In tenth grade, my class had a group meeting with my high school’s college guidance counselor about SATs, ACTs, and the like. After being overloaded with information about scores and numbers, we were given pins that read “you are more than a test score.” Definitely a little cheesy, but these seven words resonated with me throughout my college application process and through my first year of college.
In the same vein of school being about more than just grades, the New York Times published a piece about the Posse Foundation. This organization selects dynamic, creative, intelligent students, who exhibit impressive leadership qualities, but not the test scores to get into top schools, and gives them the opportunity to attend high-level schools. About 600 students are selected per year. Then, ten students from the same city are put into a “posse” and attend college together. Ultimately, says the New York Times, the success stories of so many of these students “tell us not just that the SAT is an inadequate predictor of college success, but that it can be malignant.” These students are selected through an interview process that tests their “problem-solving, leadership, communication and collaboration skills, their initiative and resourcefulness.” Ultimately, “the Posse program reveals the poverty of the conventional wisdom governing academic success. Our rules for college admission, and ideas about college achievement, are linear, but in reality, college achievement is complex. The factors are much more diverse than our educational system is built to accommodate. So are the people who succeed.”
My high school was small, and for reasons I do not know but greatly appreciate, the administration chose not to calculate GPA’s or have valedictorians. As an almost-sophomore in college, I have taken the liberty to extend the pin I received in high school’s message of “you are more than a test score” to “you are more than your GPA.” These three letters—an acronym I had never been confronted with until college—terrify me. They paralyze me. The thought that just two integers, with a decimal point no less, accurately measured my success in college scare me, and also made me wonder—aren’t we supposed to be pursuing our academic interests and challenging ourselves, and not obsessing over grades and searching for easy A’s?
In response to my frustration, countless people have told me that while naturally your grades must reach a certain standard, your GPA is not the end all and be all. A professor who has been on graduate school admissions boards advised me that they’re looking for students who are “interesting” and that this, more often than not, can mean imperfect GPA’s. The college experience, like people, is complex, comprised of much more than a few numbers. There are so many other factors to determine success: just look at how the Posse students are selected—through their “problem-solving, leadership, communication and collaboration skills, their initiative and resourcefulness.” From what I’ve experienced so far, learning happens in so many more places than the classroom. Students join groups and attend events that may have no direct connection to academics, but still add to their personal growth and sense of achievement. It is the combination of all these experiences that leads to a successful, satisfying, and challenging college life.
By LeeLee Borzak, Private Tutor