By: Belinda Gonzalez-Leon, Ed. D., MBA
Grades are important for your college application. Yes, they could even be considered more important that your SAT or ACT scores. However, locking yourself up in your room and studying 24/7 will not get you into Harvard. Students need to have a balanced life that includes activities outside of the classroom. My neighbor’s nephew made this very mistake and has not been able to get into a good college because, despite his extremely high GPA, he does not participate in clubs nor sports nor community service. Not even a job. Yes, extra-curriculars count!
By participating in activities, students can show colleges that they can balance studying as well as the responsibilities of being class president or practicing regularly for soccer games or holding down a part-time job. It shows a certain level of maturity has been achieved as well as dedication to an interest. Extra-curricular activities allow students to develop leadership roles and how to work as a team. They offer opportunities to interact with others in a social manner that will be needed as students continue into adulthood. All of these are skills that cannot be learned inside a classroom or in a book.
Colleges want students that will make their campuses vibrant. They want students who will excel academically but will also help the college win music competitions or have the top football team or attract internships with top companies. Do you think that landing a job with Facebook or Apple is simply based on your grades in college? No, it’s based on your ability to lead a team and have engaging conversations with others. Those abilities begin in high school and are practiced in college.
When I visited the University of Pennsylvania, my favorite stop was the student center building. It was electric! So many students were milling around the numerous offices. Each office represented a different school organization. The students were excited and busy in their activities. You could feel it immediately and it made visitors want to attend that school. But you don’t just show up at the university and become that person. The students at UPENN had been active in high school and they brought those experiences to college.
During a visit that I did to Princeton University, my students were fascinated with a young Latina who told them that she was a little surprised when she was accepted at Princeton. She had good grades, but she knew many other students had higher GPAs. My students asked her what helped her get in? She explained that she was very involved in different political organizations at her high school, but she believed the tipping factor was her years-long practice of Kenjutsu – Japanese sword fighting.
Your extra-curricular activity could be Girl/Boy Scouts. It could be the Student Government Association or the Future Business Leaders of America. Perhaps you take part in every drama performance at school or you’re in the high school band. There is also soccer, football, gymnastics, cheerleading, basketball, tennis, and golf – whether it be the school team or not. Some of you may hold down a job at a local store or maybe you have your own private entrepreneurship venture. You may even have gone so far as to develop a passion project (what’s that? Ask me!). Regardless, do something that you love and that you will stick to for years. Start in high school or in middle school. The point is to develop who you are as a person and not just a grade. The colleges will love you for it.
Dr. Belinda Leon is available for presentations on the step by step process for applying to college: high school coursework, choosing the right college, the application, how financial aid works- the entire process. Individual consultations too!
Dr. Leon can also assist with pre-school, elementary, middle and high school questions as well as graduate school, international students and foreign credential validation issues.
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