How Many Years Of A Foreign Language Do I Need For College?

Counselors are often asked the following questions regarding the study of a foreign language in high school. Below each question, are the comments and opinions of various high school/ college counselors and college administration officers with whom we have interacted:

  • How many years of foreign language do colleges want to see?

    More depth is always better than dabbling. Colleges want continuity and depth in foreign languages. They are also looking for the ability to read the foreign language at the most elevated level.

  • How many years of foreign language are recommended by competitive colleges?

    To selective colleges, it means nothing to meet the "minimum" requirement. They are also looking for students who enthusiastically exceed the minimum. For most selective schools, the "minimum" will leave a student at a distinct disadvantage in competition with those who strive to go beyond every expectation.

    Students aiming for the most competitive colleges should have a minimum of four years of the same foreign language.

  • Is it better to take two years each of two different languages or four years of the same language?

    One should focus more on the outcome she/he wants from the study of a foreign language and less on satisfying a requirement. Colleges prefer four years of a foreign language because one needs four years in order to become conversant in the language and fully appreciate the literature.

  • What about three years of one language and one of another?

    For purposes of college admissions, taking only one year of a foreign language is almost worthless.

    Dropping a foreign language in one's senior year is heavily discouraged. If it is offered in one's high school, colleges will want to see it on the transcript. The most competitive colleges view sincere interest in the language and devotion to study as the best plan.

  • Is is sufficient to take the two years of foreign language required for a high school diploma?

    Three to four years of one foreign language is preferable to two years each of two languages. The true benefits and rewards of language study do no evidence themselves until the third year of study.