This Just In: Your High School GPA Doesn’t Matter

For many reasons, the GPA number itself doesn’t tell very much about a particular person.

cramming for test

So, here’s some fun (or maybe totally not fun?) news. According to a recent article in USA Today, it seems that many colleges don’t care so much about your GPA when it comes to admissions.

You may be thinking, “HUH?!”

Or, more likely, “Excuse me? I’ve been missing out on quality time with Netflix and studying for… nothing? WHAT IS THE DEAL!?”

Well, here’s the deal, folks.

Admissions deans at both the University of Virginia and Swarthmore commented that the GPA is “meaningless” and “artificial.” Every school has different criteria in mind when they look at high school grades and transcripts, and adcoms know that with greater access to AP classes as well as weighted averages and grade inflation, the GPA number itself doesn’t tell very much about a particular person. And they’re not alone. According to the article, neither Princeton Review nor US News (publishers of the most revered college rankings every year) factor high school GPAs into their college ranking formulas. It’s just not part of the equation, and isn’t even published unless the school provides it. (This year, Brown, Columbia, Yale, and Cornell didn’t.)

So what does this say about college admissions? What’s a college applicant to do?

I know what you’re thinking (and hoping and praying for) and, no, this isn’t the green light to slack off on grades. Schools still expect students to be challenging themselves and performing highly in school, so put down Call of Duty and pick up that Bio book, my friend.

But when it comes to the application, this new information points even more to the importance of the college essay. GPAs – and numbers in general – just don’t get to the heart of who a student is. And when admissions officers are looking for their next incoming class, they’re looking at the people, NOT the profiles. This new move away from considering a GPA is acknowledging that fact. The core of who a person is cannot be expressed in a number. But it can be expressed in a clear, engaging, unique, well-written essay that shows the adcom who you are (and not just what you can score).

Voice, tone, story content, pacing, structure—these are all fantastic tools to express your individuality and your unique perspective on the world. And that’s what the schools want: individuals with unique backgrounds, passions and personalities. The kind of people who can do more than ace some tests along the way; students who can bring something cool to the table, contribute to their community and make it a better place for everyone around them.

So whether you’re applying this year, or just getting a head start on your college plans, keep this in mind (but seriously – don’t stop studying!). Your academic abilities are important, but they’re not MOST important. So start branching out and focusing on the other things that make you, you: exploring your passions, getting involved in things that matter to you, engaging in things that are fun and different.  Those things are going to be just as important – if not more –  when it comes to getting into the school of your dreams.

[Photo courtesy of http://blog.lib.umn.edu/]


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