Disability and Foreign Language College Admission Requirements

My student has a 504 plan in high school and struggles with mental health. She’s taken ASL 1 and 2 through Dual Enrollment at the local community college to free up her schedule for her performing arts classes but still meet the foreign language requirement for colleges. She doesn’t know where she wants to apply for college, but is interested in the performing arts and possibly social studies. This summer is probably the last chance she will have to take ASL 3, but because she has had a very challenging school year she’d rather take a break to recharge for next school year. I’ve seen various people comment on the equivalency of foreign language - generally 1 community college class for 1 year of HS FL…with UCs counting more for the first year. How important is it that she take this third class of foreign language? In general, do colleges make exceptions in their course requirements for a disability student?

Don’t know the answer and others will but not sure a system of bureacracy (which a UC will be) would be right for a student with such struggles…just saying.


@Gumbymom perhsps you know?

The UC’s accept ASL to fulfill their foreign language requirement. ASL 1&2 appears to exceed the 2 year UC/CSU requirement.

College courses
Grade of C or better in any transferable course(s) (excluding conversation) held by the college to be equivalent to two years of high school language. Many colleges list the prerequisites for their second course in language as “Language 1 at this college or two years of high school language.” In this case, Language 1 clears both years of the requirement.

For Languages other than English, one semester of a college level course is equivalent to 2 years of high school instruction. To see a California community college course equivalency to a high school course, check Assist.org.

For other schools besides the UC and Cal States, you would need to contact the target schools about their policies.


Thanks for your responses! Yes, I’ve seen UCs language requirements, and I recognize that UC might not be the best place for her…which is why I’m asking just in general and for colleges outside CA. She doesn’t know which colleges she wants to go yet. I called a few random colleges but many schools don’t seem to know much about how classes taken through community college translate to admission requirements. Aside from that, I’m wondering if there might be exceptions made bc of her disability especially if she talks about it in her application essays. Or if she doesn’t meet the minimum requirements, she automatically is rejected? I think her application is stronger with another class, but she is also struggling.

Again, disability exceptions will be college dependent and only they can answer your questions and concerns so no general across the board consensus about the Foreign Language requirements.


You need to play the long game here.

If she needs a break this summer, take a break. Then she can identify a bunch of colleges who will love her with her current transcript. Don’t jump through hoops on this. Some colleges won’t care, some colleges may care but will provide an exception for a documented disability. Forget about college for now. A kid suffering from burnout deserves a break.


Sure I recognize there is no across the board recommended number of FL classes. And from reading forums, I know that a 3rd class would make for a stronger application. But we wondering if colleges are more understanding of their requirements for students with disabilities.

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Be careful to check for foreign language graduation requirements at each college under consideration.

If there is such a requirement, check:

  • If ASL is accepted.
  • What level is required for graduation.
  • What level the transfer credit will be considered equivalent to.

That questions is going to be answered individual college by individual college. One thing to know (if you don’t already) disability accommodations from a 504 or IEP don’t automatically transfer to any college.


Thank you! This is what we were feeling…so we are trying to put her energy towards the things that will make the most difference for the future college admissions and try not to sweat the less important things.

I believe that colleges understand the challenges of having a disability and can make exceptions. Both @ucbalumnus and @beebee3 make some good points that need to be considered.

No one can answer your question except the school themselves so all anyone can do is offer advice and things to consider when you contact the colleges.

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Yes. My D23 took 4 years of ASL in high school. Her college accepted it as FL for purposes of the application. They have a FL language requirement of 2 semesters in college that students can. test out of of. My D23 is ineligible to try to test out because ASL is not considered a “foreign” language for fulfillment of the college requirement. So she will be required to take 2 semesters of a foreign language. That said, she is in a much stronger position to take FL than she was 4 years ago. She has had more language remediation since then and has more brain maturity. It won’t be easy but she is confident she can get through.

So bottom line, language requirements in college are something you should consider because ASL may not fulfill those and she may need to take another language. As far as getting in, many kids my D knew did not take more than 2 or 3 years of language and got into good colleges. It’s just one aspect of rigor. She will be fine, especially since 2 college years is basically equivalent to 4 high school years.

Given all of the variations possible (and not that rare) in foreign language learning, seems odd that some colleges have not thought about how to handle them in terms of translating them to “N years of foreign language” admission requirements or recommendations.

I’ve had to look into this a bit because D24 is in the situation where she might end up with only 2 years high school FL.

College CDS’s have been a convenient source of information for what the colleges are looking for in terms of FL. 2 years recommended, 2 years required and 4 years recommended, 3 years required, no requirements at all…these are all things I have seen for admissions purposes. 2 courses of college level ASL should be at least equivalent to 2 years high school.

So for admission, shouldn’t be too much of a problem most places but check each CDS (and UC is an exception for a lot of things). For graduation, I’ve seen everything from no additional FL required up to 3 semesters college level or 2 semesters that must be taken at that college. ASL was sometimes available as an option, sometimes not.

D24 hasn’t ruled out colleges with FL graduation requirements, but it will be something to factor in when she is making her final college choice, and she would prefer ASL to be an option (it is surprisingly not available at as many places as I would have expected).

I do remember seeing some mention of disability accommodations (or lack thereof) on some college websites but it wasn’t a straightforward if X then Y and in some cases I think it was petition based or you needed to be part of a special cohort. It would make me nervous if the accommodation could not be guaranteed before acceptance.

Does her high school offer ASL 3 during the regular school year? If it does, and the timing does not conflict with courses she needs to graduate high school, highly selective colleges might ding her for not taking the course. They will not fault her for not taking an external course.

Foreign language requirements for college graduation will vary not only by college but by major. Majors in the social sciences often require a minimum of four college courses in a single foreign language. Your daughter will have to investigate whether each college of interest offers advanced courses in ASL and if offered, whether ASL can be used to fulfill her desired major’s foreign language requirement.

That’s a good question. So her school had originally offered through ASL 3. Last year the teacher left and they couldn’t find a replacement. The funny thing is that for those students who had taken ASL 2 before the teacher left, the school partnered with a community college to let those students take ASL 3 during the school day. I don’t think they will offer ASL moving forward though. That said, my daughter doesn’t have any room to take it during the school year - the whole point of my daughter taking ASL during the summer was the free up her schedule for her arts classes!

My neurodiverse D23 only took 2 years of ASL in HS and did extremely well with college admissions this past cycle, from large schools (UC’s/CSU’s) to SLAC’s. I echo the wisdom already shared, each school will have different requirements (and provide varying levels of support), so make sure she is well informed before applying. Whether a school will make an exception in course requirements for an LD student will depend entirely on the school.

Also, based on your description of her needing to recharge, it’s probably good to give her a break this summer, with the caveat that, it only gets more demanding moving forward, so my advice would be to have her specifically seek out colleges that will meet her academic interests without putting a strain on her mental health.

College can be tough, so you’ll want to help her make a choice that will support her in all the ways she needs. Good luck!


Actually she’s only taken 2 community college courses, not 2 years…which generally seems to be equivalent to 2 HS years. If it were 4 HS years, we’d be good! Well, except for the issue of graduation requirements that several people have mentioned! When D chose ASL, we knew that some colleges don’t recognize it as a FL. In the end, I wanted her to take language she enjoyed to minimize chance of burnout…oh well!

Thank you for sharing your experience. Yes we are definitely planning on researching the student support available for each college. After discussing it more, we looked at admin requirements at some of the colleges that she was interested in and D is now leaning towards taking ASL 3 but contracting for a lower grade - it would be the first B on her transcript of all A’s. Her reasoning is that the third FL class would get her through the door. I guess I’m still skeptical that this third class is worth it.