Foreign Langague Substitution is applicable for undergraduates in the:

  • School of Arts & Sciences
  • National Catholic School of Social Service
  • Busch School of Business
  • School of Theology and Religious Studies 
  • School of Philosophy

Two semesters of foreign language at the intermediate level (103 & 104) are required for all undergraduates in the School of Arts & Sciences, the National Catholic School of Social Service, the Busch School of Business & Economics, the School of Theology and Religious Studies, and the School of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America. The following languages are options to fulfill the foreign language requirement: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Irish/ Gaelic, Latin, and Spanish. Please see the list of previously approved classes for substitution here.

Once enrolled at the university, students with a learning disability or other disability that significantly impairs the ability to acquire a foreign language may apply to substitute the foreign language requirement. The Office of Disability Support Services (DSS) determines eligibility based on an individual’s learning history and documentation of a disability that impairs foreign language acquisition The decision to grant a substitution rests with the student’s respective academic dean. If the foreign language substitution is granted, two alternative courses are substituted for the required foreign language courses. These substitution courses are released by the Arts & Sciences Dean’s Office each semester. 

A foreign language substitution is not an option if a foreign language is deemed essential to a program or course of study. A foreign language substitution is also not an option if it is a prerequisite for a required class. 

For students in the School of Philosophy, the foreign language substitution is only applicable for foreign language courses needed to receive a bachelor's degree from the School of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America. For some students, including those in the seminary, other language courses may be deemed essential to ordination. Students should consult with their formation advisor regarding these requirements. 

It is the student’s responsibility to apply for and follow up on his or her request for a foreign language substitution. A student’s graduation timeline will not be taken into account in the Office of Disability Support Services recommendation. The Office of Disability Support Services recommends that students begin the process for foreign language substitution no later than his or her sophomore year. 

The following factors will help to determine eligibility:

  • Diagnosis of a disability with supporting documentation submitted to the Office of Disability Support Services.
  • Evaluation of the ability to learn a foreign language. The Modern Language Aptitude Test (MLAT), Nelson-Denny Reading Test, and the WIAT Pseudoword Decoding Subtest are examples of evaluations that determine ability to learn a foreign language. 
  • Previous history of difficulty in foreign language courses and/or a waiver or substitution of the requirement to learn a foreign language from a previously attended high school or college. 
  • A student’s graduation timeline cannot be taken into account when determining eligibility on a disability basis. 
Application Process
  1. Submit to the Office of Disability Support Services (DSS):
    1. Foreign Language Substitution application 
    2. Documentation of disability and any evaluations of aptitude to learn a foreign language. DSS will review documentation and notify the student if further evaluations or documentation are necessary. 
    3. Information of history of taking foreign language courses:
        • Unofficial high school transcript,
        • High school or college foreign language waiver or substitution,
        • Unofficial college transcript
  1. Complete Academic History Meeting with the coordinator at the Office of Disability Support Services. Once all information has been submitted, please call 202-319-5211 to schedule this meeting. 
  2. The Office of Disability Support Services will determine eligibility based on submitted documentation and write a recommendation for or against a foreign language substitution to student’s academic dean. 
  3. Student’s academic dean will make the decision and inform the student of the decision in writing. 
  4. Student will complete courses
      • If the substitution is granted, the student will take 2 courses from the “Foreign Language Substitution Courses” list posted each semester by the Arts & Sciences Dean’s Office or the student can work with his or her dean to identify appropriate courses.
      • If the substitution is rejected, the student will complete the foreign language requirement with assistance from the Office of Disability Support Services. 

These guidelines are provided so that the Office of Disability Support Services can respond appropriately to the individual needs of the student. All documentation is confidential. 


Math Substitution

The Catholic University of America recognizes that some students, as a result of a disability that significantly impairs academic performance in the quantitative area, may be eligible for a substitution for the University math requirement. The decision to grant a substitution is based on an individual's learning history, documentation of a disability that impairs mathematical processing, and future educational goals. Eligibility is determined by the Dean's office of the appropriate school. If the math substitution is granted, alternate courses in areas designated by the Dean are substituted for the required math courses.

A math substitution is not an option if math is deemed essential to a program or course of study. Also, a math substitution is not an option if it is a prerequisite for a required class (if that required class determines that math is an essential element of the class).  Currently, math substitutions are not available in the School of Architecture and Planning, the School of Engineering, the Busch School of Business, the School of Nursing, the National Catholic School of Social Service, and some departments within the School of Arts & Sciences as math is deemed an essential requirement of the curriculum.