9 months ago
Admissions Advice

Does taking my native language harm my college application?

Hi! I am Chinese-American and I currently take mandarin in school. People are telling me that I made a bad decision because i already speak mandarin at home, and thus colleges will dislike the fact that I am taking a native language in school. However, I am not fluent in chinese: I can not read or right, and I don't know as much vocabulary. How do i address this misunderstanding so I don't decrease my chances of getting into top schools such as NYU, BU, USC, etc?


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1 answer

9 months ago[edited]

College admissions officers that read and evaluate college applications only spend about 7 minutes on each application and at some schools like UC schools perhaps even less. Therefore many of them make assumptions and don't have time on the clock to fully investigate the context of every applicant's individual circumstances.

It would be fair to say that many readers would fail to recognize after a first pass reading your narrative that you are not a native Mandarin speaker and are not able to write Mandarin based on your Chinese heritage. So they would assume that you are taking Mandarin as a foreign language requirement because it's the path of least resistance and the easiest option for you.

If they assume this, they would conflate this to "gaming the HS diploma" and "gaming the college application rubric.

In California where there are many Chinese high school students, it would be safe to say that there is a high correlation of Chinese kids speaking Mandarin at home even if they were not born in China but are 2nd or 3rd generation Chinese Americans. Why? There is a lot of cultural pride in the Chinese community and many families have multi-generational households where the grandparents live with the nuclear family so communication is paramount, necessitating fluency in Chinese.

You are not part of the mainstream Chinese-American community if you are not conversational in your native language so while this might be a great reason for taking Mandarin in school, college admissions officers might not understand your personal circumstances and think you are taking the easy way out of a requirement.

Most successful admits who are Chinese-Americans that get into top colleges take 1 or 2 languages that are outside their native language like French, Spanish, Japanese, or German, many of them have completed 5-6 years including AP levels.

My advice to you is to continue your pursuit of Mandarin outside of HS, like online or through an APP like those on this list: alllanguageresources.com/best-apps-learn-chinese/

My recommendation is that you switch out of Mandarin at school and take something else like French, Spanish, Japanese, or German. Otherwise, college application readers might ding you for taking the easy way out and not see you as someone who challenges themselves with the most difficult course rigor.

Good luck.

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