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Articles / Admissions / Will Low Grades in Spanish Hurt Admission Odds?

May 7, 2020

Will Low Grades in Spanish Hurt Admission Odds?

Question: My son is a junior. He is doing well (grades in 90s) in all classes except Spanish (low 80s). He would like to apply to engineering schools. Forget MIT or Stanford, but will schools like RPI, WPI or Case Western hold it against him that he can't seem to learn Spanish very well?

Your son is in luck. If he's going to lag behind in one subject, then he picked the “right" one. Many college officials … even at the hyper-competitive colleges … have observed that foreign language classes can be an Achilles Heel. Some high schools (especially public ones) don't have great language programs, and thus otherwise strong students don't fare as well in these classes as they do in their others. Sometimes, too, the classes are fine but the student–for whatever reason–just doesn't “get" foreign language.

If your son's grades and tests scores are strong in math and sciences, then admission folks at RPI, WPI and Case Western Reserve should not penalize him for his downfall in Spanish. Case, by the way, is one of those great “sleeper" schools that isn't insanely hard to get into and yet has an excellent reputation. The students are smart too. In fact, Case probably gets its share of those who aimed for Stanford or MIT but didn't quite make the grade … perhaps in Spanish. 😉


So don't worry. If all else looks good, the Spanish grades won't hurt. And maybe down the road, your son will learn Spanish the way it's supposed to be learned … by living in a country where it is spoken. WPI, for instance, is big on global projects and there are several in Spanish-speaking countries. See http://www.wpi.edu/academics/igsd/project-centers.html So perhaps your son will end up in one of them and finally learn to speak Spanish after all.

¡buena suerte!

Written by

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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