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Preface | Should I take 4 years of language in high school

The foreign language requirement at most high schools is usually only two years. You should find out how many years your high school requires of a language before deciding to drop taking language classes entirely, to ensure that you are able to graduate. However, most schools have additional language electives that students can take, after they are done with their requirements, to further their study of a language such as Spanish 3 and Spanish 4. According to a college admission counselor, numerous high schoolers (and parents!) wonder whether sticking with the required two years of one language in secondary school is sufficient. Knowing if you should take 4 years of language in high school can help your student get into the college of their dreams.

Earning a seal of biliteracy

Depending on the state you are in, there will be different requirements to get the seal. The most common is needing to take at least 3 or 4 years of the language to be able to take the test. A seal looks good on your application, especially if you plan on majoring in something related to that language, because it shows you have proficiency in that language and dedication. Here is the official seal of biliteracy website.

Should I take 4 years of language in high school

Being well rounded is a myth

Allen Chang is a Harvard alum who was accepted to every Ivy League he applied to. According to him, top schools don’t want well-rounded students and would rather want a student who has one or two interests. This means that a college would rather not see you try to learn a whole bunch of different languages and only achieve basic proficiency. They would rather see you achieve mastery in one language and show them a seal of biliteracy. You can read more about qualities that colleges look for in my blog post here!


Save money in college | Do you need to take a language in college

Some colleges require that students place out of or take a foreign language as part of that school’s requirement for an undergraduate degree. Other colleges might require language for a certain major. For example, business and engineering majors normally don’t have to take a language in college or show that they have the equivalent of 4 semesters of college language. If you excel in a foreign language in high school, you could reduce the amount of college classes you have to take. If a student isn’t taking language when they’re an upperclassman it might be hard to maintain that language proficiency you’ll need to test out of a language in college.


Be more attractive in the job market | Should I take 4 years of language in high school

Studies show that bilingual speakers have higher salaries in some jobs. This can especially help you if you want ot work in global/international business.


What admission officers say | Should I take 4 years of language in high school

For the most selective top schools, it’s usually strongly encouraged or required to have more than the required 2 years of foreign language, and four years would be even better. 

Do you need to take a language in college

You might think that you will get a bad grade in this advanced language class. However, stop and think for a minute – it’s not just about the grade; it’s about everything that your record is saying to the confirmations office. It’s about the message you’re sending. However, if you are really not interested in a language, it’s not a good idea to sacrifice your happiness and your GPA if you really don’t enjoy the language and you think you will do badly in it. You don’t want to get lower than a B if you are applying to selective colleges.

The Texas Classical Society’s site has various statements from admissions staff that explicitly address what they think about taking language classes. Getting inside the head of an admissions officer is extremely valuable because grants and scholarships are enormously affected by the amount of interest the college possesses in your child. Giving your student a better chance over the competition of other high schoolers will not only better their chance of admission, but also help your student get more free cash for school.  Having said that, this is what school affirmations staff are talking about when they take a gander at the language segment of a candidate’s secondary school record:


“Our recommendation is that, in terms of high school preparation, students take 4 years of a single language, believing that achieving proficiency in a language is preferable to not quite achieving proficiency in two.”  – Steve LeMenager, Director of Admissions, Princeton University


“Three to four years of a language shows follow-through and a deeper level of interest.” – Michael C. Behnke, Vice President for Enrollment, University of Chicago


“[. . .] the student studying for four years has a genuine interest in knowledge and education, not just in fulfilling minimum foreign language requirements.”  – Matthew Potts, Admissions Counselor, University of Notre Dame


“We give the most consideration to students who have taken the highest level language available at their school.” – Robert Killion, Office of Admissions, Haverford College


“While most colleges do not require four years of a language or a science for admission, dropping a discipline can be detrimental to a student’s chances of being admitted. Admission Officers are looking for students who have challenged themselves in many areas. At the most competitive colleges in the country, Admission Officers are making distinctions between thousands of overly qualified applicants. In speaking with students about senior year course selection, we encourage students to think carefully before dropping a language.” – Andrea Thomas, Assistant Dean of Admission, Hamilton College


“[. . .] the more years of a language, the better—it shows that the student has gone beyond the minimum requirement.” – Lia Brassord,  Assistant Director of Admissions, Smith College


“Ideally a student will present at least 4 years of the same language (classical or modern) if the curriculum allows.” – Terry Cowdrey, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, St. Lawrence University


“[. . .] depth and mastery are important in the serious study of any discipline. The student who is willing to do more than the minimum is always more appealing.” – Ray Brown, Dean of Admissions, Texas Christian University


 “The more years in one language the better it shows commitment and desire for proficiency.” – Dennis O’Driscoll, Director of Admissions, Creighton University


“We look for at least three years of study of the same language for many of our programs. If not completed before admission, it must be made up with a year of college-level study.” – B.J. Ore, Sr. Associate Director of Admissions, University of Pittsburgh

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