Is this true -- 4 years of foreign language in high school?

Your child can go through AP Spanish Language and be considered done as far as adcoms go.
If he is interested, he can continue with Community College or local 4-year College classes, looking at upper-200 and 300 level classes. Or he could start a new foreign language (French, Italian, Latin would be the easiest because they’d be closest to Spanish; Russian, Chinese, Arabic would be the most difficult). However that wouldn’t be necessary for college admission purpose.

I can’t believe how many people are confused by this. Yes, the foreign language you take in middle school counts toward your high school total.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people to be confused. How would people know that middle school choices could have effects on high school transcripts. Not all middle schools do a good job of explaining this to parents and students. In fact my daughter dealt with the ramifications of elementary school math class choices that later affected her high school curriculum. It’s bonkers that choices people make in elementary school and middle school could have such profound effects later. When do kids just get to be kids instead of worrying about having the
perfect high school transcript.

When we moved across the country when my daughter was in 7th grade the counselor didn’t tell us that by my daughter not continuing Spanish and also moving to a different math level would have negative impacts once she started high school. At the time we were trying to make life easier for our kid because it was a hard move. My daughter didn’t like Spanish so she opted to not take it in 8th. While she did just fine in her honors math class before the move she liked the idea of moving to a different math level to try and make things less stressful at school.

Then she gets to high school where we find out had she continued with Spanish in middle school she could have completed it sooner and allow for more room for other classes. Had she continued on the honors math track it would have set her better as well for her goal.

She’s off to college in the fall and all is well but we are both bitter about the lack of guidance we received.


At our high school (~50% latinx) there are separate AP Spanish language classes for native and non-native speakers with about 50-60 non-native speakers doing AP Spanish language each year. But no more than 3-5 non-native speakers go on to AP Spanish literature each year. It was the hardest course my kids did in high school, as the rest of the class were all native speakers and understanding the nuances of the literature required a lot of adjustment. On the other hand, the teacher was great, it was easy to get a 5 on the AP test, and I’m sure it looked good on college applications.

Non-native speakers who’ve done Spanish in middle school started with Spanish 2 or 3, depending on teacher recommendations, then do Spanish 3 and 4 before AP Spanish language (unlike other languages where starting from scratch you’d have a choice of eg French 4 or AP French in senior year). So you only have the chance to do AP Spanish Lit if you started in Spanish 3 freshman year, but even then the majority of those with the option of Lit don’t do it.

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OP here,

Our district has recently moved to requiring 4 years of math taken in high school, as opposed to 4 years of high school math. So, for example, my kid is taking Alg. 1 this fall. In theory he’ll go to high school with a transcript showing Alg. 1, Geo, and Alg 2. The grades will count towards his GPA, and the credits will But he will still need 4 more years of math. Fortunately, they offer enough options that he’ll be fine there.

So, it’s easy to see how the idea that courses need to be taken “in high school” might get started.

I’ve also heard it said that dropping a language, when there’s more that you can take, means you don’t get that “most rigorous” or whatever check on your counselor recommendation, unless you replaced it with something else equally challenging.

So, I think there’s probably some nuance to it, but that “there weren’t any more Spanish classes to take” is probably an acceptable reason not to take more Spanish classes.


For college admissions, foreign language is unique in that respect. For all other core subjects, for most colleges, the recommendation is for years taken in HS.

As well it should be. But the is no common rubric as to what is “most challenging.” That Is set by the GC/HS/district.


Math is a semi-exception, since it is semi-leveled*, and some accelerated-in-math students use up their available math offerings before 12th grade. But also, listing “4 years of math” as a “recommendation” instead of a “requirement” by some colleges gives them discretionary wiggle room to admit a clearly strong-in-math applicant who has used up the available math offerings early.

*For example, UC allow frosh applicants to validate algebra 1 with algebra 2, and validate algebra 1 and 2 with statistics, precalculus, or calculus, even if the lower level course(s) being validated are absent from the high school record.

Hence my using “most colleges” as a qualifier. UCs also allow English validation, but most colleges, and most high schools, want English each year regardless of credits already earned.

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Actually, not with high school courses. However, some standardized tests may fulfill part or all of the requirement (this is true for other subject requirements as well).

The details: Subject requirement (A-G) | UC Admissions

I don’t think I had even read your comment. Just stating a fact based on conversations with numerous admissions officers and college counselors. As I’ve done numerous times in the past.

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My kid’s school is a K-12 that permits language instruction beginning in 7th grade; it shows on the permanent transcript. Due to some previous knowledge, 7th was Spanish/French 2, 8th was Spanish/French 3, 9th Spanish 4 (French no longer offered), 10th will be AP Spanish. (No year 6 AP Lit at the school, but that course is best for linguistic geniuses/native speakers.)

If accelerating in high school languages/maths in middle school, then yes, as mentioned above, these grades count. And you need to consider your path for the next 6 years of school, not 4.

As @Picklenut6 mentions, many students in the U.S. don’t get clear enough instructions about academic pathways, IMHO (speaking as a parent that didn’t go though the U.S. educational system).

Acceleration can be good or bad. Good in that it frees up classes in junior/senior year for more depth in course work (if you have a high school with such courses, or do dual-enrollment community college courses).

It’s bad in two ways: first, if you can’t keep up the grades. Due to test-optional being an increasing thing, maintaining high grades is pretty much crucial for students who want to apply to competitive schools with competitive programs.

Second, if you run out of courses too early (not so much an issue for languages as math). Can be hard to find continued upper-level courses that fit your kid’s schedule.

Also, not all programs really care about 4 years of foreign language - depending on the school and program. The OP’s kid is young, so knowing what they want to study in college and at what school is premature.

@Sportsball, you are not stupid for asking this question. I have gone through years of frustration trying to figure this out for my kid after they transitioned to their current school in 5th grade. Dealt with them being enrolled in the wrong coursework for their abilities. Took time to straighten out.


I think you are overestimating the language proficiency of a heritage speaker. There is a huge range. You can have a native speaker who has been raised in the language and has even attended school in their home country, or the child of immigrants who socializes in the language but has never had any formal instruction, or the second or third generation child for whom the language is something the elders speak but not kids their age. That native speaker maybe struggling to learn English, so coasting in Spanish may be just right for them. Maybe that child of immigrants is familiar with a regional or low socioeconomic variety of the language which is not what is taught at schools, and has zero academic knowledge of the language. Maybe the third generation kid is as clueless as the kid whose grandparents only speak English.
Of course you may also have the child of highly educated native speakers who has been consistently read to in their language, who moves seamlessly between the family language and English, who travels back to the home country to visit family and to spend vacations there. Or the child with one parent who speaks the language but whose family language is English because the other parent doesn’t. This child maybe very, somewhat, or not at all familiar with the language. Please pray tell me how an admissions officer can tell who is coasting by taking high school classes in their heritage language.