Are 4 years of English really necessary?





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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Are 4 years of English really necessary?
By Link12 (Link12) on Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - 11:21 am: Edit

When applying to Ivy League colleges, may I only take 3.5 years of English?
My schedule:
9th grade: Honors English 9 (2 semesters)
10th grade:Honors English 10 (2 semesters)
11th Grade: Advanced Composition 11 (1 semester)
12th Grade: AP English- Lit & Lang. (2 semesters)

Most honor kids in my school in 11th grade take a semester-long elective literature class such as 20th Century Lit, British Lit, Shakespeare, American Literature, giving them a full 4 years of English, but I want to take AP U.S. Govt. that semester. Will this 1/2 semester of English hurt while applying to Ivy Leagues? I've gotten all A's/a-'s so far in English.

Thanks.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - 11:26 am: Edit

No, four years are REQUIRED by pretty much every college in the U.S., including the Ivy's. It's the one requirement that there isn't wiggle room on.

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - 11:46 am: Edit

Beware that Ivies are likely not going to grant credit for AP-US Government, on top of requiring four years of English.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - 11:47 am: Edit

you need four years. i don't know that the ivies have hard and fast requirements, but having less than four years of english will hurt, imo.

By Mom60 (Mom60) on Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - 11:52 am: Edit

Most high school's also require 4 years of Eng to graduate

By Cangel (Cangel) on Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - 12:13 pm: Edit

What state do you live in? Our state not only mandates 4 years of English, but it has to be American Lit in the 11th grade (not brit, not World, etc) to graduate, even for private school students. There are other ways to sneak in AP Govt, self-study maybe.

By Celebrian23 (Celebrian23) on Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - 05:15 pm: Edit

This is interesting, for at my high school (well, my state of Ohio) it is mandated for everyone to take 4 years of English which must include English 9 (or honors), English 10 (or honors), 2 semesters of English, 1 of which must be a writing class, the other semester which must be a reading class (that applies for junior year) and senior year you either follow the junior year 2 semester deal or you take ap english lit which counts as 1 semester of reading and 1 semester of writing. I'm appalled that not every school requires this, as it's a fundamental aspect of an education that has to be continually practiced, over and over again. I would go ahead and self-study AP gov., though at my school that or reg. gov. is also a requirement. Most schools are pretty strict on this, while something like foreign langauge might be a bit more flexible.

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - 09:42 pm: Edit

>>When applying to Ivy League colleges, may I only take 3.5 years of English? >>

In our state, you would not get a high school diploma without four years of English. It is required. You should check your high school and state requirements...the colleges are secondary to getting a high school diploma.

Every college I ever heard of requires four years of English. I do believe all of the Ivies do.

By Ellemenope (Ellemenope) on Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - 10:53 pm: Edit

Definitely English over government!

By Link12 (Link12) on Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - 11:08 pm: Edit

Well, Michigan only requires 3 years of English. Anyway, don't you think AP Govt. is much more beneficial than say Shakespeare?

By Outwest5 (Outwest5) on Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - 11:11 pm: Edit

Four years are required. AP American Government doesn't matter although I am sure it is a good class. Just take regular government. You don't want any reason for your app. to be thrown in the decline pile. In CA you can not graduate from high school without four years of English. Period.

In our district the normal progression is:
9: Freshman English (which you can test out of and be placed into Sophomore level classes)
10: World Literature one semester (Iliad and all that) and Composition 2 one semester
11: AP Literature full year OR
either British Lit/American Lit/Modern Lit/Shakespeare 1st sem.
either AP Composition/Composition 3 2nd sem.
12: Whichever path you did not do as a Junior. If you took AP Lit you have to take 2 composition classes senior (Comp 4 and AP comp).
If you tested out of Freshman English you go to a college class or take Shakespeare and/or another comp class or lit class.

It seems complicated, but the bottom line is four years of English is required. You can take something fluffy like Mythology, but they are not going to fly with a top college.

By Alwaysamom (Alwaysamom) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 12:26 am: Edit

Link, I've got to agree with the others here. I'm on the college app with D #3 now so I've been doing this for a while and I've never come across one college which does not require four years of high school English. And as someone else said, I believe, not many of the top schools are going to give you credit for AP Govt. anyway.

By Coureur (Coureur) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 01:03 am: Edit

>>Anyway, don't you think AP Govt. is much more beneficial than say Shakespeare?<<

No, I'd say that Shakespeare is way ahead. Which would be more enriching for your mind: studying the disappointing constructs of a dreary group of craven US politicians or studying the words and ideas of the greatest and most gifted writer of the English language?

400 years later the English language is still filled with hundreds of allusions and references to the works of Shakespeare. It will benefit you for the rest of your life to understand where all that stuff comes from and what it means.

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 07:12 am: Edit

>>Michigan only requires 3 years of English>>

That's interesting....since their universities require four years for entrance. No...I don't think that AP Govt is more beneficial than another English. Have you checked any college websites? If not, do so yourself, and you will see that 4 years of English are required. I can't believe your Guidance Counselor would be suggesting otherwise (and allowing you to choose something other than English).

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 09:34 am: Edit

Coureur, while I agree that Shakespeare has literary importance, I must point out that our Constitution is now more than 200 years old, and still works. It created participatory democracy and allowed for the first non-violent transfer of power between two living rulers. It is hardly a dull document, nor unimportant. Most states, in fact, require American History (where they dump the Constitution rather than giving it its due, as in AP Government) as a graduation requirement, for just that reason.

The problem here is that, of course, a Government course does not substitute for an English course. They are apples and oranges, not green vs. blue Lego.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 09:38 am: Edit

I think if you have less than 4y of English, that will be a problem for the ivy league schools, although I still do not think they have mandatory minimum HS course requirements (maybe recommended ones).

And on the subject of the relative value of AP Govt vs. Shakespeare -- what exactly is AP govt? It's not AP US History, is it just civics? Personally, I don't think it's looked upon as one of the "core academic" AP classes -- it looks too much like filler.

And Shakespeare is overrated (although Coureur's point about literary allusions is important).

By Coureur (Coureur) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 11:16 am: Edit

>>It created participatory democracy and allowed for the first non-violent transfer of power between two living rulers.<<

Hardly. The Athenians invented participatory democracy about 23 centuries earlier, and there were many ruling monarchs who retired peacefully and reliquished power to their heirs while both were still alive. In fact, for several centuries this became routine, almost customary, for Japanese emperors.

Actually, I do think the US Constitution is a worthy document that all citizens should thoroughly study and understand. And I also think that Shakespeare has his limitations. I was exaggerating to make the point that delving into the riches of great literature will probably enhance your life of the mind much more than will slogging through the dismal machinations of politics.

By Anglophile (Anglophile) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 11:27 am: Edit

If you wanted to take AP Gov, why don't you take a semester of english at a community college? It would fit into your schedule, and you could take something more interesting/challenging than the mediocre fare that is offered at most high schools. Also-- looks much more impressive, AND they actually give you *less* inane busy work at a CC than high school (and 1 semester at CC usually equals 1 year at HS).

By Link12 (Link12) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 04:06 pm: Edit

Thanks for the replies, everyone. I've decided to drop AP U.S. Govt and will take 20th Century Literature instead (8 AP's instead of 9 AP's.... no big deal ), even though government seems a lot more fun than reading. I do, however, question the reasoning behind the colleges' English requirement. Does one semester of missing English really matter (my avg. grade in 2 years of Honors English: 98%, no weighting, no extra credit) for someone with strong reading and writing skills to begin with?

By Demingy (Demingy) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 04:47 pm: Edit

You would be surprised how many students with "strong reading and writing skills to begin with" still struggle in college English even with four full years of it in high school.

By Sybbie719 (Sybbie719) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 04:47 pm: Edit

Hi Link,

You ask:

Does one semester of missing English really matter (my avg. grade in 2 years of Honors English: 98%, no weighting, no extra credit) for someone with strong reading and writing skills to begin with?

You must remember that you are probably going to be applying to schools with a pool of applicants that are bringing the same thing (grade wise) to the table thay you are with one exception- instead of having 3.5 years of English they will have 4 years with probably 2 years of AP enligh to boot). That alone will be enough to knock you out of some potential boxes, as it is easier to for the adcom to say this person does not have 4 years so therefore they do not meet our academic requirements (yes some schools can be just that capricious and arbitrary when it comes to admissions).

You will be evaluated based on what your school offers. If they offer the full 4 years of english and most of the schools you are considering asks for 4 years, doesn't it make sense to take the course?

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 04:51 pm: Edit

You could take an on-line course; my S did that

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 09:33 pm: Edit

Many colleges now do NOT waive the freshman writing course for students anymore....even with a 5 on the AP exam. I know DS's university requires one semester of writing for all students. They do a placement exam and some students (they say 1%) are placed in an upper level writing course. BUT everyone takes a writing course at that university in order to graduate. The grades one has in high school English sometimes do not prepare you for the types of writing that are done on the college level.

By Anglophile (Anglophile) on Thursday, September 23, 2004 - 03:20 am: Edit

I definitely agree that high school english cannot be compared with college english. It's not that there is a great leap in difficulty (there's a bit of a leap, but not the chasm they'd have you believe), but it is very different. I did the whole AP English thing (), and didn't learn any of what I actually needed to know for college level writing. So, does it really matter whether you've taken one more semester of english? No. You'll read a few more books, and write a few more essays that would be laughed out of any respectable college. On the other hand, like sybbie said, it could get you *in* to those respectable colleges. Ugh. I really don't miss high school...

"Many colleges now do NOT waive the freshman writing course for students anymore....even with a 5 on the AP exam."
That's terrible. The educational system is aggravating enough without them creating more roadblocks for intelligent students.


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