Students in class

Get Started

English as a Second Language (ESL)


J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College offers classes for students whose first language is not English. Classes and counseling are designed to help students successfully speak English in and out of class. Read our latest newsletter.

Where and when do classes meet?
Day and evening ESL classes meet on the Parham Road Campus. ESL classes follow the Reynolds academic calendar. The number of credits for a class determines how many hours it meets. For example, during spring and fall semesters, a six-credit class meets two or three times each week, totaling almost six hours of instruction per week.  Summer classes meet three or four times per week.

Where do students live?
Reynolds does not have student housing, but students can rent apartments or houses nearby.

How do I know what course to take?
Students whose native language is not English must take the Reynolds ESL placement test before registering for any courses, even if they have graduated from a U.S. high school or attended another college or university.  You may check with the Admissions Office or the ESL Program Director to get information about exemptions.

The ESL placement test shows how well students use English in reading, writing, and speaking and listening. ESL instructors use the test to decide what courses each student needs.  Students can take courses from different levels during the same semester if their skills are stronger in some areas than others.  For example, a student may need Intermediate writing and oral communication but High Intermediate reading. Advisors will help student choose classes.  Registration for any student still requiring ESL coursework must be done in the ESL office.

The ESL Placement Test
The Reynolds ESL Placement Test consists of three parts: Writing Sample (40 minutes), Reading Comprehension (untimed), and an Oral Interview. Students must make an appointment to take the test.  For a test appointment, call (804) 523 - 5020. The test is given at the Parham Road Campus, Burnette Hall, Room 205. The exam will take approximately two hours. There is no longer a fee to take the placement test.

See an overview of the COMPASS® ESL Placement Test for Listening, Reading, and Grammar with sample questions.

How long does it take to finish the ESL program?
Some students complete one ESL level in one semester.  Some students advance faster; others need more time.  To progress quickly, students should take as many ESL courses each semester as they can.

How much do classes cost?
See current tuition and fees under Pay for College. Tuition prices do not include the cost of textbooks. Some visas do not allow students to qualify for in-state rates. Follow directions for "international students" under Get Started, then Steps for Admission or call the Admissions Office at (804) 523-5029 to find out about visas and residence requirements.

Can students get financial aid for ESL courses?
Several types of financial aid are available to ESL students who qualify.  Some financial aid programs pay the entire cost of tuition and books.  Applications for financial aid are available from the Access Centers at any Reynolds campus. Learn more about financial aid under Pay for College or call the Parham Road Campus Financial Aid Office at (804) 523-5368.

ESL Students Co-requisite Eligibilities
ESL students can take other academic classes while they are completing their ESL courses depending on their level of English proficiency. In most cases, students need to complete the High Intermediate level ESL courses before enrolling in academic classes. An ESL advisor will assist students in course selection. 

Some courses have other requirements as well. These requirements are true for ALL college students and appear in the catalog as “prerequisites.” As you can probably guess, PRE / REQUISITE means courses you are required to take before registering for a particular course. The other guidelines for ESL students come from the specific departments or from the ESL advisors.