Many universities require two years of a single foreign language as a condition of admission in order to guarantee that students have a basic understanding of the language and can use it to communicate effectively. Highly competitive universities, such as Stanford University and Harvard University, usually ask for three or four years of foreign language classes in high school. It is important that these classes are taught in the same language, as universities prefer to see the mastery of one language rather than a superficial knowledge of several languages. Not all schools expect students to have the same number of years of studying a foreign language.
Some require or recommend two years; others ask for three. Many schools recommend that you really commit to the component during all four years of high school. Some schools, such as Wesleyan University and Wellesley College, allow you to use your AP foreign language scores for college credit or to place you in a higher-level university language class. Each college admissions office has different general education requirements, including foreign language requirements for the university.
Language proficiency is one of them. A growing number of highly select schools require students to attend foreign language classes, regardless of whether they have spent four years of foreign language in high school. Similarly, the School of Communication at Northwestern University requires university students to complete the third trimester of a second-year language sequence, earning a grade of C or higher. You might wonder how stringent the foreign language requirements are and if they are necessary, especially if they are recommended, rather than mandatory.
To help you meet the foreign language requirements, I will describe the expectations of different universities and liberal arts colleges, detail how admissions officers view this component, and offer tips to help you find ways to meet the requirement if it's not easily available to you. Other areas affecting foreign language learning have been found to include syntactic skills (using and understanding the grammatical rules of language), semantics (understanding the meaning and concepts of words) and the short-term memory needed to acquire and practice new linguistic demands. If you get a 4 or 5 on an AP language test, most universities will consider that evidence of adequate foreign language preparation for high school (and you'll likely earn course credit in college). In general, universities want to see the mastery of a foreign language, and they don't really care what language you study.
A student who enters high school with at least one year of foreign language credit in high school almost always has an advantage over students who didn't take advantage of the opportunity in high school. All of this would demonstrate initiative on your part, and admissions officers will appreciate your doing everything possible to ensure that you meet the foreign language requirements. Another alternative to taking foreign language classes is to apply mainly to universities that don't ask applicants to meet this requirement. If you currently have a degree, such as an associate degree, some universities may allow you to apply for an exemption from the foreign language entry requirement.
If your high school does not offer enough courses in a particular subject area or if you have learning difficulties that make it difficult for you to learn a new language quickly, there are other options available such as AP tests or exemptions from certain courses. To sum up, attending a foreign language school requires some preparation on your part. You should research what each university requires for admission and make sure that you meet those requirements before applying. Additionally, if your high school does not offer enough courses in a particular subject area or if you have learning difficulties that make it difficult for you to learn a new language quickly, there are other options available such as AP tests or exemptions from certain courses.