English for International Students

International students are vital to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). You bring diverse experiences and perspectives that encourage us all to question our assumptions, imagine new possibilities, and embrace a global outlook. Some undergraduate international students take English for International Students (EIS) classes before starting their Liberal Arts and Art History classes. EIS classes focus on developing academic English proficiency and fluency as it relates to the arts.

International graduate students in the Master of Arts or Master of Fine Arts programs may take advantage of free, individual English tutoring offered through the EIS program as well.

Who Is Required to Take EIS Classes?

Some international students who speak English as a second language will need to take EIS classes before they start Art History and Liberal Arts classes.

To be accepted into the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), see admissions requirements for international students.

Your application materials will be evaluated to determine placement into EIS classes. This may include your school transcripts, test scores, essays, letters of recommendation etc.

You may not need to take EIS if:

  • You have a TOEFL score of 96 (iBT) or above
  • You have an IELTS score of 7.0 or above
  • You have a PTE score of 65 or above
  • You have an AP English test score of 3 or above
  • You have an International Baccalaureate (IB) English test score of 5 or above on the higher-level examinations
  • You have an SAT (after March 2016): Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Component score of 580 or above
  • You have an SAT (before March 2016): Critical Reading score of 500 or above
  • You have an ACT: Reading score of 22 or above
  • You have a Duolingo score of 120 or above
  • You have a BA or BS degree from another 4-year college or university
  • You place out of EIS on SAIC's optional EIS Confirmation Test (Not available online)

If you are a resident alien, permanent resident, or naturalized citizen of the United States whose native language is not English, you may be placed into Academic Access Program (AAP) courses instead of EIS ones. If you are an international student who has lived and studied in an English speaking country or school for 5 years or more, you may find AAP a better fit for you.

All official test scores must be received by the Admissions Office by the day of International Orientation.

EIS Courses

At SAIC, the EIS curriculum focuses on developing fluency as it relates to the arts. Classes are divided into the following categories:

  • English Language Fluency classes improve your reading comprehension and academic writing skills. You will read and respond to art appreciation and art history texts, analyze formal and contextual information, and build competence and confidence in college-level writing and self-editing. 
  • Critique classes build your competence in giving critiques, participating in class discussions, and giving presentations. You and your peers will make and present artwork to the class for discussion.
  • Tutorials offer ongoing support in language skills and fluency while you are enrolled in Art History and Liberal Arts classes. These small-group tutoring sessions provide additional assistance with language as students begin to take their other academic classes.

Sequence of Courses

There are two semesters of Fluency and one semester of Critique classes.  After completing both semesters of fluency, you may enroll in Art History and Liberal Arts classes. You will also take two semesters of EIS Tutorials. Tutorials are most effective when taken during the same semesters as FYS: English I and FYS: English II. A typical schedule looks like this:

  • 1st Term: 2-3 Studio, EIS Fluency I, EIS Critique
  • 2nd Term: 3 Studio, EIS Fluency II
  • 3rd Term: 2-3 Studio, EIS Tutorial, Art History I, English I
  • 4th Term: 2-3 Studio, EIS Tutorial, Art History II, English II

Credits toward Graduation

EIS classes earn college credit. Fluency I and Critique classes earn three general elective credit hours toward graduation. Fluency II earns three credits of Liberal Arts elective credit. Each Tutorial earns 1.5 Liberal Arts elective credits. Some transfer students may need to repeat six general elective credits.


Classes are sequential, and you must successfully earn a grade credit (CR) in one before moving to the next. You will start your EIS classes your first term on campus and must continue to take EIS classes until the sequence is completed.

If you earn a No Credit (NCR) or Withdraw (W), you must repeat the class until you earn credit for it. If this happens, we encourage you to seek assistance through Academic Advising, Counseling Services, and/or the Writing Center.

SAIC expects students to complete their EIS Fluency 1 and II classes within three semesters so that they can begin the full complement of liberal arts and art history courses required for their Bachelor's degree. If a student does not receive Credit in an EIS course, the student must repeat that course the following semester. If a student does not earn Credit for a third time, then the student will be suspended from SAIC, regardless of performance in studio courses.

Skipping a Level Before the Course Sequence is Complete

If you are an exceptional student who consistently performs at a high level in Fluency I, the instructor may recommend that you submit an academic portfolio of work completed in the class to be reviewed by a committee composed of the EIS faculty and the EIS Director for the possibility of skipping Fluency II.

The following rules apply:

  • You may not nominate yourself for portfolio review; work is reviewed only at the teacher's discretion.
  • You may not skip a course by being retested. A test cannot reveal as much about your abilities as coursework produced throughout an entire term.
  • You will be notified by email if you are allowed to skip a class.

If the committee recommends that you skip Fluency II, you are promoted to the next higher Art History and Liberal Arts classes. If the committee feels you are not ready to skip the course, you will continue to take Fluency II the following term.


If you wish to appeal an EIS policy decision, contact the following people in this order:

  • EIS Director
  • Chair of the Liberal Arts Department
  • Undergraduate Chair
  • Academic Review Board

For more information about the program, contact the EIS office at 312.499.4136.

Summer Language Classes for International Students

If you wish, you may start your EIS classes during the summer session. You will not only begin your language requirement, but will also have time to get to know the city, SAIC, and future classmates before fall classes begin.

All international EIS students admitted for fall are welcome to start in summer. Students with a TOEFL score below 85 (iBT) or an IELTS score of 6.5, and all transfer students are especially encouraged to take advantage of these early summer EIS classes.

To start your EIS classes in July, please contact the Director of EIS. Starting your EIS classes in summer is optional and spaces are limited.

To start your EIS classes during summer, you will need to get a Form I-20 AB with a program start date of July.

Please contact the Office of International Affairs at 312.629.6830 or email intaff@SAIC.edu. Your term of admission will be changed to summer and you will be issued an I-20 form to begin your degree program in summer instead of fall, starting with EIS classes. For questions about the EIS program itself, please contact Sonia da Silva at 312.499.4136 or sdasil@saic.edu.

EIS Summer Important Dates to Remember

$300 tuition deposit due May 1, 2022
Cancellations June 30, 2022
Move into the Residence Hall July 7, 2022
International Student Orientation July 8, 2022
EIS Confirmation Test (optional) July 8, 2022
Classes begin Monday, July 11, 2022
Classes end Friday, August 19, 2022
Fall 2022 New Student Orientation August 23-August 30, 2022
Fall 2022 Classes Begin Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Please note: You are required to attend New Student Orientation which is scheduled for the end of August for all incoming students.

EIS Summer Schedule

The summer session starts Monday July 11, and ends Friday, August 19, 2022. Each class will meet three days a week for six weeks, for a total of 45 hours. Each class counts as three general elective credit hours toward graduation.

  • EIS Critique classes will meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings from 9:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
  • EIS Fluency I classes will meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons from 1:00–4:00 p.m.

For more information about your language requirements and the EIS classes, please contact Sonia da Silva at 312.499.4136 or sdasil@saic.edu.

EIS Summer Tuition and Fees

Summer EIS 2022 tuition and fees charges are separate from Fall 2022 tuition and fees charges.

Description Cost
EIS Summer Tuition (2 three-credit hour classes): $10,440
EIS Summer Housing and Meal plan fee (includes $150 prepayment due with contract): $2,650
EIS Summer Health Insurance: $473
Total cost for EIS Summer: $13,563

Full payment of your balance is due no later than Monday, July 11, 2022.

You can see your summer charges on SAIC Self-Service. For information, please go to our Manage Your Student Account page.

If you have any questions about your bill, please contact Student Financial Services at saic.sfs@saic.edu.

EIS Summer Tuition

Summer classes cost the same as fall classes. Additional cost for books or art supplies is not included in the cost of tuition.

Please note: International students that have been awarded a Merit Scholarship by the Admissions Department will not be able to use the awards until Fall 2022.

EIS Summer Housing

Online Applications for Summer 2022 housing will be available in March 2022.

All first-time freshmen are required to live in SAIC's beautiful residence hall located at 162 North State Street. Chicago's numerous museums, galleries, theaters, and places for musical entertainment are within easy walking distance of the School. Students paraticipate in SAIC's meal plan and may also prepare meals in the kitchen facilities provided in their rooms. Students supply their own cooking utensils, including pots and pans. Residents must also supply their own linens, including towels, pillows, blankets, and sheets.

Living in the residence hall gives you a chance to interact with other students in an informal setting. The Residence Life staff also plans many activities and programs to foster a sense of community and to help you get to know each other, the city, and SAIC.

For more information about your room go to the Summer Housing Information page.

Health and Safety

COVID-19 Vaccine Update: SAIC will require COVID-19 vaccines for all students who intend to be on campus. Students living in the residence halls cannot move in until they've submitted proof to SAIC that they are fully vaccinated. Please visit the Make Together site with updates regarding COVID-19 and the guest/visitor policy.

EIS Summer Health Insurance

All international students are automatically enrolled in SAIC’s student health insurance plan while participating in the school's programs. If a new international student enrolled in EIS classes for the summer semester has outside health insurance coverage through a plan that provides benefits equal to or better than SAIC’s student health insurance plan, an online health insurance waiver may be submitted at saic.myahpcare.com by July 11, 2022.

Each submitted online waiver must be accompanied by a scanned copy of the front and back of the student’s health insurance ID card. Additionally, international students must submit a scanned copy of their complete insurance policy in English, with coverage amounts reflected in US dollars, as well as a scanned copy of their medical evacuation and repatriation coverage.

Note: The online summer waiver form is for the summer term only. Students wishing to waive insurance for the fall and spring semesters must complete a separate online waiver by the first day of classes at saic.myahpcare.com. Questions can be directed to SAIC_StudentInsurance@saic.edu.

EIS Confirmation Test (optional)

When you first arrive, we will give you a test of English reading and writing. This test will confirm your placement into EIS Fluency and Critique classes. Students who do not need EIS classes will take an Art History class and a Liberal Art class along with an EIS Tutorial.

The EIS Confirmation Test is optional. You are not required to take it. 
You must reserve a seat to take the test. Contact the Director of EIS to reserve your seat.

For more information about your language requirements and EIS classes, please review the information at the top of this page.

For questions about EIS classes, please contact Sonia da Silva at 312.499.4136 or sdasil@saic.edu.

English Tutoring for International Graduate Students

International Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts students can take advantage of free, individual English tutoring located in the Lakeview Building, 116 South Michigan Ave., room 1010. Tutors will help you:

  • Edit papers
  • Prepare for critiques
  • Practice presentations
  • Talk over class assignments
  • Discuss ideas
  • Go over grammar
  • Engage in conversation
  • Rehearse for an interview
  • Improve pronunciation

Schedule your tutoring appointment online. For questions, please contact Sonia da Silva at 312.499.4136 or sdasil@saic.edu.