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Articles / Applying to College / Does Fluency in Multiple Languages Count as Exceptional Talent?

June 3, 2012

Does Fluency in Multiple Languages Count as Exceptional Talent?

Question How helpful is fluency in multiple languages in the admissions process? I read an article in “Journal of Higher Ed” breaking down this at elite schools. It seems like the “exceptional talent” category is often viewed as all or nothing. Meaning one’s exceptional talent either elevates one into a separate category or does not. Recruited athlete & accomplished musician are the usual examples. Does fluency in four languages (including English) in itself count as “exceptional talent” for someone with excellent grades/scores and extracurriculars?

Fluency in multiple languages would be a tick in the plus column but probably not a huge one … i.e., not on “exceptional talent” turf. But the size of that “tick” would depend on a couple factors:


-Which languages are we talking about … those that are frequently found on “elite” campuses or less common ones?

-How did the applicant acquire these languages? In other words, does he or she have an unusual story to tell?

Moreover, a student who is also “fluent” in the culture that is tied to these tongues will be of greater interest to admission officials than one who simply studied a range of languages. Sure, college folks do value the student who pursues an academic passion. So, if a candidate with a love of languages has taken enrichment classes outside of school or has self-studied, this will lead to the aforementioned plus-column tick. But, at the most hyper-selective schools, it’s not that rare to find polyglots in the applicant pools.

(posted 6/3/2012)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

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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