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May 21, 2020

AP Spanish Lit or French 5?

Question: My daughter, a high school senior applying to Ivy League schools, attended a French Lycee from age three until age 12. She is fluent and has continued some classes outside of school. Her high school record, however, does not reflect the French as she took three years of Spanish, including AP Spanish last year. As a senior she was planning to take AP French this year but cannot work that period into her schedule. She sat in on the French 5 conversation class that is open that time period, but felt it was too easy and wonders if she should take AP Spanish literature instead. I feel that it would benefit both her and her application to stick with the French this year--any thoughts?


Regardless of the language class your daughter chooses this year, she should make sure that colleges know that she is fluent in French due to her many years at the Lycee. This can be done via the Additional Information section on most applications or through the reference letter from her guidance counselor ... or both.

As for her current decision ... it's a tough call, but admission folks would probably prefer the AP Spanish Lit. The more selective colleges look for four years of language study in high school, so that students can reach the point where they're learning about a culture through its literature. Moreover, AP Spanish Lit will look like a more rigorous course than a French conversation class will. However, the French class will show that your daughter is comfortable in the 5th level of that language, even if her foreign language focus while in high school was on Spanish, so it's far from an admissions disaster if she chooses the French class instead.

If your daughter is happy to stick with Spanish, I'll throw my vote in that direction. But, if she really doesn't want to do any more Spanish, here's a possible compromise: Can she take the "easy" French conversation class to get back in the swing of French while self-studying for the French AP test in May? Perhaps her school can even call it an AP French "Independent Study" on her transcript. If she does take the AP French exam in May, it will be too late for her scores to be reported to her target colleges for admission purposes but it could earn her some extra college credits once she matriculates. Might that work for all of you?

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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