Degrees, Foreign Languages, and Life Lessons

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I love learning new information. And, I am intentional about sharing that information with parents so they can be empowered and help their learners move closer toward the best, well-informed decisions about their future.

Yesterday I called a college in the State of Florida to get some answers. In the process of talking with an advisor in the Bachelor's Degree office, I learned some new tidbits about degrees and foreign language. The information below relates to all students, unless specifically mentioned as pertaining to homeschooled graduates. 

1. The AS degree is considered a terminal degree. The goal is to provide the graduate with enough career specific content and skills to enter the workforce without continued education.

2. The State of Florida requires 36 General Education semester hours for the AA and BA, but not for the AS. If the student obtains an AS degree and then decides to transfer to another college to earn a BA or BS degree, additional General Education hours may have to be taken in addition to the degree requirements. 

3. The General Education credits required for the AS are reduced in order to make room for career specific content. For example, the AS degree our family is researching requires only one semester of English (as opposed to two) and no foreign language coursework. In addition, College Algebra is not required for the AS of our interest (check the AS of interest as this may vary per career field). 

4. Foreign language is required for AA and Bachelor's degrees in Florida. However, we were personally told by the Office for Students with Disabilities at Valencia this requirement may be waived by an appeal process IF the student with documented disabilities enrolls in a course, demonstrates disability, and successfully wins an appeal for course substitution. When I asked the representative at the college I contacted yesterday about whether an AA appeal would stand should the AA graduate then transfer to a four-year university to continue post-secondary study toward a BS or BA, the advisor said the decision would rest with the institution conferring the bachelor's. At her college, the student would be required to take the foreign language before being awarded the BS or BA.  In other words, the foreign language though waived for the AA, would have to be taken later at the college or university granting the BS or BA. For students with diagnosed learning differences, this question would need to be posed to the Office of Student Disabilities at the college or university granting the BS or BA. This is one of those decisions which could be college specific. (Updated 11-3-2018: Read Florida State University’s policy here).

5. While I had the advisor on the phone, I asked questions about foreign language as this is always a debated topic in homeschooling circles and I want to stay current. How universities handle foreign language varies per institution and policies can change. Therefore, I specifically asked if they accepted high school foreign language credit to waive the college language requirement for the AA. She hesitated and responded, "It depends." I then specifically asked whether two years of foreign language with FLVS would be used to satisfy the college requirement and she said yes without hesitation (which has been our experience with two other home ed grads). All other methods of learning foreign language would be evaluated by the institution. Once transferring with the AA to the institution granting the BS or BA, the high school transcript would re-evaluated, specifically determining where the foreign language was taken. If this could not be validated to their satisfaction, the student would have to take the foreign language before earning the BS or BA, even though the student earned the AA. We personally experienced this with one of our learners. Valencia verified the language was taken in high school (we used FLVS) for the AA requirement and when our son transferred to UCF to move toward the BA, they contacted us and verified our two years of FLVS.  

At the end of the phone conversation, I had several takeaways. The most important takeaway reinforced what I knew: 


High school foreign language decisions follow our learners through the college years. 


Seems weighty. It does to me anyway (and I've graduated three with another two close behind; they are all different). However, this statement doesn't have to keep me fearful that we (parent and young adult) will make wrong decisions. Instead, the information can empower us. With what we know information can be discuss, options can be considered, questions can be asked, and we can weigh future implications to make the best decisions we can at any given time, for each learner. This statement also reminds us that in our temporary inconveniences (not liking an instructor or a delivery method) we must consider long-term consequences (not completing a course may affect us later). 

That's a life lesson which reaches beyond degrees and foreign languages.

It's real-life learning! 

Looking for more information about foreign languages? Consider these blog posts. 

Foreign Language: Questions You Need to Ask

Foreign Language: What Homeschoolers Need to Know

Foreign Language: Which Language

Dual Enrollment? Not So Fast

College Admission Requirements for Home Educated Students

As stated in this post, information changes—sometimes rapidly. Here are some links to updates you may find helpful (updated 11-3-2018).

Florida State University’s 2018-2019 Foreign Language Policy for their College of Arts and Sciences

University of Central Florida Foreign Language Proficiency Requirement (Bachelor of Arts Degree)

University of North Florida’s 2018-2019 Foreign Language Requirement for Bachelor of Arts Degree

University of Florida College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Graduation Requirements and CLAS Foreign Language Requirement

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Foreign Language in High School: Which Language?

In part I of this series we discussed what homeschoolers need to know about foreign language. 

In part II I offered common questions homeschoolers may need to ask. 

In this final part of the series, I will offer insights on how to determine what language to pursue. Again, understand all young adult's, their calling, and their career goals are unique. Not all of these tips will apply to every student and there are likely some you will uncover as you research and walk the journey with your young adult. 

Why do some colleges require more than one year of language? This is a great question! Highly-selective schools will require or recommend more years of language for their applicants. Part of the reason colleges seek more than one year of a foreign language is an understanding that the first year of foreign language is foundational, introductory work. The second, third, and fourth years generally dig deep into advanced conversation, writing, and even analysis. Of course, there are always exceptions to this thought. 

Can the student switch language course of study? Most colleges want two, three, or even four years of language study, often in the same language. Sometimes, however, students will complete one year of one language and then switch to another language. This is usually acceptable IF the student then continues at least two consecutive years (some college prefer three) in the same language. Again, this is an area which is often university specific, so ask questions as early as possible. 

Do colleges have a preference as to what languages are taken? In our experiences, most colleges have no requirements as to which languages they prefer students take. Again, there may be a rare situation out there somewhere, so do your homework! 

Are there expectations as to content of foreign language courses? Colleges know languages are hard. That is part of the reason they require language study. Colleges also expect comprehensive course content. 

What are some factors which could be considered as a student decides which language to pursue? Students who know what career field they want to enter should consider a language which would be beneficial to their future. For example, a student who wants to teach English in a Germany may consider taking a few years of German language. Foreign language is particularly  beneficial to students who plan to work in international banking, law, telecommunications, travel, government, to name a few. With more an more careers spanning the global market, language could be a definite asset. Other common factors in determining which languages students may pursue are future travel plans, family heritage, or personal interest. 

If a student is considering several languages and trying to determine which might be the best choice, consider visiting ethnic restaurants, borrowing foreign language how-to courses from the library, or spending time with people who speak the languages of interest. Or, travel either for pleasure or missions. Being immersed in a language may help with the decision of which language to pursue. 

As the student is choosing which language to study, he or she may need to be reminded that study may become (and often does become) difficult. Learning a language can be hard. In the challenging times, we have had to remind our young adults of the bigger picture. The bigger picture, the goal, often helped our students hurdle temporary difficulties. 

I hope this series has been helpful to you and offered some points to consider as you help your young adult successfully navigate the foreign language trek. 

 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

 

 

Foreign Language in High School: Questions YOU Need to Ask

In Part I, I shared common concerns homeschooling parents have in regards to high school foreign language requirements. 

We learned what questions we might need to ask as we walked the foreign language journey. In fact, when our family began researching foreign language possibilities twelve years ago,  we knew nothing about what questions to ask or to whom we should ask our questions.

Our journey was hands-on and experiential--just like yours--meaning we learned by walking through the experience and making mistakes.

In this post, I hope you can learn--not only from our experiences--but the experiences of hundreds of families with whom we have encouraged. These are only samples of the questions YOU may find necessary to ask dependent upon your unique situation. 

The foreign language journey with our first was fairly uneventful. Four of his five top university choices required two consecutive years of the same foreign language. By making sure he completed two years of the same language we would meet the requirements of every school in which he was interested. 

It is also helpful to know that our son did not want to dual enroll, so that was not an option. Therefore, we researched every other potential avenue. In the end, he simply completed two years of Spanish with FLVS, an online public school.

During his senior year, he applied to six colleges in total, all required two years of the same language. In the end, he chose a local four-year university honors college. At the end of his senior year, the university requested I send the final copy of his parent-generated transcript. 

Two weeks later, I received a letter in the mail. 

"Your high school foreign language credits have been verified from a valid source. We have waived the undergraduate foreign language graduation requirements."

Fantastic! We didn't see this coming. Of all the homeschooling high school meetings and conference workshops I had attended, no one had ever mentioned there was a potential for a college to use the earned high school foreign language credits to fulfill undergraduate requirements (outside of dual enrollment). We were pleasantly surprised and grateful!

Lesson learned: High school foreign language courses may be used to fulfill the undergraduate foreign language requirement IF the courses are taken from an entity approved by the college. 

Ask: From what entity could a student take foreign language and earn both high school and undergraduate college foreign language credit, aside from dual enrollment?

From our lesson with the first grad, our second son charted an intentional plan. Knowing university language courses can be more difficult due to depth of subject and amount of content covered in each class, we brainstormed with our young adult potential language options. He chose to follow the same path as his brother and take two years with the public online school. When he applied to attend a local state college, the admissions department asked for verification (transcript from the online school) that the foreign language was completed. They waived the foreign language requirement for his AA. Yes!

Interestingly, once our son earned his AA and continued seamlessly to the four-year university for the completion of his Bachelors degree (the same one from which our first graduated), I received a letter in the mail. 

"Please submit the final high school transcript so that we may verify completion of high school foreign language."

Our second son had his AA and BS foreign language requirements waived because we had taken the foreign language from a source each school considered valid. 

Side note here for those who wonder if the high school transcript is ever needed after earning an AA. In some cases (like this one), YES! 

When our third high schooler began to consider foreign languages, knowing what we experienced with the first two graduates, her primary consideration...get it done in high school!

She, however, had an interest in American Sign Language. We had to look for an entity where she could learn ASL fluently.  Interestingly, as we were deciding next steps, an email came from a friend, a certified interpreter, who was offering ASL 1 the coming year. I knew from research some universities won't recognize ASL as a foreign language. If they did recognize ASL as a language, they may not accept the means by which it would be taught.

As a mom, knowing what my daughter might face, I was hesitant to let her pursue this interest. 

Yet, I knew ASL was a genuine interest and I wanted my daughter to have an opportunity to learn a language that mattered to her. We researched. I connected with one college asking if they would accept ASL as a foreign language. Indeed, the college verified in writing via email that they would accept the ASL. My daughter took the class, realizing that though one college of choice accepted the credit, another may not. They would not, however, used her ASL course to fulfill the university foreign language requirement for her undergraduate degree. 

But remember, every situation is unique and individual depended upon the career and college choices. For example, last week, a family contacted me with a similar situation. A homeschooled high schooler had actively participated in the deaf ministry at their church where the student interacted and communicated with attendees who were deaf. Other studies were completed. The local state college told the family the student's studies would not likely be accepted for credit. 

Again, what one college deems acceptable for foreign language, another may not. Ask questions. 

What about learning challenges?

A student  we know sought accommodations for learning challenges. The student was eager to attend college, however knew accommodations would be needed to be successful. The educational psychologist recommended the student, due to the significant learning challenges--dyslexia and dysgraphia--should be allowed to take a substitute course for foreign language.  

Research and testing--on adult scales which most college require--provided information regarding documented learning challenges and foreign languages. In regards to significant learning disabilities and current, accurate documentation, some colleges may waive or offer substitute courses toward foreign language requirements. This is not true of all schools and is highly variable school to school. Therefore, parents must inquire and must be able to provide psychological reports as needed. 

Ask: Are college admission foreign language requirements waived--or are substitute courses accepted--for students with documented learning disabilities (on adult scales)? 

When we began our high school journey we had no idea what foreign language questions to ask. In most cases, we learned along the way, either by personal experience or the experience of families with whom we work closely. 

And, with two current high schoolers (and several on behind) we are likely to learn even more.

Do you have experience with high school foreign languages which my help readers? Please share in the comments.  

Up next, Part III.

 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreign Language in High School: What Homeschoolers Need to Know

I spoke to another group of parents home educating their high school young adults. 

One of the questions I am asked most often is,

"What about foreign languages?"

This is tough question to answer. There are many factors, perspectives, and varied college requirements.

Considering why a language is being pursued is essential. Motivation is important. Oh yes, I know we all have to do things we don't like--and that may include learning a language--however, motivation remains a prominent factor in learning and retention for any subject. In the case of world languages (the new term often used for foreign languages), a student motivated to learn a language due to interest or as a means to an end goal (desiring to apply to a specific university), will be more likely to stay the course (with limited nagging and fighting). In the case of foreign languages, staying the course (no pun intended) may mean TWO YEARS or MORE of study in one language. Most young adults--and we've worked with many--couldn't achieve this goal without some type of personal motivation...because learning a language is hard!

Knowing the college admission requirements may answer the question for you. Not all colleges require foreign language for admission. Check college websites for admission requirements. Knowing whether or not language is required may help alleviate unnecessary aggravation and stress and most importantly, preserve a relationship. In part 2, I will dig into another factor to this equation. Consider:

Asking important questions may help. Knowing a college requires foreign language for admission is not enough. Unfortunately, some colleges will not accept foreign language credits if they are completed with certain curricula. Or, they may accept the credits only if a student passes (or gets a certain score) an entrance exam, SAT II Subject Test, CLEP, or AP exam. The only way to know what the college will accept is to ask. Don't assume or fear the worse, even if your friend told you their experience with a particular school. Always ask the source and get it in writing if necessary.

Learning a language is difficult. It will take work, unless a student has a natural gifting for linguistics. In twenty-four years of seeing hundreds of families, many children and young adults have had to work fairly hard to complete two years in the same language. 

Counting the cost is wise. All four of our high schoolers had different reasons for pursuing a language. One completed two years because his universities of choice required such. There were no questions asked because, well, it had to be done. The second learner completed two years of language in high school because the alternative would be to take it at the college (usually more difficult). His story will be told in part 2 of this series post. Another high schooler of ours was determined to finish her two years of foreign language in ninth and tenth grade to "get it out of the way" so other courses could be pursued. She knows according to her top college choices, foreign language will be required for college admission. A fourth scenario, a friend of ours, tried and tried with valiant and diligent study to no avail because learning challenges made study extremely difficult if not impossible. The lessons learned by that family will be told in part 2 as well. 

All four high schoolers--as well as the high schoolers we work with--benefited from counting the costs of ALL possible options and choices, at least all that were known at the time. Each situation was unique. Each young adult would have to live with their decisions and choices, including how, when, where, and whether to complete foreign languages. As with any decision parents and students must make in the high school years, fear should not be the basis of our educational choices. 

Up next, Part II in this series-- Foreign Language Questions YOU Need to Ask

 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

College Admissions for Homeschoolers Part II: Admission Must Haves

 

"Must haves." 

I know, sounds determinate, like "if you don't do this you won't get in." But stick with me. 

I'm not telling you what to do. That is not the point of this post.  

And, there's no way for me or anyone else to tell you exactly what to do for your high school learner. Only you know your student or his or her unique circumstances.

The purpose of this blog post is to share current information so you can be intentional; equipped to make informed decisions for your high schooler. As a mom who's walked the high school path with four very different young adults and an evaluator/consultant who has worked with many families, I understand what works for one student may not work for another.

However, like it or not

there are definite items colleges will request of all their applicants--public, private, and homeschooled.

Knowing what those items are offers applicants opportunity to prepare and to keep paperwork current as courses are completed, hours are served, and achievements are made. I have learned from experience that although we homeschoolers like to dig our heels in the sand and stand our ground (thinking we should or shouldn't have to deal with certain admission requirements), our dug in heals may leave us stuck with little or no options. 

Test Scores. Like it or not, most universities with a traditional mindset still believe testing helps validate grades on a transcript. Many colleges believe that test scores are especially important for home education graduates because their educational environment is potentially less standardized than traditional public or private schools. On the other hand, some universities are moving toward test optional scenarios (as stated in this Washington Post article)Stetson University is one of those schools.

Stetson University, a test-optional school states


Stetson University values academic achievement, commitment to personal values, leadership, talent, character and initiative above standardized testing. Therefore, submitting standardized test results for admission consideration is optional. Score-optional consideration is an alternative for applicants who feel that their test scores don’t adequately reflect their level of academic achievement and/or accurately predict their potential.
— Stetson University website

Though some schools are now test optional, others are not. Still others offer the applicant to make a choice based on his or her strengths. Homeschooling parents find It best to research and then prepare to meet the testing requirements for colleges of choice, if test scores are an admission must.

Knowing test score expectations allows a young adult to be prepared, to choose a specific test from the options, one which will best complement his or her strengths, and then to study for the special characteristics of that test. Some colleges have the same test score requirements for public, private, and homeschooled graduates. Other universities have stricter standards for homeschoolers and even require additional SAT Subject Test scores. 

Emory University has specific test score requirements for homeschoolers. According to their website


The Admission Committee is happy to receive applications from home-schooled students. In addition to meeting all admission requirements and submitting the required results from the SAT or ACT, we ask that a student who has been schooled at home submit results from three SAT II subject exams—one in mathematics and two of the student’s choosing. Additionally, we require at least one letter of recommendation from someone other than a family member. We also encourage home-schooled students to submit a comprehensive explanation of their curriculum.
— Emory University website

Grades. Universities like grades. Again, this is a traditional educational evaluation method used to place (at least in theory) public, private, and homeschooled graduates on the same plain (whether you agree or not). Knowing whether a college prefers unweighted or weighted GPAs is another aspect of grading with which parents should become familiar. 

Grading in high school doesn't have to be scary. Check out my detailed blog post Grades...in High School. I highlight how we graded some of the most traditional and the most unique courses of our high school journey.

Transcripts. This is another traditional requirement for the applicants and perhaps the most stressful for homeschooling parents. Hence, why some homeschoolers will argue this document is not necessary. However, a large percentage of colleges and universities will have this requirement. Some colleges including Wheaton College, are offering a transcript template on their homeschool admission page. Again, preparation can combat fear. As you build your understanding of transcripts, consider:

  • Most universities want this document on one page; neat, concise and eye-appealing, easy-to-read.
  • The majority of colleges are looking for variety--in content and format. In regards to content, many universities are eager to see depth and individual interests. An unique interest for a student applying as a veterinary medicine major might be Introduction to Veterinary Medicine. Schools will also be looking for the specific courses they require for admission, for example Biology. Class format is important, too. Universities want to know your student can learn and interact in traditional, online, seminar, and hybrid courses. This is why lab sciences and foreign languages are often required for applicants. Overall, they are looking for well-rounded students who will impact their campuses. 
  • Some universities require 16-20 core courses for admission and will offer suggestions on their homeschool admission pages as to what courses they are looking for. Wheaton College is one of those universities. 
  • Be sure the transcript you create contains the information requested by the colleges to which the student is applying. 

University of North Florida requests a transcript containing the standard information required of all applicants, including home educated graduates. 


Home school students must submit transcripts indicating course title, semester, grade, and awarded credit for all academic courses. Official SAT/ACT scores and official transcripts from accelerated mechanisms are also required.
— University of North Florida website

Letters of Recommendation. These documents are required of all applicants, public, private, and homeschooled. And, for some universities, this is the second most important documentation on behalf of the applicant. Letters of recommendation are especially important for the home educated applicant as they offer an unbiased perspective of the student. In other words, though the parent may act as the guidance counselor and write a letter from this position, the university will want a glimpse of the student from a source outside of family. Often a youth pastor or instructor from a traditional setting--online, co-op classroom--a coach, or an employer can offer the information a college is needing. In addition, some colleges will have specific guidelines about who they want to write a letter (clergy, employer, coach) as well as when the letter must be written (an instructor from the student's senior year). Not all colleges require specifics letters to be written, but when they do, be sure to follow their guidelines. 

For example, when our first son applied to highly-selective universities, one of the schools required a letter of recommendation from an instructor during the senior year. Though my son had had teachers in previous years through local co-op classes and individual instruction, his senior year courses were taken mostly through home study. However, he was finishing up a second year of Spanish online. I called the university and asked if a recommendation from his online teacher would be acceptable. They agreed, though I wondered how she could even write a recommendation having never met our son. Her letter focused mostly on his work ethic, academic ability and integrity, and timely assignment submission. All good points none of his other letters addressed. 

Princeton University explains what is important for applicants to consider when submitting recommendations. 


It’s most helpful if your teacher and counselor references come from three different adults who can comment on your intellectual curiosity, academic preparation and promise, and extracurricular involvement. Some home schooled applicants ask a parent to complete the School Report, and they ask others who have known them in an academic context to complete the teacher references. If you have taken any high school or college courses, or had a teacher other than a parent in a particular subject, we encourage you to ask those professors or teachers to write your teacher references.
— Princeton University website

When our high school students ask mentors, supervisors, or instructors for letters of recommendation we encourage them to follow up with a note of thanks and gratitude. I outlined that process in a blog post, The Thank You After the Letter. 

Interviews. Nine years ago when our son began to receive offers for admission and scholarship, interviews were essential if the student intended to accept a Presidential scholarship. Today however, interviews are becoming more popular for admission. Interviews provide a chance for the student to talk about his or her achievements and aspirations as well as offer an opportunity to exhibit proficient communication and interpersonal skills. College personnel want to know what value the student will bring to the campus.  Rice University is one university which recommends a personal interview.

Additional paperwork may be required. Research each college. Determine what types of documentation each university is requiring. For example, St. John's College asks applicants to write an essay for admission. And, Vanderbilt University suggests student submit an optional curriculum chart. Arizona State asks home educated students to submit a lab sciences evaluation. Though a first reaction may be frustration--as it was for me when I had to write essays about our educational methods and grading system--it is wise to step back, breathe, and take a few minutes to ponder the request. After a thirty second pause, the request may not be as bad as first perceived. 

In our situation, though I was initially discouraged that our son's top school required me to write essays, once I started the process, the pondering of our home education methods was beneficial and indeed helpful for us as a family. I was reaffirmed that indeed we had worked hard together and our son was extraordinarily prepared for his next steps. In the end, that school offered our son a Presidential scholarship, four full years paid tuition. 

Once we know what will be required for admission, we can get down to the business of creating the documents and records we need. We'll take a closer look at specific admissions paperwork in the next post. 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children.