American Sign language

Can American Sign Language Be Used for College Acceptance and Credit?

This question is really a two-part conversation. Can American Sign Language fulfill admissions requirements AND can it meet course requirements to graduate while IN college?

Is American Sign Language (ASL) a world (or foreign) language?

Those who communicate with ASL still rely on English for reading and writing. Is it a world language if English is still part of the equation? Because the grammar, structure, and process is radically different from English, states accept ASL as a world language.  Only one state (New Mexico) did not confirm that they accept ASL as a world language.

Admission to College vs Graduation from College

We mentioned at the beginning that the use of ASL is a two-part question. Can it be used to meet a college’s ADMISSION requirements (to get in) and can it fulfill a college’s GRADUATION requirements? The University of New Mexico keeps a list of current universities that accept ASL to fulfill their foreign language GRADUATION requirement.

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Some things to note about the list…

The author points out that he only adds or deletes schools when someone brings a change to his attention. He may be missing some, or he may have some which shouldn’t be there.

Use this list as a reference, but always check directly with all candidate colleges to ensure you clearly understand their requirements.

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So what about ASL to fulfill admission requirements?

Acceptance of ASL as a world language in ADMISSIONS is more of a moving target. However, it seems acceptance of ASL as a foreign language is growing. We discovered this web page, ASL College, that is searchable by state. Click on the state and a list will open of universities and whether they a) accept ASL for admission and b) accept ASL for graduation.

This distinction is important to keep in mind. Say a student takes 2-3 years of ASL prior to college, that may meet their entrance requirement. However, if the world language requirement is 3 or 4 semesters of study in a language to GRADUATE college, can a student continue with ASL or will they be forced to start a different language?

Again, the landscaping is changing surrounding this acceptance. More Ivy League colleges are offering ASL courses, and they may set trends for other colleges to follow.

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How about ASL in high school?

A side note…not all high schools offer ASL as a course. Some do. Some offer a summer or online course as an option.

If your district does not offer ASL, your student may need to seek out dual enrollment or College Credit Plus options at local universities to find an accredited class for high school credit. College Credit Plus is a popular way to get this coursework for students without a high school offering.

A good idea for students is to perhaps take an introductory course to see if ASL is something the student will enjoy before committing further. We found two local Central Ohio options: or A national option is ASL Virtual Academy. They use a comprehensive curriculum that is aligned with the National Standards for Learning Languages.

Back to the college course requirements…A quick check of some Ohio universities shows that when a college accepts ASL for admission, they also provide coursework in ASL. Kent State has one of the largest ASL programs in the nation.

If a college does not accept ASL as meeting that world language requirement, it is typically because they do not offer coursework in ASL within their school.

Going forward, colleges seem to be walking a tricky balance. They want to accept American Sign Language as a foreign language and offer coursework in it. However, colleges are facing more financial difficulties, and programs will need to be cut. ASL could be one of them.

An important post script to this piece

We have had several families share with us about the value of ASL for their dyslexic students. Often the multi-sensory nature of ASL is a great option, and while it is not a 100% guarantee, many colleges may evaluate on a case-by-case basis and waive their standard foreign language requirements in favor of accepting ASL. Some colleges are partially waiving their foreign language requirement for dyslexics. Waiver decisions will depend on the university and the student. A good idea is for families to start discussing college/vocational goals in 8th grade with their IEP counselor to make the best choices for their student and their needs.


Updated 11/2023

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