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Articles / Applying to College / Is Two Years Only of Spanish an Admissions Deficiency?

Is Two Years Only of Spanish an Admissions Deficiency?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Jan. 12, 2016

Question: Will two years of Spanish be a Disadvantage if I took AP Spanish the second year? I took Spanish 3 last year as a freshman and this year I am taking AP Spanish. I see that most of the hard colleges require 3 years of a language, so will I be at a disadvantage for taking only 2 years of a foreign language, but one of them being AP?

Admission officials typically expect two or three years of foreign language study, and the most selective schools are often looking for fouryears of the same language. So if you started taking Spanish in middle school (or even in elementary school) and were thus ready for AP by grade 10, you can get away with quitting your language classes at the end of this year.

BUT … if you entered Spanish 3 as a high school freshman without taking two previous years … because you are a native speaker or you live(d) in a Spanish-speaking country or you learned Spanish in some other way outside of the classroom, then it's not such a hot idea to quit your language study when AP Spanish ends.

Admission officials—especially at the most sought-after institutions—can be a bit picky about whether a language was actually studied rather than mastered through experience. Granted, one might argue that it shouldn't matter where you learned the Spanish that led you to AP. But those college folks are sometimes snooty about language prowess not acquired in an academic setting, even though that sounds a bit silly to “The Dean." Fluency gained by living abroad, stocking shelves in a bodega, or spending vacations with Abuela in Alicante can provide a cultural context for the language itself, and thus the value of time spent in a classroom seems largely overrated.

Bottom line: If you apply to colleges … even the most hyper-competitive ones … having completed AP Spanish but not having spent four years in high school language classes, it won't be a deal-breaker but it could be a small liability. If, however, all your Spanish language know-how came from the classroom and not from the dinner table, college officials are more likely to approve.

Yet, if you were my child and already taking AP Spanish in 10th grade, I'd probably encourage you to continue … either via classes at nearby colleges or over the summer. Not only will this guarantee that you will meet all college requirements but also—and most important—it will help you to develop or maintain communication skills that may prove helpful throughout the rest of your life.

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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