Friday, September 23, 2011

Foreign Language Waivers

Your blogger spent time this morning with the seniors at The Churchill School in New York City and their parents and counselors. Churchill is a terrific, New York State approved K-12 school on Manhattan's East Side for students with language based learning disabilities. Churchill wanted their seniors to have a chance to hear about the issues discussed in my book, Life After High School: A Guide for Students with Disabilities and Their Families, in time to put the information to use as they prepare their college applications.

One topic which was on the minds of many of the students and parents was how colleges deal with students who do not take a foreign language in high school. Churchill follows the New York State curriculum, but has a blanket waiver for all of its students to receive a "Regents" diploma (now the standard NY diploma) without taking foreign language courses. Since many colleges require their applicants to have taken a foreign language for admission, this raises concerns for these college-bound 12th graders. They also raised questions about what kind of language requirements they might face once they get to college.

There is no single answer to these concerns. Most colleges will accept a student who has been exempted from foreign language courses in high school because of learning or related difficulties, provided they receive an appropriate explanation for such waiver, such as a letter from the guidance counselor. However, these same schools may still require that students take a certain number of credits of a foreign language (or otherwise demonstrate proficiency, such as by taking and passing an advanced placement exam or SAT II exam). While a small number of schools may allow students to take a course in a country's culture or history as a substitute for foreign language, many schools have at least some majors that require students to demonstrate knowledge of a foreign language in order to graduate and some require all their students to demonstrate such knowledge.

Complicating matters is the fact that individual waivers of foreign language requirements at the college level are not determined until the student has accepted admission and paid a deposit, as is the case with all accommodations provided to students with documented disabilities. Students need to ask the college's Office of Disability Services about the general policies on foreign language and whether waivers are generally available. Although a student cannot get a specific answer ahead of time with respect to what he or she will be offered, schools can tell you what their policies have been and what has been offered to students with similar disabilities in the past. As with so many aspects of the college application process, especially for students with learning differences, thinking ahead is an important part of success.

1 comment:

  1. Learning a foreign language in a different country is very tough. I went to Italy few years back and admitted myself within a college and foreign language institute. Now as a student I've worked hard to learn foreign language where college and language training institute has not compromised anything during my learning years.