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Articles / Applying to College / Is a Fourth Year of Foreign Language an Elite Admisisons Plus?

March 10, 2003

Is a Fourth Year of Foreign Language an Elite Admisisons Plus?

Question: Is a fourth year of foreign language a significant leg up for elite admissions?

While a fourth year of a language is surely a plus, it’s so prevalent among elite-college applicants that it’s not going to be a leg up at decision time, and certainly not a “significant” leg up, as you suggest. In fact, it’s not uncommon for candidates to have five years of one language on their transcripts because they begin high-school level language study in eighth grade. Many applicants have four years plus A.P., and some exhaust their high school offerings and elect foreign language classes on college campuses.


You will, however, get some extra brownie points if the foreign language in question is one not typically studied by high school studentsâ€"Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Greek, even Russian, etc. (but if you’re a native speaker then you lose that “hook” as well!).

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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