Maybe you’ve heard this somewhere before, “You have to get good grades or no…,” you fill in the blank. No phone? No Facebook? Perhaps, more chores??? What do your parents usually say to you? Whatever it may be, they’re saying it (and enforcing it) because they love you. They want you to be successful; graduate, go to college, get a career and have an awesome life! But, we know that it’s not all fun and games. It’s more than getting an “A.”
Grades are highly important, especially for those who are planning to continue their education and need significant financial assistance to pay for college expenses. I knew, since 8th grade, that if I wanted to go to college I was going to have to work hard for the next four years of high school so that I could get scholarships! I gave myself the goal of obtaining no less than a 3.5 GPA (I wanted to graduate with Academic Honors). My hard work payed off because I did graduate with Honors, plus I had been offered full ride scholarships to some universities that I applied to. But, it wasn’t just because of my excellent GPA. I received scholarships because not only did I have exceptional grades, but I was involved in the community as well. Being active and volunteering are just as important as getting good grades.
It is more than getting a 4.0. There are some things to keep in mind as you begin to apply for scholarships and universities. One, is to volunteer at places that are truly of your interest and that may relate to an area in your career interest. For example, if you want to be a doctor, volunteer at the children’s hospitals or something of the sort. And if you don’t know what career path you want to take, then try volunteering at different places and maybe that will help you have a more clear idea of what it is that you want to do– and even what you don’t want to do– for a living. Two, is get involved in extracurricular activities, whether that be school clubs or sports, music/drama, or something else. Try reaching for the leadership positions in those things because that will make you stand out among other students that apply to certain scholarships and/or universities. The more prestigious scholarships and universities look for uniqueness, so let them know about the most unique things that you are involved in or that you have done.
There can be a big difference between a 3.7 GPA and a 3.8. A college has specific guidelines for the admissions office for scholarship awards; they could offer different scholarships based upon one decimal point. It’s a bummer when a student has a 3.75 but not quite that 3.8, they were close but not close enough to getting a higher scholarship award. Volunteer experience works the same way as your GPA. Sometimes because a student has been involved in more things for longer periods of time, the scholarship board or the university admissions office will choose them over another student who has perfect grades but little or no service. So you see, it is equally important to have a great academic standing and to provide service to your community. You have to balance the two. Plan accordingly, don’t wait until senior year to do everything, starting as a freshman or earlier looks great to colleges and scholarship committees.
“Never settle for less than your best.”