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What will colleges think of computer programming as a foreign language?


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We are working on DS14's 4-year plan for high school. Our high school will allow you to take computer programming instead of a traditional foreign language, but we aren't sure what colleges will think about it. We did call BYU (current #1 choice) and they wouldn't really give a straight answer but said they look at the student's application in totality 🙃. University of Texas website does say computer science is acceptable as a foreign language, so maybe this is becoming more common. Any experience with this? 

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I can't imagine that, but it sounds like something they are considering in some schools.  I think the Admissions people would find the lack of a Foreign Language extremely strange and I think when my DD was applying to universities that most or all of them required several years of a Foreign Language.

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BYU specifically states that it wants 2+ years of a "foreign language."  Since BYU is known for its foreign language programs, I would go on the assumption that when they say "foreign language," what they mean is a language that humans use to interact with other humans.  In fact, I would assume this for any school with a foreign language requirement unless they specifically state otherwise.

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I've seen this come up a few times in the past on these boards. It seems like the answer is that "it depends."

A few schools allow this, esp. if the student is going into Computer Science.

However, from what I recall of past threads, the vast majority of colleges still seem to want and expect standard Foreign Language credits (such as Latin, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, etc.). Most colleges accept ASL (American Sign Language) as foreign language credits, but a few don't, so double check if you go that route. The last I saw, Latin was accepted as a foreign language by every college except the Airforce Academy. That may have since changed, as it has been several years since "Latin as a foreign language" has been discussed on these boards.

As always, YMMV, depending on what college the student decides to attend. AND... college policies can CHANGE from one year to the next, so even if the University of Texas accepts it now, in 3-4 years they may have changed their policy. So it is a bit of a roll of the dice to plan on Computer Programming counting as Foreign Language this far out from high school graduation.

One way to speed up taking a Foreign Language is through dual enrollment (DE) with your local community college. 1 SEMESTER of college foreign language = 1 YEAR / 1 CREDIT of high school foreign language. So in 2 semesters of DE, you can knock out the usual requirement of 2 credits of Foreign Language.

BEST of luck as you start planning for high school and college! Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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Thanks, y'all. It sounded weird to me so wanted to make sure before we decide to go that route. Maybe it's a Texas thing? Texas A&M also says they will accept it. We will definitely consider dual enrollment. Lots to think about. 

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Our state allows this for high school graduation, but specifically says that many colleges prefer a foreign language, and that the state flagships require 1 year of foreign language in college, but waive that requirement for students who study two years of the same foreign language in high school. 

It would not be an admission requirement for the state flagships here, but they are not competitive schools like in some states.  

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I found that lots of schools near me are dropping the FL requirement,  if other academic electives are taken in their place.  Some accept computers or ASL, too.  I have a kid with APD, and had already decided that ASL was the only one I would consider for her, so was very happy to see them drop it. 

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None of the universities my DS applied to considered CS to be a foreign language.
 

Also none cared that he, as a CS major, took only two years of an actual foreign language (Latin) in high school. 

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Follow-on to my previous comment. Let us assume that a college or university would accept a course in a Programming Language as a "Foreign Language" which apparently some schools will do.

How would they do that?  One Unit for Python? Three Units for the "C" programming language?  Six Units for Assembly Language (I began with Assembly Language).

There are a lot of differences between computer languages regarding their complexity and that impacts the level of rigor and the time required to complete a course.

The other side of this is that many schools require a semester or year overseas and that having the ability, even limited ability, to communicate in a foreign language can give one power and/or more opportunities.  For example. In South Florida it would be difficult for someone who doesn't speak Spanish to get many good jobs.  One of my late friends came from a European country. When his company was preparing to begin operations there, they brought him along to translate. 

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Our state has general admission requirements that most of the colleges and universities in our state hold to, and 2 years of computer science classes can be taken in lieu of 2 years of a foreign language. They list 7 or 8 specific classes that qualify, so it can’t be just any programming. It had never crossed my mind that one equaled the other until I read it on their website. 

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55 minutes ago, melbotoast said:

Thanks for sharing, everyone. It sounds like it may be possible but would definitely limit options. So, we're making him take Spanish 🙂

If you do it as dual enrollment, you can wait until 11th/12th grade, AND it will count towards any possible college degree foreign language requirement AND it will be an opportunity to "dip a toe in the water" of a college level class in advance of college... 😉 

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21 hours ago, melbotoast said:

Thanks for sharing, everyone. It sounds like it may be possible but would definitely limit options. So, we're making him take Spanish 🙂

Good choice! My oldest is about to graduate with a degree in CS and he still needed to complete a certain number of foreign language credits in college on top of the requirements for admission. He studied hard and got a high score on the Spanish CLEP and tested out of the foreign language requirement and was very pleased not to have to take those in college and to have room for more CS and math courses instead 🙂

I can't imagine jumping into a new language with no prior experience at a colelge level pace!

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1 hour ago, Momto6inIN said:

...I can't imagine jumping into a new language with no prior experience at a colelge level pace!

😬 Both DSs did it that way -- 12th grade DE for Spanish (DS#1) and ASL (DS#2) -- they both did great! However, I wouldn't recommend it for younger high school ages unless it is a mature student who understands how to study AND has a good instructor for the college level DE course... 😉 

Edited by Lori D.
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On 2/28/2021 at 5:57 PM, melbotoast said:

Thanks, y'all. It sounded weird to me so wanted to make sure before we decide to go that route. Maybe it's a Texas thing? Texas A&M also says they will accept it. We will definitely consider dual enrollment. Lots to think about. 

My son is an 8th grader starting to plan for high school and yes, the high school says Computer Science can meet the foreign language requirement. I just told my son that the school might allow it, but his parents want him to take either Spanish or French (And we strongly prefer Spanish because it will have immediate practice in the local area plus possibilities to go to Honduras and learn in a more native environment).

 

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11 minutes ago, vonfirmath said:

My son is an 8th grader starting to plan for high school and yes, the high school says Computer Science can meet the foreign language requirement. I just told my son that the school might allow it, but his parents want him to take either Spanish or French (And we strongly prefer Spanish because it will have immediate practice in the local area plus possibilities to go to Honduras and learn in a more native environment).

That will also help increase your options when you look ahead to college admissions. 😄

As you reach the high school years, you will also want to start looking ahead to what credits are typically required by colleges to have been completed in high school in order for the student to be eligible for admission to college.

Most colleges require between 2-4 years (credits) of foreign language to have been done in high school. Some colleges will allow that foreign language to be Computer Programming as a foreign language, but most still want credits in a traditional foreign language.

And then there is the completely separate issue later on of college degrees that require credits of college-level foreign language as part of the total credits needed to earn the 4-year college degree... 😉 

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9 minutes ago, Lori D. said:

That will also help increase your options when you look ahead to college admissions. 😄

As you reach the high school years, you will also want to start looking ahead to what credits are typically required by colleges to have been completed in high school in order for the student to be eligible for admission to college.

Most colleges require between 2-4 years (credits) of foreign language to have been done in high school. Some colleges will allow that foreign language to be Computer Programming as a foreign language, but most still want credits in a traditional foreign language.

And then there is the completely separate issue later on of college degrees that require credits of college-level foreign language as part of the total credits needed to earn the 4-year college degree... 😉 

We are just quietly keeping that in our back pocket. DS thinks he already has a full scholarship to a college in Colorado because of a text sent during a seminar he went to last year (before coronavirus). I think he's VERY confused. Colleges don't give out full scholarships to 7th graders like that and I haven't seen ANYTHING from the college other than the supposed text. If he's still interested in the college as he gets closer is enough time to sort out what is actually going on. (Maybe they said something like full scholarships are available? He's very able to hear what he wants to hear!)  in the meantime, we'll make choices that keep his options open.

 

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My 15-year-old is officially not going to have a second year of a foreign language.  
 

We already expect him to attend a local school where it will be fine for admission.

 

He will need to take 3 semesters of a foreign language for college, but I have looked at degree plans and it looks like it will be possible.  
 

It also looks like he could do a study abroad foreign language program offered by the local school, and complete the foreign language requirement that way.

 

He did not do very well in his previous study and has no motivation for it, so I think he can decide later on what he wants to do about it.  
 

I looked at Spanish and it would be 5 hours for the first two semesters and the 3 hours for the 3rd semester, at the local school.  

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