Will Two Years of Latin Suffice at Admissions Time?

Question: My daughter will have two years of Latin at the end of her sophomore year of high school. She has an "A" for all four semesters, and scored a Silver on the National Latin Exam. Her school is no longer offering Latin 3. Do all colleges accept Latin as meeting the foreign language requirement? And will only taking two years hurt her at admissions time? Her school says they will put a letter in with her transcript saying that the school does not offer Latin 3.

“The Dean" always likes to start with the good news. So, yes, all colleges definitely accept Latin as a foreign language. But the bad news is that applying with only two years of language on her transcript could disadvantage your daughter at the more selective colleges, which typically expect three years of foreign language (but often “prefer" four).

Now, if “The Dean" ruled the admissions world, I would be quick to tell my selection-committee comrades, “This poor girl had expected to take three years of Latin to fulfill her college language requirement, but then her school pulled the rug out from under her by no longer offering Latin 3. So she should get a waiver for the additional language study."

The real college folks, however, can be far less understanding than I am at admissions time. And if your daughter is aiming at any hyper-competitive colleges, she would be wise to start a new language in the fall. Although colleges much prefer three or four years of the same language — rather than two and two — in this case, they will recognize that your daughter had little choice. If she likes language, however (and she does seem to be good at it), she could also consider taking the first year of a new language this summer (at a local college, through an on-campus enrichment program, even online, etc.) which would then allow her to complete three years before she graduates.

If your daughter decides instead to forego additional language study, it is possible that applying with just two years could work against her at some colleges, despite the extenuating circumstances and the explanation provided to admission officials by her school. But, if she were my child, I might take that chance anyway, depending largely on the logistics of starting a new language as a junior and the scheduling snafus that it could spawn. Yet, on the other hand, because your daughter already has a solid foundation in Latin, it would benefit her (even beyond the admission demands) to put those skills toward learning a new Romance language — perhaps Spanish or French — that will not only meet the college requirements but also provide her with the pleasure and pluses of communicating with others for whom English is a foreign tongue and for decades to come.