How Important is Your GPA for College Admissions?

Amber Carver, Contributing Reporter

All throughout high school adults emphasize the importance of a good GPA, that grades are the key to a good future. People refrain from getting involved in extra-curricular activities for fear of not having enough time to study and get good grades. However, there is much more to a college application than having a good GPA, and those who just focused on perfecting their grades no longer stand out from all the other college applications. So, if there is more to a college application than just a GPA, what will make you stand out?

The difficulty of the classes taken impacts how impressive a good GPA is on a college application. According to Kim Medina, the Director of Admissions at the Colorado School of Mines, getting straight A’s on easy courses does not make a student more prepared than a different student who took challenging courses but didn’t always get A’s. Medina noted that “Students must be prepared that colleges and universities will dig deeper into what makes up the GPA.” They will see if you didn’t put much effort into an easy class, which doesn’t make a good impression.

While many students are naturally better at certain subjects, slacking on the classes you don’t like as much doesn’t help your college application. While colleges want a student who is very invested in their chosen area of study, they also want well rounded students who will put in effort to succeed in classes that they may not like as much.

How do colleges view student grades in areas other than their main interest or chosen field of study?

“While we don’t expect students to be experts in all subjects, we do want to see students learn how to navigate subjects outside of their interest areas,” said Medina.

Whatever subject it is that you strongly dislike, slacking on the class will not be beneficial long term.

Extracurricular activities are necessary to help make a student stand out. Being involved in a club or a sport gives you skills that you don’t get in a classroom environment. Colleges want to see that you are well rounded and are involved, since they want passionate and involved students at their school, too. However, some students are afraid to get involved in extra-curricular activities for fear of losing a 4.0 GPA. Medina’s advice to these students is that a “4.0 alone does not necessarily distinguish themselves, and students may still be able to manage a 4.0 GPA AND be involved in activities that they are passionate about.” Even if perfect grades aren’t kept because the student is involved, the skills learned from extracurricular activities often will outweigh slightly lower grades.

Many students often sign up for a bunch of different clubs without getting truly involved in any of them. This can be a mistake.

“What students tend to do is think more is better. Checking off the boxes of activities so they can list a lot of different activities does not distinguish students,” said Medina.

What colleges are looking for are the students who are involved in clubs and who do more than just the bare minimum needed to check off the box on a college application. Whether that is taking up a leadership position, helping to organize a fundraiser for a club/sport, or taking over the social media accounts of the club/sport, becoming involved in the extra-curricular activity to the next level is key to standing out.

Colleges understand that not everyone is able to be involved in a bunch of extracurricular activities.

“Some students also have family responsibilities that prohibit them from participating in clubs or activities at all or at a deep level. Tell colleges and universities about that,” explained Medina. Otherwise, colleges have no way to know that you weren’t just sitting around watching Netflix.

Every person is different, some can handle being involved in a ton of extra-curricular activities and keep perfect grades, while for others, it’s just not possible. Each person needs to find a balance that works for them, and find their own unique way to distinguish themselves from the sea of college applications.