In the past students were taught to hold their academics to a high standard and maintain good grades for gaining entrance to their college of choice. While good grades are an important factor that admissions officers take into consideration when choosing a candidate, the overall value of a high GPA alone has diminished as student demand is outstripping the number of available seats at many universities. As a result of this oversaturation many recruiters and industry professionals are also looking beyond college degrees and GPA's when hiring for a position at their company.
According to the U.S. News and Report and National Center for Education Statistics, the number of total applications to elite colleges has risen by 71 percent while total student body growth grew by only 9 percent from 2003 to 2013.
There are many exceptional students with similar grades and SAT scores applying for limited spots at a university, marking the importance of pursuing passion projects and work outside of the classroom setting. High GPA’s and SAT scores simply aren’t enough to distinguish students as the checklist that recruiters use to consider candidates has drastically changed.
According to DistinguishMe, a program that helps students distinguish themselves through independent passion projects, admissions officers look for the following criteria when evaluating students:
GPA and SAT scores are still the two most important factors that are taken into consideration, but it’s nearly impossible to stand out based on scores and numbers alone due to the oversaturated candidate pool.
Pursuing passion projects and reinforcing classroom curriculum through practical experience is how students gain entrance to their college of choice; this also applies to college students working toward their dream job.
A classroom education on its own won’t benefit a student when they eventually graduate and apply to dozens of workplaces, or immediately prove to employers that a candidate is qualified for a position.
College should be viewed as a giant resume builder with students doing as much as possible to qualify them for a position in their field after graduation.
A student with a 4.0 GPA with little experience in their field or lack of involvement with a wide range of groups that provide vocational skills will always be glossed over if there is an applicant with a lower GPA, but several internships under their belt, a portfolio showcasing their completed work over their time spent at college, recommendations from professionals in the industry and on-campus groups that they have been involved with. Recruiters also stop caring about your GPA a year after graduation.
High school students need to be able to tell recruiters a unique story in the form of their good grades, extracurricular activities, passion projects, how they spend their free time and the impact they had on the world outside of the classroom.
College students also need to be able to tell their unique story through their degree, relevant positions held in their industry, certifications, organizations, passion projects and how they complimented their knowledge from the classroom with real-world experience.
While the old saying "Cs get degrees" is sometimes used as an excuse to be lazy academically it does hold a kernel of truth in that a student's effort shouldn't be solely placed in the classroom. Admissions officers are looking for more in their applicants than grades alone and the same can be said for job recruiters searching for qualified candidates.