When Emily was a junior in high school, she got her hands on a copy of Jacques Steinberg's "The Gatekeepers," a book about the admissions process at Wesleyan University, a premier, private U.S. college. When Emily finished reading the story, which follows a group of applicants through their senior year of high school, she was deflated.
"Thanks a lot," she said to her parents. "We don't have a unique ethnic background, you didn't make me learn how to play an obscure instrument and no one in the family has had a life-threatening disease. I'll never get into college."
She was a good student with strong SAT scores. She also played sports, edited the school newspaper and had her eye on Georgetown University.
Meanwhile, Andrew, also an academically strong and active student with a gift for languages, spent his summers traveling to French-speaking African countries and began learning Arabic. Like Emily, Andrew also hoped to go to Georgetown.
Andrew got in, but Emily was denied admission. Did Andrew's foreign language skills give him the edge, or was he admitted for some other reason?
We can start to answer that question by looking to the decision makers. Admissions officers are faced with the task of narrowing the pool of applicants to those students they believe will succeed in college -- and beyond. They're also charged with the responsibility of building a diverse class of students, all of whom should be the "right fit" for their particular institution. They base their decisions on more than the requisite transcripts and test scores. Yet, transcripts and test scores, the key elements in all college application folders, may stand out more if a student has studied a second language.
In this article, you'll learn how studying a foreign language can pay off in the college application process in ways that you may not realize, and you'll see the more obvious benefits of speaking more than one language in the real world.