Sometimes, we get hung up on GPA; it becomes a number that defines students. In reality, though, there is much more to a student than a simple number or class ranking. When it comes time to apply to colleges, most students discover that schools are, in fact, interested in much more than grades. So, what makes a truly “well-rounded” student? Below, we will highlight some ways students can show strengths that stretch well beyond numbers on a report card.
Personality Counts: You are more than just a machine that writes papers, memorizes information, and takes exams. You are a unique person, different from everyone else in your school. Being your true self means showing the world so much more than the rigid measurements of your academic ability. Being outgoing, friendly, curious, industrious, and interesting shows off your true appeal and tells others a lot more about you than do numbers on a page. The students I remember as an educator are those who were unique and unafraid to “be themselves.” A little personality goes a long way.
It’s About What You Do: Taking your required classes and getting good grades is wonderful, but it’s also one-dimensional. The last thing you want to do is convey to a prospective college that you are a “one-trick pony.” So your school experience is very much about the other stuff you do. Last week, I wrote about extracurricular activities, and, indeed, these are hugely important. But it goes beyond just joining a club or playing a sport; finding activities that show your passions is important. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, try something new, and add to your personal profile as a complete, curious young person.
Telling Your Full Story: Life is a narrative: it does not follow a cookie-cutter pattern; rather, everyone’s story is full of twists and turns. When it comes time to write a college essay, for instance, it’s a good thing to have an interesting narrative to share. So always be thinking about how to enrich your own story; it will help you to show the world that you are a person beyond just your academic performance. I’ve been helping students with college essays for over a decade and the ones that always stick with me are those that share a story, not those that merely list accomplishments or talk about a sport.
A Part of your School: One way to fulfill yourself and to make your presence felt is to become a member of your school community. Again, this means more than just showing up at the beginning of the day and leaving when the last bell rings. Participating in school activities, promoting school spirit, and supporting your school’s teams (athletic and academic) goes a long way to showing you off as an involved member of your community. A lot of adolescents merely “blend in” during their school career; by standing out and taking part, you continue to build your unique personal narrative and to “market” yourself to colleges and future employers.
Be a Do-Gooder: As mentioned above, being part of your school lends itself to a sense of community. But don’t think that means everything happens only inside the four walls of your school building. By branching out into the community, you start giving back to those around you. Need I really mention how good this kind of thing looks on a college app? But beyond that, contributing to the greater good teaches essential life lessons and adds to your overall well-roundedness.
The Working Student: Jobs look great to colleges and future employers. It’s never too early to start building a resume that paints you as a hard-worker. Fewer adolescents than ever before are working, so getting even a menial job will help you to stand out when it comes time to take the next stop or look for the next opportunity. It goes without saying that working also prepares you for the “real world” and helps you hone your skills.
Grades are important, but they don’t tell the whole story. It’s great for young people to see themselves holistically, rather than as one-sided beings who robotically attend school because they have to. Helping students to see themselves as well-rounded people is key in helping them prepare for college and beyond.
Written by Phil Lane
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