It’s Not All about the GPA

Yes, your grade point average (GPA) will have great bearing on what university you are eventually admitted to. However, it is not all about the GPA. May other factors are taken into consideration when universities review your application and make that final decision which will determine where you will spend the next four years. Here are some factors worth considering:

  1. Has the student taken a rigorous course load (honors, AP, IB, even a course at university) or did s/he protect his/her GPA by taking only standard courses where it was easy to get a straight A?
  2. Is the student a good writer? Some of the students we have worked with, who have been admitted to top schools, have had superb writing skills and lots of good material in their backgrounds to include in their essays.
  3. Does the student have diverse experiences to draw upon for writing good essays about teamwork, leadership, being the founder of an organization or club, and other experiences which have enabled him/her to be a leader, to grow, to mature, to learn to persevere and to demonstrate initiative?
  4. Does the student have solid scores on his/her standardized tests (SAT/ACT/Subject Tests)?
  5. Does the student demonstrate the ‘kindness factor’? In other words, is there considerable and sustained volunteering, showing compassion and impact?
  6. Has the student done enough research on the university to know why s/he is a good ‘fit’ for this particular university and is s/he able to articulate this in their essays?
  7.      Is the student a good role model for his/her peers and have the respect of teachers and the school administration?
  8. Has the student stepped outside of his/her comfort zone to try out new experiences whether this be research with a university professor, outdoor expeditions, summer programs, conferences, or exchanges with schools abroad, etc.?
  9. Does the student have any special talents that will contribute to the university’s student life program? Some of our students have demonstrated their ‘Wow Factor’ through being on Canada’s National Debating Team, a National Sports Team, or playing a musical instrument at a professional level within a youth symphony orchestra. Others have made it to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
  10. Can the student solicit superb letters of recommendation from teachers and counselors saying s/he is in the top 1% or top 5% of students they have encountered in their career?
  11. Has the student demonstrated intellectual vitality or curiosity by being accelerated in one or more subject areas, for example demonstrating a passion for physics, philosophy, photography, coding, robotics, the environment, innovation or some other subject through unusual experiences such as summer programs, internships, fellowships, science fairs, research, or obtaining patents or even registering their own business in BC? In other words, is there a ‘Wow Factor’ to speak of, here?
  12. Does the student have personal characteristics which will contribute to a diverse and interesting campus community? Examples of this would be being the first generation in your family to attend university or representing an underrepresented minority group such as being Mexican or from a First Nation’s tribe or being a Zoroastrian and highlighting this in the application.
  13. Has the student demonstrated passion, initiative and leadership in sustained extracurricular activities? Can the student articulate this in university essays which provide insight into the student’s unique personality, values and goals?
  14. Will the student be showcasing their accomplishments through videos, websites, artistic supplements or other methods along with their application?

Admissions is like a jigsaw puzzle. So many factors have to combine to allow a student to be competitive for the top universities. Many of our students who are admitted to the likes of Stanford and Harvard are head boy or head girl at school, member of the choir or band (and sometimes both), are active in theatre or the arts, are captain of a school sports team, and have substantial volunteering experience and so much more. To get into Ivy League level universities, you need ivy level grades and experiences. If you’re setting the bar really high, then begin the work today and persevere even when it gets stressful. If you enjoy the activities you join, it will be more effortless than you had imagined!