New research shows that 47 percent of high school seniors graduated last year with an “A” average — up from about 39 percent in 1998. But average SAT scores fell 24 points in that same period.
The authors of the study — Michael Hurwitz of The College Board and Jason Lee of the University of Georgia — said the trend signals grade inflation over the past two decades. With signs of grade inflation, students are more often earning the same exact GPA, making the job of college admissions officers more complicated. “The variation in GPAs have actually decreased by 10 percent”. So, what can you do?
College admissions officers are talking more and more about how applicants impact their communities. According to Sara Harberson, in her article about the Five Biggest Trends in College Admissions we see Impact Over Leadership. She writes, ‘When I first started out in college admissions, “getting in” was all about leadership titles. Students had to gather the highest level of leadership in each club activity to feel like they could stand out in a highly competitive applicant pool. Nowadays, making an “impact” on a cause, movement, hobby, or commitment is much more respected.
This new paradigm allows a student to pursue something meaningful to them which may or may not fit into a traditional activity like student government, athletics, or community service. The student who creates something on their own, moves a cause forward, or independently pursues a transformative project shows initiative, influence, and ingenuity. This has effectively reset the way colleges view and evaluate extracurricular activities.”
When reviewing applications, colleges are ultimately putting together a class. They want to fill that class with individuals who can contribute positively to the campus’s community and have a meaningful impact. When new students are living and learning together, they’re constantly interacting and are having an impact on one another’s learning environment. That’s why colleges spend so much time thinking about the impact you’ll have on campus culture and community. They want every impact you make on campus – whether it’s in the classroom, dorms, or even in the cafeteria – to be a positive one!
Here is what the University of California Admissions and other colleges are looking for. “Special talents, achievements and awards in a particular field, such as visual and performing arts, communication or athletic endeavors; special skills, such as demonstrated written and oral proficiency in other languages; special interests, such as intensive study and exploration of other cultures; experiences that demonstrate unusual promise for leadership, such as significant community service or significant participation in student government; or other significant experiences or achievements that demonstrate the student’s promise for contributing to the intellectual vitality of a campus.”
So, with the new school year, start thinking about how you can make a positive impact in your community. You can start small. Look for others who need help in the classroom. Can you offer assistance? Soon you’ll see that you can easily identify whether or not others need help, and before it’s asked of you.
How can you make a positive impact in an extracurricular setting? Is there a way you can invest yourself in student government, athletics or clubs? You can also think about your immediate community – your family? Are there ways to help out by doing volunteer work in your community? Try finding an afterschool program or community organization to help. Colleges want to see this so highlighting meaningful examples in your activities list and essays enhance your application. There are plenty of ways you can have an impact so strive to make a difference!