6 months ago
Admissions Advice

How many years of a language taken in high school looks best for colleges?

I am currently taking my 4th year of Spanish as an 11th grader this year at my school. My school requires 3 years of a language, but I decided to take an extra year just in case it looks good for college admissions. Is this actually the case? Next year I have the option of taking AP Spanish, should I take it? I really don't like taking Spanish but I might end up taking it anyway. Does taking 5 years of a language including at the AP level actually look good for colleges and in any way make you more admissible?

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2 answers

6 months ago

Many colleges prefer 4 years of a world language despite only requiring 0-2 years in high school, you should not continue to AP Spanish if you're not at least a little passionate about it. However, you should also consider that if the class isn't too difficult for you and you earn the exam credit, it might get you out of taking a foreign language in college.

6 months ago

Thanks for your question. I think too many high school applicants focus on the minimum standards versus challenging themselves for their innate love of learning. Colleges put down 3 years as a bare minimum so that they still receive a record amount of applications in the admissions office to make their admit rates as low as possible and as a revenue stream.

If you think like a college admissions officer, they are going to always ask the basic question, "did this applicant take the easy path to 4.0 GPA or challenge themselves with the hardest classes available?"

They apply these basic questions to your English core curriculum, Math, STEM, History, and Languages, and your choice of electives. If you deliberately avoided AP Lit and AP Lang, AP Env. Sci, AP Physics, AP US Hist, and opted for standard 10th-12th grade classes because it was an easier A, then that doesn't make your academic narrative compelling.

A more compelling applicant has taken a variety of advanced coursework and perhaps even got a couple of Bs along the way and doesn't have a perfect GPA. So the peers that take 10 APs and have a 3.85-3.90 are more interesting to admissions officers than those lacking in course rigor with perfect grades.

There are many successful applicants who not only have taken 1 foreign language through AP levels but have also taken a 2nd language as well. So if you think that by taking AP Spanish and getting an A and a 5 on the exam you will give yourself a huge boost, that is not an accurate expectation. What is more accurate is that you will remain just as competitive as the most desirable applicants applying to the same schools from your zip code, city, or state.

I hope this answer gives you context to your question and helps you make an informed decision about whether to stop at Spanish 4 or continue with AP Spanish.

Good luck.

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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
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