English Courses in San Diego



English Courses in San Diego

San Diego is one of the top destinations for learning and studying English as a second language (ESL). The city of San Diego has several English language schools, institutes, and prestigious universities that offer English classes.

San Diego stands out for studying English over other cities in The United States, mainly because you will experience lots of fascinating tourist attractions, beautiful beaches, mild weather all year, and live in one of the safest cities in the US. Moreover, this city is a mixture of the old and the new, with buildings that date back to the 18th century, that blend with the city’s vibrant, renewed spirit. Additionally, this city is close to Los Angeles, so you can also make a short trip on the weekend.

The city of San Diego has English programs for all ages and budgets. We suggest that you read this page and click on each language school you think is a good option. All universities and language institutes listed here offer English programs that allow you to apply for a student visa. Most of the programs are also available for citizens and residents in full-time or part-time options.

The most common programs are "General English" or "Academic English Programs", which allow you to improve your English level for academic or professional purposes.

Common questions

  • Where to study English in San Diego, California?
  • What is the best English language course in San Diego?
  • How can I study English in San Diego?
  • English programs near San Diego?
  • Cheap and good English courses in San Diego?

You will find the answer to these questions on this website and a complete list of English language schools available for international students and residents. Click on the specific language school or university to get more information. You will find more details about the programs on those pages, helpful resources, and tips as housing, reviews, comments, and testimonials. As a leading world agency in ViveCampus, we can guide you in all the steps to study English in San Diego, USA.

1. Best places to learn English in San Diego, USA

English courses as a second language in top universities and institutions

San Diego stands out for studying English over other cities, mainly because you will experience lots of fascinating tourist attractions, beautiful beaches, mild weather all year, and live in one of the safest cities in the US. Moreover, this city is a mixture of the old and the new, with buildings that date back to the 18th century, that blend with the city’s vibrant, renewed spirit. Additionally, this city is close to Los Angeles, so you can also make a short trip on the weekend.

In San Diego and surroundings we can find the following places:

  • La Jolla
  • Little Italy
  • Downtown
  • Barrio Logan
  • Gaslamp Quarter
  • Old Town San Diego
  • Hillcrest
  • Pacific Beach
  • Ocean Beach
  • Mission
  • North Park
  • South Park
  • East Village
  • Bankers Hill
  • Normal Heights
  • University City

List of English Language Schools in San Diego:


One of the best destination for international students in the USA


Institutions in San Diego offer excelling ESL programs, so you can begin improving your English fluency from day one.



English schools and universities in San Diego have modern facilities and great student services. Some of the things that may be included are: sport facilities, extracurricular activities, student clubs, excursions to local tourist spots, etc.



Part of the experience of studying English abroad in San Diego is living the language outside the classroom, while you explore this fascinating city, so you can put your skills into practice.



While you learn English in San Diego, you will make new friends and meet other people from different places, something you can use to expand your professional network and improve your career.



San Diego offers a great opportunity to learn more about other cultures, customs, and broaden your vision about the world. All of this contributes to a life-changing experience that can enhance and define your future.



While studying in San Diego, you will be able to explore beaches, traditional neighborhoods, great outdoor locations, and thriving modern areas, so you will always have something fun to do.



In San Diego you will find some of the following tourist spots you can discover on your free time: Balboa Park, SeaWorld, San Diego Zoo, Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village, the San Diego Museum of Art, Mission Beach, Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, La Jolla, Little Italy, Old Town San Diego, Coronado Beach, among other places.

4. Requirements to take an English Course in San Diego, USA

Some programs can have their own special requirements

Visa Requirements

When studying English in San Diego, you will need an F-1 Student Visa, a Tourist Visa, or an ESTA permit. The difference between them is the number of hours you can study, the application requirements, and for how long you can study. For instance, an F-1 Student Visa lets you study an Intensive English program as a full-time student, which are those studying for more than a set number of hours, usually 18 hours per week. Being a full-time student will also require for you to register on the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), which includes a USD $350 registration fee. For this process you will need a Form I-20 sent by the school with your acceptance letter, that you will need to fill in and submit at the nearest U.S. Embassy. On the other hand, you can apply for a part-time, non-intensive program with a Tourist Visa or an ESTA, depending on your nationality. These allow you to study less hours per week (usually less than 18), do not allow you to work on campus, and have a shorter duration, usually a few months. You can learn more about the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) by visiting this website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/

Age Requirements

ESL courses offered by schools and universities in San Diego are mostly for adult students, so institutions have a minimum age requirement between 16 and 18 years old, and no maximum age. However, there are programs for younger students (children and teenagers) that offer special activities and a different English teaching approach, so they can learn at their own pace and have fun making new friends.

Proof of Sufficient Funds

When you apply for a visa to study English in San Diego, you need to show proof of sufficient funds to cover expenses such as school fees and the cost of living and studying abroad. That is why how much you need to prove you have changes depending on where you are going to study and the program you will enroll on. Such funds need to be on your own account or one that belongs to the person financing your studies, if applicable.

Minimum English Language Level

The ESL courses you will find in San Diego will have different levels of English fluency, usually between beginner and advanced. In order to assess your current level of English you will take a placement test, either online or once you arrive to the school. This will measure how much you need to learn and which level is best for you. If you want to study in a more advanced course, you will need to show proof of your current English proficiency level, which can be an English proficiency test result. Schools and universities usually accept IELTS or TOEFL scores.

5. Prices, dates and costs of English courses in San Diego 2024 - 2025

Explanation about main costs

Different schools will have different prices and dates for ESL courses in San Diego. That is why these will depend on the institution and program you choose.

When calculating your budget, you need to keep in mind that there are certain costs that will be included on the final program fee, which cover certain extra items, such as: housing, health coverage, access to facilities and student services, extra events and trips, and class materials.

With the information we include on the table down below you can begin preparing your final budget. Keep in mind that these are just estimates, and there might be some variation.

Main costs to consider if you want to study in San Diego, USA

ENGLISH PROGRAMWith the information we include on the table down below you can begin preparing your final budget. Keep in mind that these are just estimates, and there might be some variation.
HEALTH INSURANCESometimes, a form of health insurance can be included within the program's final cost. Depending on each different school, acquiring this health insurance from them may or may not be mandatory. In whatever case, how much you need to spend in health insurance will vary depending on the type of insurance, its coverage, and for how many weeks you will be in the U.S. Please keep in mind that F-1 Student Visa holders must have a valid health insurance.
BOOKSClass materials, such as books, may or may not be included on the final fee. This will depend on the school and the program you choose. Most of the times books change between levels.
HOUSINGJust like in most cities in Southern California, housing costs will change depending on which area in San Diego you stay. Prices will change between a few hundred dollars to stay in a private or shared room, and around USD $1600-$2000 for a furnished studio apartment in a normal or expensive area in San Diego.
FOODThis item may present some changes based on your housing, as food may or may not be included if you stay at a residence or a homestay. Other options are eating out or cooking at your own place. Some referential costs for food are USD $8 for a fast food combo and $15 for a basic lunch menu in the business district.
VISAStudent and tourist visas consider a USD $160 application fee, as well as a I-901 USD $350 SEVIS registration fee for those on a Student Visa. For the ESTA permit you will have to pay USD $14 between application and authorization fees. Finally, an express mail courier fee could be included for those cases on which the school has to mail you documents, such as the Form I-20 and your acceptance letter.
TRANSPORTATIONYou can save in commuting costs by living close to the school, so you can either walk or use public transportation. This is because options such as renting a car or taking a cab may be too expensive.
FLIGHT TICKETSAs you may already know, the cost of this item varies based on the dates on which you fly, as well as where you are flying from. We suggest browsing the best prices on the internet. A fact you may want to consider is that prices are more expensive during holiday seasons, particularly Christmas and New Year's Eve.

6. Who study English in San Diego, USA?

Students come from all over the world to learn English in San Diego

Many international students consider San Diego as a great city to study an ESL program for different purposes. Some of these include getting a promotion, looking for a higher job position, or even improve their academic prospects. Many of them enrolled on English courses back in their countries, but didn’t see a big improvement, as they didn’t use English on a daily basis. That is why an English course abroad in San Diego seems such an awesome idea in terms of actual results.

Young Students

These are current high-school or college students planning to enroll on ESL programs to improve their future career and academic opportunities. They usually visit San Diego during their vacations.

Young Professionals

These young professionals have recently graduated from college and are therefore looking for different qualifications to improve their career prospects. Due to the current demand of professionals who are able to speak English, they choose to enroll on ESL courses in San Diego, directly enhancing their careers.

Senior Professionals

Compared to younger professionals, these senior professionals have more experience and higher job positions, which goes in hand with being able to interact with business partners from different parts of the planet. In order to do this successfully, they usually require to have a certain degree of fluency in other languages, including English, since it is such a universal language, spoken by many people around the world. This is why the choose to study in San Diego.


As temporary or permanent residents in San Diego, USA, they need to interact with other people on a daily basis, so English is an essential tool. By enrolling on an ESL program, they become able to do basic and more complex daily tasks and even apply for more advanced job positions.

7. Photos about studying English in San Diego, USA

Look some of the photos of the ESL programs
students from English course visiting San Diego ZOO
international student from English Language Program riding a bike in San Diego, California
international students from English Language course surfing in San Diego

8. Videos about studying English in San Diego, USA

Click to watch the videos

9. Information about San Diego, USA

Populated well before the first arrival of European settlers around the 16th century, San Diego was officially established in 1769, as a religious mission right next to the Pacific Ocean. It was initially a Spanish settlement, which is evidenced in its architecture, and later became part of Mexico following the Mexican Revolution. After the war between Mexico and the USA, it was bought along with the rest of California and was incorporated into the Union in 1850.

San Diego is one of the main cities in Southern California, it has a metropolitan population of around 3 million people, and its economy mostly depends on tourism, due to its many beaches and tourist spots.

This city is a great location for tourists and students, as you can experience a perfect blend between its old colonial past and its new, vibrant spirit. Here you will be able to visit traditional neighborhoods, explore fascinating locations, and even go to one of its numerous craft beer breweries, for which San Diego is considered by many as the craft beer capital of the U.S.

Moreover, just like many cities in California, San Diego has a very diverse community, composed of people from all over the world. So, by interacting with the local population, you will be able to learn more about different cultures and customs, further enhancing your learning experience, as well as being able to practice your English outside the classroom.

Some of the places you will be able to visit in San Diego are:

  • Balboa Park, a beautiful park full of green areas and lots of natural beauty.
  • SeaWorld, full of fun, educational activities and shows.
  • San Diego Zoo, a place where you can learn more about the numerous animal species you can observe there.
  • Gaslamp Quarter, a traditional district full of buildings that date back to the 19th century.
  • Seaport Village, where you can relax, drink some coffee, or go shopping, while contemplating the beautiful scenery, and the boats and cruises at the distance.
  • The San Diego Museum of Art, full of incredible exhibitions to learn more about art.
  • Mission Beach, one of San Diego’s beautiful beaches.
  • Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, a traditional catholic mission founded centuries ago.
  • La Jolla, an area where you can walk around beaches, coves, and contemplate the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
  • Little Italy, a neighborhood where you can try Italian cuisine or attend one of its many traditional festivals held throughout the year.
  • Old Town San Diego, where you can bask in the beauty of its colonial architecture.
  • Coronado Beach, one of the highest ranked beaches in the U.S., with beautiful golden sand and bathed by the Pacific Ocean.

10. Frequently Asked Questions about studying English in San Diego

Can I travel only with an ESTA permit for a full-time intensive program (18+ hours a week) if my country has an agreement?

An intensive English program (18+ hours of classes a week) requires a F-1 student visa, so even if your country has an ESTA agreement or if you already have a tourist visa, you must have an F-1 student visa to take an intensive English program You can only take a part-time English program (less than 18 hours a week) with an ESTA permit or tourist visa.

Which are the different steps of the application process for the F-1 student visa to study a certificate program in San Diego?

Please check with us what type of visa you need to take the program you are interested in.

  • All full-time programs in the U.S. require a F-1 student Visa. With an F-1 visa, you can extend your stay in the United States as long as you continue studying.
  • Part-time programs (18 hrs/week or less) can be taken with a tourist visa or visa waiver ESTA. With a tourist visa, you can only stay in the U.S. the duration your tourist visa allows, since your main purpose in the U.S. should be tourism.

If you need an F-1 student visa, please apply as soon as you receive your acceptance documents (I-20 form) from the English school. In some countries it can take several weeks to obtain a visa interview at the U.S. embassy.

You must confirm these steps on the website of the U.S. embassy in your country. You can look for your nearest U.S. embassy here: https://www.usembassy.gov/

What housing options will I find in San Diego?

Your accommodation is usually charged separately, although in some cases the school or university may be able to arrange housing for you. Some of the options you will find in San Diego are: a shared apartment; living in a residence from a private provider; or staying with a local family in a homestay. The institution on which you enrolled may be able to offer more information about housing in San Diego.

Can I work and study in San Diego?

When enrolled on an intensive course on a Student Visa, you might be able to work on campus with external providers based on university facilities. Nonetheless, these kinds of jobs are usually taken by undergraduate and graduate students, so it might be difficult for you to find any open positions.

At which schools can I learn English in San Diego?

There are numerous English schools and centers in San Diego where you can enroll on ESL programs. Click this same website for a complete list of institutions.

Which is the best English language school or center to enroll on English courses in San Diego?

There is not really a point of comparison between schools, as all of them offer a different learning experience on their ESL courses. For example, university ESL schools usually have set dates, so it is better for students who want a cohort-style English course. On the other hand, English centers are more flexible, with start dates almost every Monday, so its better for students who want to start studying as soon as possible or have a really tight schedule to travel and study in the U.S. Moreover, it will also depend on what contents you wish to study, as different schools offer different specialized programs for professionals or young students. Check this same website to see a complete list of schools and institutes you can enroll on in San Diego.

Do schools and universities offer scholarships to study English in San Diego?

English language institutions do not offer scholarships to learn English in San Diego. However, some English centers offer special tuition discounts for international students.

What payment methods do I have to pay for the ESL program in San Diego? How does the process work?

English schools offer different payment methods for their ESL program’s fees. For international students the main options are credit card payment online or international/domestic bank transfer. In the case of the payment process, you usually start by paying the application fee, which may be used in part to cover the shipping costs for the Form I-20. Remaining fees are paid afterwards, either some weeks before the start date, or on site once you’ve arrived in the school.

Is it mandatory to be a current student to apply for an English course in San Diego?

No, any person can apply for an English course in San Diego, as there is no need to currently be a student. The only mandatory requirements are the minimum age and having a certain level of English proficiency.

Is there an age limit for ESL programs in San Diego?

Yes. Schools set a minimum age requirement, usually between 16 and 18 years of age. However, you can also find junior programs for younger students under 16 years old. On these programs they learn English at the same time they have fun in exciting activities and make new friends, so they can live an unforgettable experience.

Which are some of the tourist spots I can visit in San Diego?

Some tourist spots you may want to visit in San Diego are:

Balboa Park, SeaWorld, San Diego Zoo, Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village, El San Diego, Museum of Art, Mission Beach, Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, La Jolla, Little Italy, Old Town San Diego, Coronado Beach.

11. Testimonials of international students

The beaches, parks, and bohemian is the best of San Diego. It is a dream city, and I would study here a hundred times more. I think one of the things why I learned English so fast in San Diego was because I had an incredible time, always doing activities after school and on weekends. On the beach, in Balboa park, we went a couple of times to the San Diego Zoo with the school as well. Anyway, all the activities made me improve the English language faster than I thought. And my English classmates are my friends for life now.

Jaime P.

Profile Image Testimony 1 San Diego

I highly recommend studying English in San Diego. The climate here is the best in the United States, and the energy you feel on the beach is the best. I learned to surf and met amazing people. They told me that learning English is a slow process, and it's true, but with all the life experiences you have in San Diego, your English level will improve fast, I can assure you. Even I was surprised when after only 2 months I saw how I could already communicate with the Americans. I am super happy to have chosen San Diego as a destination to take English courses.

Raphaël C.

Profile Image Testimony 2 San Diego

12. Benefits of studying English abroad in San Diego, California

In the global world we live in, mastering the English language and having experience abroad is highly valued by companies and employers.

But the benefits are not only professional, as people who study abroad develop valuable skills such as competence in a new language, cultural exposure, tolerance, adaptability, leadership, and independence. All these skills are directly fostered by learning and living abroad.

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