I’m going to sound incredibly negative so brace yourself.
They will not teach you much at all. Don’t go into such a program as a non-native Chinese speaker and expect to be taught. DEFINITELY not language. They’re starting to run “language improvement” courses for the interpreting courses, but it’s really random. Very few people are working systematically on how you take a student from Chinese class level to professional level.
If you’re in Taipei, one thing you may want to look into is auditing an interpreting class at Shita. Chris Findler teaches the Chinese>English consecutive class and has a setup where he pairs students (Chinese A/English A) so they can work with each other intensively during class and on homework, so he’s usually looking for more English-As to audit the class. It’s been pretty full in recent semesters though so unless they get him a bigger room or something, I don’t know.
The T&I programs in Taiwan are (not surprisingly) geared towards native Chinese speakers. In a group translation class, for example, instruction is usually about how to write English correctly and grammatically (which should not be a problem for you if you’re going into an MA in Translation program as a native English speaker; if it is, there are other considerations for you). They rarely have an instructor who has the time or experience to work with a native English speaker on improving a translation. So for the into-English, if your meaning is accurate (and if it isn’t, the response is just “that’s not what it means”) you’ll get “okay”, and for into-Chinese, you’ll typically get lots of corrections (with luck) but you won’t have any idea why they are being made.
You might get some better insights working with a Chinese-A classmate one-on-one or in a small group, “trading” your nativeness in English. But there again, the way an English-A writes a translation is not how a Chinese-A should be aiming to do so in most cases, even if both are translating into English.
Also think about this hard truth: the translation market is shrinking rapidly. Rates are dropping and have been for some time. I know a very experienced freelancer in Taipei who told me the other day that s/he had had only 7 jobs in the last 6 months, and those were for 1000 words or so. That’s not nearly enough to live on. My experience here in the US is similar. There is much, much less work than before, and many potential clients are offering “budgets” that aren’t worth the time to do the work.
I honestly would not recommend that anyone go into translation or interpreting as a major these days, nor would I recommend that anyone think of trying to make a living only on the basis of knowing Chinese (or any other language) well, unless you like being a full-time military linguist or working in the intelligence community. If you’re willing to do that, maybe.
Now about Chinese level. HSK3-4 is not enough to be a professional translator. Wait until you get to HSK6 and then it won’t be as far to get to the level you’ll need. I doubt you’d pass the entrance exam now, which (again) is usually geared to native speakers.
The programs aren’t interested in experience AFAIK. Often if you do have experience, it works against you, because Chinese academic programs have a very strong hierarchy and they don’t really want too much input from students. If you’ve been working as a professional on the market, you will have different ideas about how to do translation (and probably won’t have any stomach for a bunch of theories and arguing about which one to apply for a given translation). I sat in on a class at Fujen last year in which they were having that discussion, and interestingly the prof (who was experience on the market) was arguing against many of the students that theory wasn’t that useful in the real world. But theory is what PhD programs live on, and it’s trickling down to the MA level which is supposed to be a professional degree, not a research degree.
You mention “next school year”. If you’re talking about taking one more year of college Chinese, I’m not optimistic about your chances. You would most likely have to relocate to China or Taiwan for a year or more and spend your time reading intensively and really working the language to be able to pass the entrance exam.
Personally – and I love Chinese language and always have – I would look into doing something else. Keep on with your Chinese for the love of it, and as a supplement to another documented skill or degree, but don’t look at Chinese as a sole means to make a living.
Just my NT$0.66, your mileage may vary, but this is the trend I see and cry about myself.