Preparing for College

Does Fluency in Multiple Languages Count as Exceptional Talent?

Question How helpful is fluency in multiple languages in the admissions process? I read an article in “Journal of Higher Ed” breaking down this at elite schools. It seems like the “exceptional talent” category is often viewed as all or nothing. Meaning one’s exceptional talent either elevates one into a separate category or does not. Recruited athlete & accomplished musician are the usual examples. Does fluency in four languages (including English) in itself count as “exceptional talent” for someone with excellent grades/scores and extracurriculars?

Fluency in multiple languages would be a tick in the plus column but probably not a huge one … i.e., not on “exceptional talent” turf. But the size of that “tick” would depend on a couple factors:

-Which languages are we talking about … those that are frequently found on “elite” campuses or less common ones?

-How did the applicant acquire these languages? In other words, does he or she have an unusual story to tell?

Moreover, a student who is also “fluent” in the culture that is tied to these tongues will be of greater interest to admission officials than one who simply studied a range of languages. Sure, college folks do value the student who pursues an academic passion. So, if a candidate with a love of languages has taken enrichment classes outside of school or has self-studied, this will lead to the aforementioned plus-column tick. But, at the most hyper-selective schools, it’s not that rare to find polyglots in the applicant pools.

(posted 6/3/2012)