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Articles / Applying to College / Is Foreign Language Required to get into a "Good" College?

Is Foreign Language Required to get into a "Good" College?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Oct. 5, 2017

Question: My question is regarding foreign language. I have recently increased my GPA by a significant margin. I should be able to finish the year with a 3.5 at least. But I'm also worried that my recent efforts will all be for naught, since as of now I'm not taking a foreign language class. So my question is that is it required to have foreign language credits to get into a good college?

The Dean is always a little reluctant to respond to queries about getting into a “good" college because “good"—much like beauty—is often in the eye of the beholder. Last year, for instance, I answered a question about transfer admission to a “good" college, but when I asked the student to tell me the “good" colleges he was considering, he named two places that pretty much anyone who's not on life-support could walk into! ;-)

So it would help me to know which schools you're aiming for. However, I can tell you right now that, whatever your plans, you will definitely restrict your college options if you don't have at least two years of foreign language on your transcript (and the more selective colleges recommend three or four). If there are extenuating circumstances that have kept you out of language class, then you can explain these to your colleges, and your deficiency might be forgiven. Such “extenuating circumstances" could include a documented learning disability, enrollment at a school that doesn't offer language classes or only offers them in a time block that conflicts with other important classes, relocation (i.e.., you started a language at one high school then transferred to another that doesn't offer it), or English is your second language and you never formally studied another one.

Since you have worked hard to boost your GPA, it does seem a shame that you might limit your college choices because you lack language credits. One option for you would be to take a language class at a local community college (or nearby four-year college) over the summer and then continue it as a senior at your high school in the fall. You might even be able to take two “years" of language in the summer alone if a local college offers two consecutive summer sessions between late May and August with an intensive language in both (e.g, Intensive Spanish I, Intensive Spanish II). An online language class could work for you as well.

While it doesn't sound like you got great advice from your school guidance counselor, it still wouldn't hurt to talk to him or her to ask what students in your shoes have done in the past. Surely there were other juniors who realized that they needed language credits and found a way to scramble to get them.

Bottom line: While there are colleges that will admit you with no foreign language on your record, you will expand your choices—as well as your personal horizons—by finding a way to learn a language this year and next.

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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