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High School Exchange Expectations & Requirements

CIEE is focused on making the exchange experience a good one – for students, families, and schools. We have established a number of program rules that set clear guidelines for students about academic expectations, host-family participation, and personal health and safety.

From the time your international students arrive, we work with them to help with academic and social adjustment. When students violate program rules, CIEE follows a disciplinary process that includes providing policy reminders and letters of encouragement, warning letters, and probation letters. In rare cases, students who demonstrate a persistent and significant lack of maturity, judgment, responsibility, or effort may be dismissed.

If a teacher or school administrator has any concerns about a student’s performance, behavior, or academic abilities, we encourage the school to contact the Local Coordinator or the CIEE Support Team, and we’ll be happy to assist.

Required student qualifications

CIEE takes the academic success of its students very seriously. We evaluate each student’s motivation for the program, along with his/her academic history and English proficiency. This helps ensure a productive and successful experience at your school.

The qualifications of CIEE participants include:

  • A grade-point average of 2.33 on a scale of 4.0 (C+) or better. To qualify for the program, students must submit school transcripts for the current and three previous academic years. CIEE translates their course grades into the U.S. grading system to establish their performance. Grades that recently have dropped adversely affect eligibility and placement.
  • Completion of each school year with passing grades.
  • Study of English in an academic environment for a minimum of three years. Students cannot have failed a year of English in the last three years at school.
  • The ability to understand and speak English. Each participant is administered a Standard English test before their application. The recommended test is the SLEP and a score of 38 or higher is required. We also accept the Michigan Test with a score of 63 or higher.

Grade level

The host school decides the appropriate grade level for each CIEE participant. While many students leave their country expecting to be placed in a certain grade, your placement may not align with their expectations. We encourage you to work with your CIEE Local Coordinator and the student to establish the most appropriate grade level.

Academic performance standards

CIEE participants must achieve a C+ or higher in all classes while at your school.

If a student is struggling academically, it’s important for you to contact the host family, Local Coordinator, or the CIEE Support Team to discuss concerns. Once we are aware of a problem, we can help our participant understand what’s expected of him or her, and provide resources to assist as needed.

Tutoring

Most exchange students go through an initial period of adjustment. During this time, students may struggle academically because of:

  • Unfamiliar class structure and instructional style
  • Adjustment to English and local accents
  • Expectations about homework, class participation, and exams

Tutoring may be an option for exchange students who have ongoing difficulty, or who are particularly challenged academically. CIEE values teacher and school recommendations about tutoring. If you have concerns about a student’s academics, please contact your CIEE Local Coordinator, who will work with the student and your school to find an appropriate tutor. Tutoring fees are the responsibility of CIEE students.

You can help by sharing your knowledge of local tutors and other after-school academic-assistance resources. This could make the difference in a student’s success and make his/her visit to the United States the life-changing experience it’s intended to be.

Diplomas and graduation

The decision of whether to award a diploma to eligible participants is yours as the host school. Your policies take precedence.

A student’s standing at high school in his/her home country may be a factor in your decision. Please note that students who have graduated from high school in their home country are not eligible for participation in CIEE High School Exchange USA.

Receiving credit: Convalidation

Some students must go through a process of “convalidating” their U.S. grades to receive credit for schoolwork done during this program. This requires an official transcript from your school, and is the student’s responsibility. You need only provide an official, sealed transcript on request.

There are various steps students must follow in order to convalidate grades. The process is slightly different for each country, but it always involves obtaining an official school transcript and students contacting their regional consulate. CIEE encourages all students, even from countries that do not require convalidation, to request an official transcript from their U.S. high school. If you have any questions about convalidation, or if your students need assistance in this process, please contact support@ciee.org.

  1. Apostille Instructions
  2. Declaration of Value: for Italian Students
  3. Convalidation handbook for Spanish Students
  4. Convalidation for Brazilian Students

Activities and sports

Cultural exchange is even better when students also interact outside the classroom. That’s why we strongly recommend that participants get involved in sports and/or extracurricular activities at school.

Some already know what they’d like to do. Others need help finding out what’s available. Please reach out to help students choose an enrichment activity that’s right for them. Encourage them to take part in events like homecoming and prom. All this will contribute to richer experiences and memories.

Non-grant program CIEE High School Exchange USA students who hold J-1 visas also are required to volunteer eight hours per semester in community service projects. Students are invited to create their own project, one suitable to the school environment. Examples include:

  • Giving a workshop about their home country
  • Teaching their native language to others
  • Setting up and cleaning up at school events
  • Organizing charity drives and fundraisers

If the student’s project is held under your school’s auspices, you’ll be asked to provide a supervisor who can evaluate the student’s involvement. The student also will write an essay about the experience.

Your CIEE Local Coordinator can tell you more about the community-service project and how it can benefit your school.

Vaccinations

To participate in the CIEE High School Exchange USA program, all students must sign the CIEE vaccination agreement included in their application materials and receive all vaccinations listed on the form. Any student who arrives in the United States without one or more of the necessary vaccinations will be required to obtain the vaccination(s) before starting school.

Vaccinations and their costs are not the responsibility of the host school. Obtaining and paying for vaccinations is up to the student’s own family.

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