By Kimberly Stezala, Consulting Educator
Should my child take four years of a foreign language in high school? Her school only offers three years of Latin, the language she wants to study, but I don't want her to sabotage her chances of getting into a good college by not taking four years of a language if that's now the standard that most colleges expect.
You are correct that most competitive colleges are looking for applicants with four years of foreign language, in the same language, and, yes, students should take four years if possible. What parents should know is that colleges understand different preparation levels and inconsistencies in class offerings throughout the middle school and high school experience.
Perhaps in addition to Latin, your daughter could take one year of another language to meet the four-year criteria if albeit in two languages. Another thing to consider is that maybe your daughter's school offers three years of Latin now, but it could change class offerings in the future.
Stony Brook University's assistant director of admissions, Chris D'Orso, offers this input, "I don't think that we'd ever reject a student's application based solely on not meeting the language requirement, as we know that there are just too many variables at play when it comes to different state school systems and the varying requirements around the country."
How foreign language preparation is interpreted by admissions representatives depends on the college, your daughter's career goals or intended major, and the larger context of her college preparation. It depends also on how well she does in her chosen language. If she makes this choice and earns a 2.0 grade point average in Latin, for three years, it will certainly be viewed less favorably than if her passion is proven by earning A's.
Far from "sabotaging" her chances, your daughter's selection of Latin as her foreign language might end up being a unique favorable characteristic among the applicant pool - if she also explains why or how her choices were limited. College admissions professionals look at applicants holistically and they simply need to know what happened. According to Betsy F. Woolf, a college and graduate school admissions consultant in New York, "Admissions people know that there are lots of reasons why there are differences from the norm in applications. What they don't want to do is guess as to what's going on."
So don't leave people guessing. On applications, make sure your daughter explains the situation and incorporates all of the reasons why she is still a great candidate for admissions.
College admissions standards are in a state of flux right now and even something as sacred as the SAT is being questioned and debated by selective colleges as part of the application process. While your foreign language question focuses on the "norm," please realize that the "norm," and how it is interpreted, can vary.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.
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