years-experience access-alumni-network airfare airport-pick-up assistance-with-application-process community-service-placement continuous-support cultural-trips domestic-transport emergency-support field-trips global-competence-certificate grade-transcripts host-family-placement housing individual-contact-person internship-placement language-instruction meals medical-insurance orientations-during-your-time-abroad other pre-departure-orientation product-materials re-entry-orientation school-dipolma school-materials school-placement school-transport school-uniform stipend teaching-materials vaccinations visa-and-passport-fees visa-application-assistance world-wide-presence

The USA is perhaps the most diverse country on earth, both in its natural features as well as its people.  Its fifty states cover a vast section of North America, with Alaska in the northwest and Hawaii extending the nation’s presence into the Pacific Ocean. From the skylines of New York City and Chicago to the majesty of the Grand Canyon, people from all over the world have been flocking to the USA for generations to pursue their dreams.

Spending a Secondary School semester or a whole year in the USA is the perfect way to properly learn about the country and its people – forget what you think you know from TV and movies! Students can learn about the American dream by living with a host family and attending an American public high school. Side by side with other American teenagers, students will have the opportunity to see and experience the “real” America.


Eligibility Requirements

In order to be considered for participating in the Secondary School Abroad, students must:

  • Be from 15 – 18 years old
  • Be eligible to apply for the visa
  • Be mature and responsible

What's included in your experience

  • Host Family Placement
  • Meals
  • School Placement
  • Individual Contact Person
  • Medical Insurance
  • 24/7 Emergency Support
  • Assistance with Application Process
  • Visa Application Assistance
  • Pre-Departure Orientation
  • Orientations during your time abroad
  • Re-entry Orientation
  • Continuous Support

What you are responsible for

  • Airfare
  • Vaccinations
  • Field Trips
  • Domestic Transport
  • Visa and Passport Fees
  • School Materials


Summary Information

  • Accommodation: Host Family
  • Duration: From a semester to a full academic year
  • Students must be eligible to apply for the visa
  • Students must be from 15 to 18 year old
  • Application deadline – contact our Study Abroad Team for details

About the Secondary School in the USA

The programme offers students the opportunity to become fully immersed in the American way of living and culture through living with a carefully selected host family and daily attendance at an American high school.

This programme is open to students aged between 15 and 18 who are interested in attending an American high school for a period of five months (a semester), beginning in either August or January, or a full academic year.

The program includes:

  • Placement  in a carefully selected school, including application, registration, school insurance fees and tuition costs
  • Full board accommodation  with a carefully selected Host Family
  • Return transfers to and from nearest airport of host community
  • Monthly contact and constant support from the Local Volunteer and AFS staff
  • Local orientations
  • Group orientations
  • 24-hour emergency telephone service
  • Academic advice
  • Help with preparation for travel back to home country
  • AFS Health Insurance as an addition to the EU health insurance

The programme does not include:

  • Flights – The organisation of flights is the participant’s responsibility
  • School books and material fees
  • Local transportation fees
  • Spending money
  • SEVIS and US Embassy fees
  • Issuance of form DS-2019 to obtain J-1 single-entry, exchange visitor visa

The Host Family Accommodation

Students are housed on a full-board basis by local, carefully selected Host Families. Living with a host family gives students full insight into how American families really live and provide complete immersion in the culture. Host families are carefully screened and selected by AFS staff all over the USA and are visited and regularly contacted throughout the student’s stay. As a member of the family, your child will share in the family’s daily life and take part in their normal day-to-day activities.

Host families will provide:

  • A genuinely caring environment
  • Clean and comfortable surroundings
  • Convenient access to schools
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily
  • Shared or single bedroom

American families’ motivation for hosting comes from a genuine interest in learning about other cultures and the belief that hosting a student from Ireland is the next best thing to visiting Ireland itself. Unlike an exchange programme, there is no guarantee that there will be other children in the family. Placements are always in safe residential areas and are mostly made in rural areas and medium-sized towns, very rarely in the centre of big towns. Students can be placed in any state in the USA so they must have an open mind to this when applying, as there is no guarantee of geographical preference in the placement process.

Host families come in all shapes and sizes; single parents with children living in the house, nuclear families, older couples whose children are no longer at home, as well as young couples who may not have children are all considered potential host families. Our main criteria is a warm, caring, and comfortable home environment for students to be nurtured and thrive in.

N.B. Students and parents cannot reject a host family placement in favour of a new one. Once host family details are sent to the student, they are final; students and parents must agree to accept them without prejudice and to go into the programme with an open mind. Cancellations will incur loss of deposit.

The School in the USA

Students are placed in a local high school in the community of their host family. As education is the responsibility of each state and county in America, it is therefore very difficult to foresee the subjects offered by each school. Particular subjects cannot be guaranteed, nor can specific sports or extracurricular activities. From experience, we find that facilities and sports tend to be far more diverse than in Ireland. Students are welcome to partake in all the school has to offer, as participating in sports and clubs is the best way to make friends and integrate into the culture.

At the beginning of each term the school will decide in which grade the student will be placed, depending on age and school reports. All participants are required to comply with school rules as far as the timetables, school attendance and behaviour are concerned.

A typical school day is from 7:30am to 2:30pm with 30 minutes to an hour for lunch. The day is usually divided into six or more one-hour classes or four 90-minute classes with 5 minute breaks between classes. Unlike many countries, teachers stay in one classroom, while the students move from class to class. Classes in schools are held from Monday through Friday and there are no lessons on Saturdays or Sundays. Extra-curricular activities and sports are scheduled after school hours.

Important Conditions

Important terms and conditions about going to school in the USA

  • Please note that friends will not be placed together. This is a programme designed for individuals. Emphasis is on full language and cultural immersion. If friends apply together, they will be intentionally separated and placed in different communities and schools
  • The USAS J-1 is a single entry visa, and as such students may not return home for the duration of their programme. This includes Christmas and Easter holidays, and mid-term breaks. Likewise, all family visits must be limited to the end of the student’s programme, not at the beginning or in the middle. After years of experience, we find that such visits disrupt the adjustment process and can lead to further homesickness and integration problems
  • AFS/EIL Ireland and our partner AFS USA reserve the right to send home any student whose health requires it or whose conduct is considered improper or offensive to the host family, community or school. Such conduct includes drug use, unacceptable sexual behaviour, excessive drinking, violation of the law or failure in schoolwork.  In the event that the student is returned home, either alone or accompanied, parents or guardians are responsible for all expenses above those covered by the fee. In such cases, no refunds will be available. If a student chooses to end the programme early on his or her own accord, for reasons including travelling home for a holiday or during mid-term, no refund will be given.


Students may be asked to fly into the nearest airport to their host community or into any major city, depending on their arrival date. Please note that flights and trains are not included in the programme fee.

Local transportation to and from school is dependant on the host family. Depending on the placement location, students may be able to walk or cycle, may be driven or carpooled or required to take the bus. In the case of a school bus, students will need to pay for their own costs.


For further details, can you please contact Tom at [email protected]

  • Flights, school books and materials, local transportation, personal items and spending money are not included in the price
  • Late application fee: € 250
  • Deposit: 25% of the program fee
  • Please note that due to currency exchange fluctuations, AFS/EIL reserves the right to alter the price to suit the current exchange rate.

How do I apply?

To apply please contact us and fully complete this application form.

The application form includes:

  • 25% non-refundable deposit
  • Personal Photo
  • Basic Personal Information
  • Placement Information
  • Introduction to your Host Family
  • At least 4 pictures with family and friends
  • Academic Records
  • Copies of 3 most recent school reports
  • Confirmation of language level
  • Health Certificate
  • Medical/parental release forms
  • Parental Authorisation Form
  • Passport Copy

Failure to include any application materials as well as incomplete applications will delay or inhibit your acceptance into the programme. Please make certain that all signatures are completed by student, parents, teachers, and physicians before sending to AFS/EIL.

Applications in full must be received at least 3 months in advance, or else you will be charged a €250 late fee.


Im sure you have lots of questions and we will do our best here to answer the most common but if you have any specific questions a member of the Study Abroad Team would be only too happy to answer them for you.

Call me back - Study Abroad

You can fill out this form and a member of the Study abroad team will get in touch as soon as they can
  • :
    We will endeavour to call you at the time you specify. Please note that the office hours are Monday to Friday 9 Am to 5:30 PM
    We would like to send you some updates from time to time including programme offers & newsletters.

No, this is a one-way exchange. You will not have to host a Spanish student. Some Irish students remain friends with the host family and siblings and stay in contact, but there is no obligation to have them come to Ireland unless you make a personal arrangement amongst yourselves.

Further Information