Does my bilingual teen need to take a Spanish class to get into college?

Question: My daughter is a native Spanish speaker; she also can write and read. It seems that most colleges require at least two years of a foreign language.

Will it be better for her to enroll in the Spanish class (it’s the only language the school offers) just to show she took it or can she get any kind of statement for college explaining she is bilingual?

Answer: Your question is a great one that offers a couple viable options for you and your daughter to explore together. The first option is to inquire with the admissions office of the college of her choice to see if they will allow her to submit a statement from her local high school administration regarding her level of subject mastery along with a personal request to consider her for advanced standing.

The easiest point of initial contact is for her to speak directly to the admissions counselor specifically assigned to her high school or home county or, in the case of an out-of-state university, the admissions rep who has been pre-assigned to work with prospective students to their school from your state. They can start the ball rolling for you and then direct you from there as needed.

The college will most likely require additional documentation (typically forwarded by your daughter’s high school counselor/registrar) as well as an authorized signature from you, as her parent. My motto is, “We won’t know if we don’t ask,” and, in this day of schools increasingly trying to meet the needs of their current and prospective students through new and innovative means, many options are available that may not have been in the past.

If her college of choice is not able to consider what is sometimes referred to as “relevant life experience” as justification to waive an academic requirement, then your second option is to have your daughter register to take a Spanish language College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) test offered by The College Board.

CLEP is the most widely accepted credit-by-exam program currently utilized in the U.S. and is relatively inexpensive for all fees and study materials in comparison to paying for a full semester or year of tuition and books for a course that she already knows and has mastered.

Currently more than 2,900 colleges nationwide participate in granting undergraduate academic credit for CLEP test-takers and tests are available in 34 college-level introductory subjects at designated testing centers around the country. You can view enrollment information and get all the details online at the College Board.

One final note: Regardless of the route she ultimately takes, please make certain that your daughter’s resume clearly indicates that she is a fluent, bilingual speaker and also be certain to note any advanced course consideration that is ultimately granted by the university, either by official waiver or via a credit-by-exam process.

As I often tell my clients and their families, “They aren’t going to know what you have accomplished if we don’t tell them!” I hope these suggestions help and wish you both the best of luck in pursuing the best possible outcome for your daughter’s future.

About the Author

Jill G. Howell, M.A. Ed. is a certified school counselor and the president and founder of N2College Nationwide Consulting, a full-service scholarship funding consultancy established in 2005 that specializes in working with clients in eighth grade through graduate school and their families to customize effective college admissions, scholarship funding and pre-career planning programs. She can be reached at 1-877-PLANNER- or email:


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