Every spring I get many inquiries from my clients about “what is the real deal on what colleges look for on a transcript in terms of foreign languages”. Usually the question is coming from a student (or her parent) who is looking to bail out of a foreign language in his/her senior year. Without hesitation, I reply that they must have (if they are applying to selective colleges) three years of the same language in high school. (In other words, that year of 8th grade Spanish doesn’t count in this three year tally.)
Sometimes my reply elicits a hoot or a pumped fist until I ask what they would like to take instead. When I say that study hall and basket weaving are not viable substitutes the mood quickly changes. A viable substitute would need to be another course in one of the other four core subjects (English, Math, Science or Social Studies).
There is often confusion over what is required in terms of course selection versus what is recommended. For example, many high schools require two years of a foreign language as a graduation requirement. This doesn’t mean that colleges only want to see two years. The graduation requirements are next to meaningless for college admissions, the college standards are usually more rigorous and it is these recommendations that matter when competing for a place at a competitive college.