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Articles / Applying to College / Will Only 2 Years of Foreign Language Be a Disadvantage?

Feb. 27, 2012

Will Only 2 Years of Foreign Language Be a Disadvantage?

Question: How big of a disadvantage is taking only 2 years of foreign language? My daughter doesn't care for her Spanish class, and wants to double up on honors Math and Science courses instead. Is there somewhere to find a list of which schools require more than 2 years of foreign language?

The impact of taking only two years of language will depend on where your daughter applies. The more selective colleges and universities prefer 3 or even 4 years of foreign language ... and, ideally, of the same language.

But, if you read the fine print, this is typically a “recommendation" and not a “requirement," even at places at the upper end of the college-admissions food chain such as Harvard and Princeton.

The College Board Web site lists the language recommendations/requirements for all or most of the schools that your daughter is (or will eventually be) considering. Go to: http://www.collegeboard.org/ Search for a college by name, and then, when you reach the Profile page, click on the “Admission" tab and scroll down to “High School Preparation."

If an applicant is firing on all other cylinders, colleges will look beyond the recommended-language shortage. But, of course, at the most uber-selective places, where nearly every applicant walks on water, your daughter would be at a definite disadvantage if she enters the fray with only two years of Spanish on her transcript.

But if she really despises her Spanish class, she might consider other options such as summer or community college language classes, immersion programs abroad, etc.

If, however, she's not aiming at the more selective schools, then she can get away with just the two years of Spanish she's had already.

¡Buena suerte!

(posted 2/26/2012)

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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