How much will 2 years of foreign language hurt chance of admission?

I’ve read that UVA really doesn’t like to see only 2 years of a foreign language. My son is a junior and didn’t realize that until this year…and he had already made the decision not to continue foreign language this year. He wanted to be able to continue band and take some other classes, but also the teacher is really not a very good teacher.

So my question is for those of you who have gone through this before or might have some knowledge. How much is this going to hurt him? Is he going the the bottom of the pile pretty quickly because of this? We have a small high school, but he is #1 in his class (4.0 UW) and has taken the most rigorous classes available to him. We only have a few AP courses offered, but he also took some dual-enrollment courses. Made Honors District Band sophomore year, 4 years of band, 4 years Varsity Football (captain this year, awarded “Team Leader” by coaches this year), 4 years Varsity Baseball, Eagle Scout, some other leadership as well as a part-time job he’ll have had for two years when he applies.

He plans to study history. We are OOS.

Would love to get feedback from anyone who has been through this or has info. How big of a deal is having/not having 4 years of foreign language. Thank you!

UVA website says as below. They are not as specific as some other colleges about years required, but “the best program available in core subjects” - where they expressly include foreign language in core - can easily be understood to mean 4 years, assuming that is offered by the school. I think only taking 2 years FL (not even 3) to be able to take band (and not clear which others you mean - are they also non-core) is going to be a disadvantage. How much of a disadvantage depends on other things too, though I would strongly, strongly suggest he take at least 3 years FL. Has he taken 4 years of all the other cores? How will your son compare to other applicants from his high school? What other colleges is he applying to?

### 1. Take the best program available to you in your core subjects.

Make sure that your class schedule demonstrates that you are taking advantage of all that your school offers. Talk to your counselor and parents to help determine the right program for you. Colleges will want to see that you are pursuing a strong schedule, but they will also want to see good grades.

What do we mean by the core subjects? Those are English, math, foreign language, social studies, and science.

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Thank you for your response. Yes, he is taking 4 years of all the other cores. He will compare very favorably to any applicants from his high school. He is not yet sure which colleges he will apply to…he’s just beginning to really do some research on various colleges.

I’ll give the hard line. There are kids who will have only 2 years. But key is why. Not being able to fit it in because of, say, a schedule conflict with a desirable, rigorous class can be understandable. (More often, this is a stem kid taking higher level math, sometimes DE, that conflicts.)

Adcoms want to see choices make sense. Foreign language is often needed for something like a history major. The replacement wouldn’t be just any AP. And unless an activity is presenting a high level, somewhat rare opportunity, you can’t just explain it in Addl Info.

We don’t know what courses he’s taking or plans to.

This is a tough decision, when it’s a highly competitive college. Did you consider an online course or summer session? At least, that shows effort to carry forth. Or can he pick up in senior year? That could be CYA. You do have options and some time to accomplish this.

Thank you for your feedback. Yes, we have discussed starting online in January. He took it online his sophomore year, and of course a foreign language online is far from ideal. I’m concerned it won’t prepare him well enough for AP Spanish his senior year, but it might be a risk he has to take.

As far as a summer course at a local community college - will he then not be considered a transfer student at some universities?

I appreciate your input.

Not a transfer. That’s when a student has actually matriculated at a college.

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What year/level FL did he have Soph year? If it was Spanish 3 (that’s what would be needed at my kid’ HS to take AP senior year) that counts for three years of Spanish, for example.

Either way, taking more Spanish, even if online, would likely make him a more competitive candidate.

Good luck.

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Jumping in and apologize for the diversion but I am curious about this…

Our district has Spanish 1 split in grades 7 and 8, so kids take Spanish 2 their Freshman year, and Spanish 3 as Sophomores. Do most colleges consider this 3 years of FL? Or 2? D22 switched to a Spanish elective this year (Hispanic Civ & Culture which is taught in Spanish) instead of Spanish 4 and hoping it doesn’t bite her in the butt…

Most colleges consider level 3 Spanish (or any other FL) taken sophomore year as 3 years. You need to check each school website to confirm.

My oldest son got in two years ago out of state with 3 years of Spanish. He applied to the college of engineering. We were told during the alumni admission session that it is frowned upon to have less than four years of a foreign language. She said it may not matter as much for the college of engineering, but it would be a negative for the college of arts and sciences where your son would apply.

UVA is such a difficult admit out of state I think it is smart not to have any glaring “negatives” on your application.


CC has long argued whether FL level 3 is sufficient when one started in middle school. My experience is the more competitive colleges are looking at the hs transcript.

Again, if they see 2 hs years then a stop, they want to see a reason that makes sense to them. Again, addl higher level stem rigor is a more acceptable reason for a stem kid than a humanities kid stopping. (Schedule conflicts can occur.)

You don’t want an adcom stopping mid review to ponder, go back to figure out. It’s CYA (cover your ***) to keep up with foreign language. Online, summer, or senior year can be fine.

Anecdotes aren’t necessarily informative.


Clarification on the actual level reached would help, but one assumes OP’s son would like to apply to other competitive colleges as well; and there are some that state 3 years FL as a minimum, and others that state their best candidates have four years all in all core areas. Only two years of FL seems an obvious weakness in an application, if one is aiming at colleges where many applicants are very competitive both academically and EC-wise.

Depends on the college. It may be acceptable to UVA and engineering schools; it’s less acceptable at the HYP level, STEM kid or not. Particularly when its 2 years vs 4. 3 years they are more likely to get a little leeway.

Scheduling issues are always an acceptable excuse, unless the scheduling issue is a result of doubling or tripling up another core subject.

But getting back to this kid. UVA has a fairly onerous foreign language requirement to graduate. The more courses taken in HS, the fewer (potentially) courses he needs to take in college.

He has taken Spanish 1 & Spanish 2. Yes, he would like to apply to other selective colleges. The bummer is that we just didn’t think we could swing it financially until really taking another look at the numbers this fall. Our older son got a NMF full ride at U of Alabama, and we never looked much at selective colleges so were not that familiar with the specific high school requirements for selective colleges. We are at a small school in a rural area, and very few students look at competitive private colleges, and so our school counselor isn’t even very familiar with the requirements.

I have another question: Is AP viewed more favorably than dual-enrollment? My son has taken Physical Science, Biology, Chem 1, Chem 2 (4 total credits). He planned on taking Chem 3 as a dual-credit course next year because he loves the Chemistry teacher and the subject, and it will give him 5 hours of credit w/ lab. The school also offers AP Physics. Will either the AP Physics or DE Chem (both weighted equally by school) be given the same weight by college admissions?

Same issue with English course for senior year. He is currently taking AP Lang. Next year he is going to take a dual-enrollment English. Is this ok instead of AP Lit?

Thank you all so much. Even with all the reading I’ve done over the past 5 years (and he is pretty good about looking into this as well!), it is still pretty overwhelming and I appreciate the feedback.

Selective colleges want to see a year each of bio, chem, and physics, plus one advanced classes. So no physics may be an issue.

As for AP vs DE, my own feeling is DE is fine for post-AP courses, but AP is preferred for the same-level , e.g. chem, since AP courses are a known commodity while DE quality varies by school.

For English though, since he is now taking AP Lang, I would be OK with DE English if it is a themed course - Shakespeare, American Drama, etc. But if it’s a general lit English 101 course, AP Lit is the better option IMO.

And be aware that DE credits likely will not transfer to ant OOS publics or to privates.


But adcoms aren’t assessing the quality of the DE college. It’s often not obvious.

In this case, I’d hesitate to rush to get both physics and chem. It’s nice to see that covered (and at the advanced level) but this is a humanities kid.

OP, you’ll need to consider both perspectives.

No, I mean he would do AP Physics INSTEAD of Chem 3. Absolutely not both!

Chem 3 is what he wants to take and had been planning on all along. Just not sure if that is seen as equal to AP courses. Our counselor has told us that since they are weighted equally by our school and our school views them as equal, that’s how colleges will view them. But I don’t know about that!

He has chem already, but does not yet have physics. So I would opt for AP Physics. But it also depends on what colleges other than UVA the kid is targeting.

Colleges want to see breadth as well; few are looking for HS kids to be specialists.

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While you generally want to take 4 years
of the core subjects including foreign language in high school it’s not a hard and fast rule.

My gap year D20 Duke kid only took two years of Spanish in high school (and the last year was taken in the summer not affiliated with the school.). But she also had a pretty rigorous schedule with 8 AP classes and 3 honors classs as well as a varsity sport, student board school district rep, and academic decathlon.

She also never took an AP science class other than AP environmental science as she had honors biology and honors chemistry and took a regular physics class at UCLA.

My point is that if the rest if your “resume” and application is strong it’s probably ok not to have all 4 years of one subject.

With that said, D now wants to take Spanish all 4 years in college so in hindsight it would have been good for her to have continued the progression all four years in high school.

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What is the general consensus on foreign language classes for students who speak a second language fluently at home? DC has 3 years with AP in 10th grade and a dual enrollment course in 11th. Would colleges still expect to see a foreign language class for 12th grade?