Head to Head: The Cons of Taking A World Language


Head to Head Reporters Bill Lewis (left) and Ella Smullen (right) share their views on taking world language classes.

Bill Lewis, Reporter

Head to Head is where two reporters take opposite sides of a topic and give their side of it. In this edition, Reporters Ella Smullen and Bill Lewis debate the pros and cons of taking a world language in high school.

World languages are typically a quintessential piece of the high school curriculum. Most students take a language for a year or two to meet the requirements for college admissions. However, I haven’t taken a language class, and while I’ve thought about it, I’m not sure I’ll end up taking one.  

My path to college is different than most. I plan on going to art school, rather than a standard university. Admissions are very different, mainly due to the portfolio requirement at most art schools, which typically is the main factor deciding whether or not you get in. Many of them do not require any world language credits. Instead, they prefer that you focus as much as possible on the arts while in high school to prepare yourself for higher education at an art school. I’ve chosen to follow that route; I traded in taking the next level of Spanish after middle school for a graphic design course and  to work on various projects around the school instead.

As far as my research goes, the many art classes I take and the projects I do should boost my likelihood of getting into top art schools if I keep that with my schedule. 

Not everyone’s situation is the same as mine, however. Many students here plan on getting into competitive and/or Ivy League schools. That is the choice they’ve made, and they have to take specific steps to make themselves more competitive to the admissions offices at those colleges. 

One way they do this is by taking a world language. For example, MIT requires taking a language for a minimum of two years in high school, and Harvard recommends taking one all four years. This leads students to take a world language to stay as competitive as other applicants.  

However, I find that in order to stay competitive with the colleges I want to go to, I should try to take at least one art class every year, take AP Art junior and senior year, and submit my work into various competitions and publications to earn accolades. These types of paths in high school aren’t uncommon at all. For example, if I wanted to get into a good chemistry program, I would take AP Chemistry, join Science Club, aim for high scores in Science Olympiad, and keep high grades. 

Ultimately, the choice to take a language is yours; however, the impact on your admission chances at any given school varies greatly. Personally, I’d rather focus on other areas that align with my post-secondary goals rather than take a world language.