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Foreign Languages & College Admissions: What You Need to Know

In today's globalized world, learning a foreign language has become more than just a skill—it's a key to unlocking a world of opportunities, especially when it comes to job searching and college admissions. High school students who study a foreign language not only enhance their personal and academic lives but also increase their chances of gaining admission to top colleges and universities. In this blog, we will explore the general benefits of learning a language in high school, the specific advantages it offers for college admissions, and which languages may be most advantageous for certain industries.

General Benefits of Learning a Language in High School

Improved Cognition:

Learning a foreign language can improve cognitive functions such as memory, problem-solving, and critical thinking. It exercises the brain and helps students become more agile learners. The act of learning a language involves understanding grammar rules, memorizing vocabulary, and practicing pronunciation, all of which contribute to overall brain development. The cognitive benefits of language study go beyond linguistic capabilities, giving students the dedication and planning skills necessary to succeed in other academic subjects as well.

Cultural Awareness:

Studying a foreign language exposes students to new cultures, traditions, and perspectives. It fosters empathy and open-mindedness, creating culturally sensitive individuals. Learning about another culture's history, literature, and customs allows students to see the world from different angles. This cultural awareness is essential nowadays as most companies have a global element.

Enhanced Communication:

Language learning improves verbal and nonverbal communication skills, making students more effective and confident communicators in their native language as well. Multilingual individuals often possess better listening skills and are adept at interpreting nonverbal cues, such as body language and facial expressions. This heightened communication ability extends to all aspects of life, including academic discussions, job interviews, and interpersonal relationships.

Expanded Career Opportunities:

In our globalized world, businesses value multilingual employees who can communicate with international partners and customers. Foreign language skills enhance career prospects in various fields, including business, diplomacy, healthcare, and education. Companies with an international presence seek employees who can bridge language gaps and establish meaningful connections with clients and stakeholders from different linguistic backgrounds.

Personal Growth and Empowerment:

Language learning is a transformative experience that brings a sense of accomplishment and empowerment. High school students who master a foreign language gain confidence in their abilities to tackle challenges, giving them the foundation for future success in academia and beyond. Language proficiency allows individuals to explore diverse cultures firsthand, encouraging curiosity and a thirst for knowledge.

Specific Benefits of Taking a Language for College Admissions

Demonstrated Dedication:

Colleges seek applicants who demonstrate dedication and commitment to their studies. Taking a foreign language throughout high school shows persistence and discipline, appealing to admissions officers. Admissions committees recognize the effort and time invested in language study, seeing it as a testament to a student's motivation and ability to follow through on long-term goals.

Competitive Edge:

A strong foreign language background sets applicants apart from their peers, especially when applying to highly selective colleges. It signals intellectual curiosity and a desire to broaden one's horizons. As colleges aim to build diverse and culturally aware communities, students with language proficiency bring unique perspectives that enrich the campus experience for all.

Language Proficiency as a College Requirement:

Harvard, Yale, UPenn, Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth, Brown all recommend four full years of foreign language education in high school. Other big names like MIT, Stanford, and Columbia also recommend two or more years of foreign education before college, and many other colleges have language requirements for specific majors or as part of their core curriculum. Having prior language study can fulfill these requirements and give students a head start in their college journey. Moreover, language skills can increase the possibilities for international study abroad programs, opening opportunities for immersive cultural experiences.

Broadening Academic Interests:

Language study can lead to interdisciplinary interests, such as international relations, linguistics, or literature, which can add depth to an applicant's academic profile. High school students who explore the cultural, historical, and artistic aspects of a language gain a deeper appreciation for the world's many rich histories.

Choosing the Right Language

What Language Should I Learn?

Colleges generally look for language proficiency in general, and do not care too much about which foreign language is studied. Commonly offered languages include Spanish, French, German, Mandarin, and Latin. However, students should prioritize their interests when choosing a language. Exploring less commonly taught languages can also be a unique way to stand out in college applications. It should be noted, some languages are more suited for certain fields of study, including some of the ones mentioned below.

Languages for Specific Industries:


German, Japanese and Chinese are valuable choices for students interested in international business, as Germany, Japan, and China are significant players in the global economy. Also, according to the United States Census Bureau, all three countries are in the top five trading partners with the United States. Proficiency in these languages can lead to exciting career opportunities with multinational corporations and trade organizations.


Latin and Greek can be beneficial for law students since many legal terms and phrases have roots in Latin and Greek. Familiarity with Latin, in particular, aids in understanding legal jargon and improves critical thinking skills required in the legal profession.


Spanish language skills can be beneficial for aspiring healthcare professionals, considering the significant number of Spanish-speaking patients in the United States (over 40 million people spoke Spanish at home as of 2019). Healthcare providers who can communicate effectively with diverse patients can better establish trust and deliver better care.


Arabic, Russian, and Chinese are valuable languages for students aspiring to work in diplomatic roles. Diplomats who speak these languages can engage in effective communication with foreign counterparts and navigate international negotiations with ease.

Cultural and Personal Relevance:

Choosing a language that aligns with personal interests and future goals is crucial. High school students should consider their career goals, potential study abroad opportunities, and the cultural significance of a language when making their decision.

Learning a foreign language in high school can open a world of possibilities for students aiming to excel in college admissions and beyond. Beyond the cognitive and cultural advantages, language study enhances communication skills and career opportunities. The language chosen may depend on individual interests or align with specific industries of interest. Ultimately, language proficiency showcases a student's dedication and intellectual curiosity, making them stand out to college admissions officers. By embracing foreign language study, high school students can embark on a rewarding journey of personal growth and academic achievement, positioning themselves for success in the competitive college admissions landscape.

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