are some tips to help you take a good picture for your application: »» Make sure your photos aren’t blurry »» Bright lights behind you can make your picture hard to see »» Make sure your photo isn’t too dark

High Schools

»» Include a couple of pictures of just you without friends or family »» If you include pictures with friends, make sure they are appropriate »» Do not include pictures of you playing sports »» Do include photos of you doing hobbies you enjoy »» Include a picture of your house or town For more tips and guidelines, visit http://my.ef.com

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About EF

staff tips

Margo, Regional Placement Manager

Chris, Regional Placement Manager

“I like to look at a student’s pictures and make sure that they have some pictures with their friends as well as with their family.” Stephanie, Regional Coordinator

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High Schools

“Your answers to the openended questions should be at least two to three sentences long, especially when talking about personal achievements you’re proud of and about your expectations for the exchange.”

Host Families

Todd, Regional Placement Manager

“Most host families are active and are looking for a student who will fit in with their lifestyle. On the activities checklist, make sure to select some of the activities that you do that are not solitary.”

Preparing the Application

“On the general application form, write a lot about your hobbies and activities, don’t just check boxes. The more you write the better.”


About EF Preparing the Application

Lights, Camera, Action!

Host Families

Making a video to go with your application is a great way to get the attention of potential host families. Here are some tips to help you make an amazing video: »» If you use a smartphone, make sure you film horizontally »» Show your family and friends »» Keep your video under three minutes

High Schools

»» Don’t just give a tour of your house; show yourself participating in hobbies »» Your video should be 500MB or less, and saved in .mov or mp4 format »» Sound is very important, make sure you can be heard »» Only use music when no one is talking »» Do not show yourself playing sports »» Be creative! For more tips and guidelines, visit http://my.ef.com

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About EF Preparing the Application

“Make sure the photos you post on social media present you in the best light. Remember, social media is not private and your host family might see your photos!” Andrew, Marketing Manager

Host Families High Schools

Clean up your Digital Footprint These days, it’s easy for anyone to find out about you just by searching for you on the web. Right now would be a great time to do a web search of yourself and see what’s out there online for the world to see. Take down things that poorly represent you, whether it’s photos, videos, blog posts or anything else. Remember, Facebook is not private, it’s public! By the way, this isn’t just good advice for your student application, it’s good for your future in general. Keeping your online persona clean and respectable will help you down the road when you’re looking for a job, applying to university, and more.

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About EF

Host Families

High Schools

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Preparing the Application

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About EF

Every family is different, but the most common reasons they choose to host are to share their culture and to learn about yours. Here are some of the other common reasons families host:

Haley, Director of Program Support

»» Some families are interested in the language and culture of another country, and hosting a student is a way for them to experience the wider world. »» A host family may have ancestors from your home country, or may have become interested in your culture during a visit. »» Some parents want to introduce their children to new cultures, and having a brother or sister from another country

»» If a family’s own children have grown up or gone off to college, the parents may have an extra room available and miss having teenagers in their home—the perfect chance to host an exchange student like you! »» Many families want to help make the world a better place, and exchange is a way for them to play a role in breaking down barriers of language and culture across the globe.

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High Schools

is a great way to do this. They may even want their own child to do an exchange.

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Host Families

“Whatever their reason for hosting, all of our host families have one thing in common: They take great pride and pleasure in welcoming international students into their homes!”

Preparing the Application

Why families choose to host


About EF Preparing the Application

How we find and screen host families The majority of host families hear about EF through networking, which means they know someone who is hosting or has hosted an exchange student. Many of our families have even hosted before. Here’s how we screen host families, from start to finish:

H o s t fa mily a p p l icat io n Host Families

P e rs o n a l in t e rv ie w w i t h t h e fa mily If the host family’s application and references are accepted, the IEC arranges for a personal home interview. The interview takes place in the potential host family’s home, and all family members who live in the house are required to be there. The interviewer views the room where the exchange student will live, as well as the other common areas in the home. Either the host family or IEC will send pictures of the home for EF office staff to review. As we get closer to your arrival in the USA, the host family completes a special orientation, which prepares them for the year ahead. This host family orientation may be held in person with an IEC, or completed online. In either case, it’s very similar to the student orientation meeting you’ll go to yourself.

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High Schools

The whole process starts when a family fills “Your host family will out the host family application and reference be the heart and soul of forms. Even if a family has hosted before, your exchange experithey still have to reapply each year. When EF ence. They won’t just gets the application, we call the references provide you a home; for more information on the host family, and they will be like your discuss the information on the host family mom, dad, brother, application. Adult host family members also sister and friend!” have to pass a criminal background check Alyssa, Compliance Manager as part of the screening process. We work hard to make sure that every EF host family is a good fit for our program.


About EF Preparing the Application

How we match you with a host family One of the most important steps to ensuring a successful exchange year for you and your host family is finding a great match. As you know, your detailed application and personal interview help us get to know you. At the same time, IECs get to know the interests, personalities and lifestyles of potential families through their interviews and applications. With all this knowledge, IECs work with EF staff in our main office to find you the best home.

Host Families

CHOOSING yo u

Stephanie from Alabama, Host mom

IECs across the country will show your application to families they think will be a good match for you. Host families also have the option of looking through an online catalog, where mini-profiles show a bit of information about each student, mainly your nationality and interests. If a family wants, they can request a particular student they think would be a great fit. Many families have special requests; for example, a family may want to host a German girl who likes horseback riding or a boy from Thailand who plays the piano. We’ll always try to match families and students with similar interests, but you should also be open to a family that is different from your own.

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High Schools

“When we chose our student, we looked for someone who was willing to try everything. I think that is the only way to truly experience the American lifestyle.”

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About EF

S ch o o l p l ac e m e n t

W e l c o m e fa mil ie s

Why would you get a welcome family? In most cases it’s because your IEC thinks you’re a great fit for this school and area and wants to make sure you arrive in time for the start of classes. The IEC may need a bit more time finding you a permanent home in the area, and in the meantime you get a caring and fully-screened family. A lot of schools in the USA need to register exchange students many weeks before classes start, and they can’t register you unless you have a host family placement in the district. In these cases, your IEC may even find you a permanent home before you fly. In other cases, your welcome family may end up hosting you permanently. We do everything we can to place you with a permanent family within the same school or in a neighboring community to where you arrive.

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If we have a placement that needs your approval, you will be contacted by EF and given some details about your potential host family and school. We will ask you to make a decision about the placement quickly. Our host families are excited to get to know the “new member of their family,” so we need to get back to them right away—either with your acceptance, or with the opportunity to find another student.

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Noëmi from Switzerland, Exchange student

High Schools

Kathy from Alabama, Host mom

Some of our students live temporarily with a welcome family as their first placement. Welcome families have committed to hosting for the start of the year, while EF finds their student a permanent home in the same area. The vast majority of our welcome families are very experienced and have hosted with our program before. They’re excited to host, even if only for a short period of time, and they welcome students into their homes with open arms.

In both of these scenarios, you and your parents will be able to decide if you want to accept the placement. We strongly encourage you to be open to these types of situations from the very beginning. The family and IEC have invited you to live in this area because they think you will be a great match for the home, the school, and the community. Close to half of all exchange students on our program live in placements like these, so this is a very normal exchange experience. We want all of our students to be happy and comfortable in their homes, but keep in mind that if you’re not open to scenarios like these, it could delay your placement.

“At first I was kind of scared to have a double placement, but now I couldn’t imagine being here without my exchange sister.”

Host Families

“When I saw him coming down the escalator with that big smile on his face, I knew he belonged with us! He is such a positive, sweet, and caring young man. I’m so glad that we decided to be a welcome family, and even more so to welcome James!”

Some of our host families are made up of a single parent ​ with no children in the home or families that choose to have a double placement (hosting two students at a time). In a double placement, you would always be placed with a student from a different country.

Preparing the Application

As soon as a host family picks their student, the IEC will look to find an available place at a school in the host family’s area. Due to U.S. regulations, this process can take time, so it’s important to be patient. If the school in the area agrees to take you, we call the match a “placement,” and we let you know the exciting news!

Sing l e h o s t pa r e n t s a nd do u bl e p l ace m e n t s


About EF

COMM u ni t ie s o f A l l k ind s “Living in a small town has definitely taught me to appreciate the small things.”

Preparing the Application

Brage from Norway, Exchange student

Host Families

The USA is a big country, and cultures vary from region to region and state to state. Most of our host families live in smaller communities, so you won’t be placed in big cities like New York or Los Angeles. Don’t worry, this is a good thing. In smaller communities it’s easier to become familiar with your environment. People know each other well and keep in close contact, so your host family will be able to help you meet people and other students your age. Your host family takes on a lot of responsibility for you, and it is easier to take good care of you in a community that’s smaller (and safer) than the big cities. You’ll also see that it’s easier to connect with other students if the school is not too big.

N o t y pica l h o s t fa mily

Alex from Germany, Exchange student

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Host families come in all shapes and sizes. Yours may include a mom, a dad and two siblings, a couple whose children are fully grown, or a single parent with or without children of their own. Host parents typically range in age from 25 to around 60. Whatever your host family looks like, always keep an open mind.

High Schools

“I got so much out of my exchange year. On my last night in the U.S. my Host dad gave me a key and told me I am always welcome to come ‘home’.”

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About EF

You probably have a lot of questions about living with a host family. Here are some of the most common things we get asked about.

W il l I h av e m y ow n ro o m?

A m I e x p ec t ed t o h e l p in t h e h o u s e h o l d?

Ca n I sw i t c h t o a dif f e r e n t h o s t fa mily if w e do n’ t g e t a l o ng? Changing host families is always a last resort, and it only happens after everyone has tried to work things out. A lot of misunderstandings occur because of simple communication issues. If the conflict can’t be resolved through meetings and discussions with you, your host family and IEC, we’ll look into the possibility of finding you another family. Finding a new host family can take a few weeks. Once EF has found a new family to host a student, that family must complete the same screening process as every other family. If a student does move to another host family, we will always try to keep them in the same area and the same high school. This isn’t always possible, and the student may have to move to a new school and community.

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Can I reject a match? Generally no. You’re not allowed to reject a host family because of their community or location, but in certain situations we will ask for your approval before finalizing your placement. Please know that we do everything possible to find you a host family that will make you feel at home over the year.

“This year is all about exploring a new country, and learning about a culture that is different from yours. Being open to a host family that is different from your own is a great way to start your cultural exchange.” Kate, Director of Program Quality

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High Schools

Yes! Since you are a member of the family, you’ll also have similar duties and chores. In most families, you will come across the normal chores you might know from home, like washing dishes, cleaning your room, feeding the dog, mowing the lawn, washing the car, etc. If there are younger children in the family, you might be asked to look after them once in a while. Your host parents may even want you to teach your siblings some words in your native language. Don’t worry, your chores at home won’t limit your free time too much!

Host Families

Some students will have their own rooms, but this is not a requirement for our host families. If there are other children in the home, you might be asked to share your room with a child of the same gender. This child must be at least 12 years old, otherwise we will need prior approval from you and your parents.

Preparing the Application

QUESTIONS ABOUT LIFE WITH YOUR HOST FAMILY


About EF

W il l m y fa mily dri v e m e t o f rie nd s’ h o u s e s a nd s o ci a l e v e n t s?

Sarah from Iowa, Host mom

Probably, but not always. Remember to be appreciative when your host family does drive you to and from activities or a friend’s house. Gas is expensive, and these extra trips add to the family’s budget. If another teenager drives you somewhere, it’s normal to give them a few dollars for gas.

Preparing the Application

“I was always happy to drive our student to activities, or pick him up from a friend’s house. The only rule we had was that he had to plan ahead.”

If m y h o s t fa mily go e s o n vacat io n, do I go w i t h t h e m?

Don’t be disappointed if your host family doesn’t travel often. Vacation time in the USA can be very short. Many families travel to nearby relatives’ homes to celebrate holidays. You can go on one of EF’s Discovery Tours if you want to explore more of the country and your family isn’t traveling. On these trips, you get to visit amazing places with other EF exchange students. Find more information at efdiscoverytours.com.

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High Schools

If your host family has planned on an extra person for their trip, you should take the opportunity and travel with them. Normally you’ll be asked to pay for your own expenses and to give some money for food or accommodation. Traveling with your family is a great chance to spend more time with them and to see another part of the USA. If you can’t afford to go with them, you will stay with your IEC or another fully screened family during this time.

Host Families

Some families will be generous enough to let you use their car, as long as you have permission from your own parents, a valid driver’s license, and insurance. You should talk to your host parents about their rules for paying for gas, car maintenance and insurance. Car insurance is not included in the insurance you may have purchased through EF. You will have to buy your own car insurance separately.


About EF Preparing the Application

What your host family expects from you

Host Families

Your host family is looking forward to the exchange as much as you are! They’re excited to share their life with you and to make you feel like a member of the family. In return, they will be hoping for certain things from you to make it a great year for everyone.

High Schools

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About EF

“Be honest and open with us.” Margaret from Arizona, Host mom

“Do your part with the household chores.”

Preparing the Application

expectations of host families

Emmanuel from California, Host dad

Tim from Texas, Host dad

“Follow household rules and curfews.”

Host Families

“Interact with family life and join us in activities.”

Margaret from Arizona, Host mom

Stephanie from Alabama, Host mom

“Share your culture and interests.”

“Show your appreciation and don’t take things for granted.” Valerie from Colorado, Host mom

Daniel from New York, Host dad

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High Schools

“Be ready to try new things.”


About EF

Host Families

High Schools

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Preparing the Application

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About EF

Your high school

E x t r ac u r ric u l a r ac t i v i t ie s

As you can imagine, your high school will be different from the school you go to in your home country. In fact, high schools vary widely even across the USA. You’ll be spending a lot of your time at school, so getting immersed in your school’s culture will be a major part of your exchange experience. Sports teams

S u b j ec t r eq u ir e m e n t s

Sports are a big part of high school life in the USA. At a lot of schools, if you want to play on a sports team you have to compete for a place. EF can’t guarantee you will be able to join a team or play a specific sport.

Host Families

EF exchange students are usually required to study English “In the USA, I’ve taken and American history. In most schools, you will also have to some interesting subjects take other subjects that are mandatory for all students, like like physics, culture, math or physical education. Your daily schedule will probably marketing and fitness.” be made up of six or seven subjects. Before the school year Cristina from Italy, starts, you should meet the guidance counselor or principal Exchange student to talk about your course schedule.

Preparing the Application

Many schools offer extracurricular activities, like sports, drama, photography, orchestra, choir or writing. Getting involved in activities during and after school is an easy way to make new friends. Ask about the activities at your school when you first arrive.

T r a n s p o r tat io n

S ch o o l l u n ch Most students eat lunch at school, whether they bring their own food from home or buy it there. Many schools have a cafeteria that serves both hot and cold meals for not too much money. You’ll have to pay for anything you buy at school.

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High Schools

In the USA, many students take a school bus, since public transportation is rare. These buses are free. If you do pay for transportation to school, it will be at your own expense. Once we’ve officially matched you with a host family, you will get a mailing with detailed information about your local school transportation. Your family will also let you know the best way to get to and from school.


About EF

G r a de l e v e l s “I have really enjoyed having exchange students in my class. It is great to learn about their schools at home and their culture.”

Preparing the Application

EF doesn’t determine the grade level you will enter—that is up to the school. Most EF students who study in the USA are enrolled in the 11th (junior) or 12th (senior) grade. The school will make this decision depending on its policies, district rules, your age, the size of classes, your academic results, etc.

Patrick from Vermont, Teacher

EF ’s aca de mic s ta nda rd s Host Families

To stay on the program, you have to keep up a grade point average (GPA) of at least 2.0 (corresponding to a “C”) in every subject. Our exchange students in past years have shown this is a manageable goal. If you’re having a hard time with your school work, be sure to speak to your host family, IEC and guidance counselor.

High Schools

S ch o o l t r a n s c rip t What would an academic year be without proof of your achievement? At the end of the year, you’ll get a transcript showing the subjects you studied and your grades. Some teachers may even choose to write a personal note to you.

“I think the hardest thing for exchange students to get used to is that homework is a big portion of grades in the U.S. It is really important to get it all done.” Kim from Washington, Teacher

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About EF

staff tips for school

Margo, Director of Placement

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High Schools

Tamar, Program Support Manager

Host Families

“As an exchange student, you are not only expected to maintain good grades, but also show excellent behavior and attitude while you are at school. Every school has its own rules, and the school may take disciplinary action if a student breaks them.”

Preparing the Application

“Try to be open and flexible to new classes. We can’t guarantee your school will fulfill your special requests. For example, we do not guarantee your school will offer Latin or advanced physics. Many schools offer subjects you won’t find at home, and we encourage you to try them.”


About EF

Hig h s ch o o l g r a duat io n

At the end of the exchange, EF gives you a “I loved getting the EF certificate of completion as proof that you certificate. It was nice to completed the program. This certification of have something that a successful year studying abroad will look said I completed my year great on your resume or CV as you move on in the U.S. on top of all in your academic and professional career. the memories I made.”

Some schools will give you the chance to participate in the graduation ceremony at the end of the year. Graduation is a privilege and can’t be guaranteed by EF. Many schools have become restrictive when it comes to allowing exchange students to graduate. This decision depends solely on the school’s policy, and unfortunately there’s nothing EF can do to influence it.

Kim from Korea, Exchange Student

Preparing the Application

EF certificate of comple tion

H ow g r a de s a r e de t e r min ed Host Families

Your grades will be based on attendance, test results, homework assignments and class participation. Results will be recorded as marks, grades, letters or percentages. Keep in mind that teachers will be checking your homework carefully. Your grade will be lowered if you miss classes or show up late.

High Schools

Convalidation Since rules differ from country to country and from school to school, the question of convalidation (getting academic credits recognized by your school at home) is not easy to answer. In certain situations, you may be able to get credit for your year abroad. If you’re interested in this, you should talk to the person responsible for convalidation at your home school before you come to the USA, and call your local EF office to discuss the possibilities.

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About EF Host Families

Your next guidebook will be coming soon, where we will help get you prepared for your upcoming exchange year. Until then, we look forward to receiving your complete student application! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact your local EF office—they will be happy to help you!

Preparing the Application

more to follow!

Kate Erstling, Regional Placement Manager High Schools


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