It's Not All Grades - High Schools Can Learn From Colleges' Success

May 2, 2018

The vision of the ideal college applicant grows in complexity every year.  It’s no longer just about your grades. It’s about your grades, your extracurriculars, and what kind of person you are. Many colleges, especially the most selective ones, have instituted the holistic admission process. 

Holistic admissions means that the college or university looks at the applicant as a whole as opposed to just bits and pieces. Although every admissions counselor will agree that your transcript is the most important part of your application, this is simply just the foot-in-the-door. The cold truth is that everyone has good grades and test scores if you are applying to a selective school. You have to distinguish yourself with your extracurriculars, community service, and most importantly, your character. 

As students continue to build themselves as the ideal applicant, I think high schools should also play their part in trying to help. One of the ways schools could help build well-rounded students is devoting more focus and funding to student-run clubs and groups.

There are plenty of student-run businesses and clubs on college campuses across the country. Although it might not be financially feasible, it would be cool if high schools could give out grants to help students who are starting their own clubs or organizations.

I have thought about starting a club myself but it felt like a burden having to find a teacher who might also support my idea. Those students who want to start something could get a petition first with students supporting their idea. This would show that there is a general interest in the club/organization and the money would not simply be wasted. Sometimes the only people that really know what students want are students themselves. 

Although it is only really possible in small class sizes, another possibility I think schools should consider is encouraging more discussion-based learning and creative thinking. When I was visiting colleges, I sat in on a wide variety of classes. The Socratic seminar style class of 10 people seemed overwhelmingly more interesting and engaging than the big lecture hall of 200 students. I didn’t want to fall asleep because I felt obligated to follow along and contribute to the discussion.

Maybe this style of student discussion with minimal teacher guidance would lead to happier students that learn the information better. I think most high school students would agree that it feels like we are in a constant cycle of memorizing information for a test and then forgetting it afterwards. It makes me wonder how much information I’m really missing out on. 

Similar to how schools should encourage more discussion-based learning, I think schools should also be helping students develop fluid intelligence as opposed to crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence is the ability to adapt knowledge to new situations and think in an abstract way. As the modern workplace continues to rapidly change, companies want employees who will be able to adapt. Workers should be able to take their knowledge and apply it to the new situations they may face.

Fluid intelligence could be implemented in the classroom by having students apply knowledge from multiple areas of study to solve a broad problem instead of memorizing formulas and definitions for tests. This will help students think outside of the box and on a larger scale when they enter college or begin their careers. 

In an ideal scenario, your high school has prepared you to think like a professional and offered you chances to have fun and let your thoughts come to life. When applying to college, I can't stress it enough how unimportant your grades are if they are already good. You have to do things outside of schoolwork and build that double edged sword. No one is saying you have to have cured cancer by the age of 18, but you also don’t want to devote all that precious time of yours to just grades.

Get out, find a passion, and do what makes you happy. Colleges do not want a bunch of grade junkies; they want whole students.

Channing Wang is a senior at Wells High School and is a regular contributor to Raise Your Voice. He will attend Rice University in the fall.