ic S/general/checkmark circled Thanks for subscribing! Be on the lookout for our next newsletter.
ic S/general/checkmark circled
Saved to My Favorites. View My Favorites
Articles / Applying to College / Spanish vs. Psych

Spanish vs. Psych

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Sept. 6, 2016

Question: Hello, Thank you so much for reading this! This is personal question because my school year has just started and I have many questions about my classes.

First is the subject of language classes. I have been taking Spanish 1 since 6th grade and took another year in freshmen year (so up to Spanish 4). This year I tried to take AP Spanish, but was unable to, due to class schedule. I was placed in Spanish 5 instead.

The good news is that 2 other students are in the same boat as me (wanting to take AP Spanish but couldn't), so my teacher offered to have private lunch study sessions for AP Spanish every wednesday. But, obviously AP Spanish is hard, and doing it this way is much harder than taking the course.

Also, I didn't plan on taking AP Spanish junior year (I'm a current sophomore), since AP Spanish is hard and junior year is already filled with stress and required APs. The best would be to take it senior year but I can't because then I would have a gap year of language(highest Non Ap Spanish is Spanish 5).

My question is do colleges really want you to take languages in high school? I have already taken 4 years including middle school but my counselor told me colleges still want to see 2 years in high school? According to that logic, top colleges want to see 3-4 years in high school if I'm correct? Do those middle school years count? Should I self study with the teacher AP Spanish, wait until Junior year, or drop the language? For information, spanish is not my forte but I've heard colleges really want you to take language so I'm working hard for that haha! At this point, I am aiming for top colleges.

What do you recommend? My other option is to drop Spanish and take AP Psych, but I was also going to consider self studying AP psych, which brings me to my next question. What is the difference between self studying vs taking the course if you're confident you can prepare well in self studying? My counselor said taking the exam by yourself won't show up on the transcript. Any help is appreciated! Thank you so much.

Your guidance counselor is right! Those aren't words that “The Dean" always says but, in this case, they're true. Admission officials at the most selective colleges usually expect to see three (and, ideally, four) years of the SAME foreign language, and the language study should really continue through 11th grade (although if a student has completed AP by grade 10, that's okay). Whether you agree or not (and the jury is still out for “The Dean"), the college folks seem to think that, no matter how much language study you did in middle school, you will appreciate the literature and culture of a foreign country in a different—and, presumably more mature—way by sticking with the language in high school.

Thus, I recommend that you remain in Spanish 5 and take advantage of the lunch-time study sessions that the Spanish teacher is generously offering, at least through the end of this year. Then, if you feel unprepared for the AP exam (after trying a sample test at home), you don't have to take it officially and you don't have to continue with Spanish in grade 11 if you're flat out with other AP classes. But do get through Spanish 5 and aim for the AP through the private sessions. (If you're not sure if you're ready for the AP exam, you can always take it and then not report your results to colleges if they aren't good. The reporting of an AP score is never mandatory, and if your transcript says Spanish 5 but not AP, admission committees won't be on the look-out for it.)

Regarding the AP Psych: If you self-study, take the exam, and do well, admission officials will be at least a tiny bit impressed that you did this, although AP Psych is generally not viewed as one of the heavy-duty AP classes, so you won't get a lot of “mileage" out of this and should really only do it if if you're interested in psychology. Depending on where you go to college, you may get some credit for your AP score. But, as your counselor has warned you (right again!), the AP Psych class won't turn up on your transcript since you never actually took it.

So, given all your options, I suggest that you stay with Spanish for now, eat lunch with your teacher on Wednesdays (possibly a delightful change from the cafeteria!) and only self-study the psych if you're …. umm … psyched to do it. (Sorry, couldn't resist). 😉

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.

More on Applying to College

See all
typing at computer- karolina-grabowska-6958506-resized

Authentic Voice in College Essays

That’s why you want to use your authentic voice when writing any college essay.

So what’s the problem? A student has shared an ess…


College Interview Prep Tips: Brainstorm, Research, Analyze, Generalize

I recently visited Washington University in Saint Louis and was lucky enough to set up an interview. By speaking with peers of mi…

campus gates

Academic Index Scores: Why They Matter and How They're Calculated

Note: Click here for 10 Summer Programs You Can Still Apply For or keep reading to learn more about academic index scores.

8 Podcasts for Students Going Through the Admissions Process

7 Podcasts for Students Going Through the Admissions Process

Podcasts can offer a wealth of information to busy students, particularly when it comes to the college admissions process. We…


Avoid College Application Regrets: Tips For Getting It Right the First Time

Decision Day occurs each year on May 1st and is the deadline for students to inform the college of their choice of their intent t…

Get a student loan that goes beyond tuition.

Ascent offers cosigned and non-cosigned student loans with exclusive benefits that set students up for success.

Explore Now!
Find Your Scholarship

Want to find money for school that doesn’t need to be paid back? Access insights and advice on how to search and apply for scholarships!

Search for Scholarship