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What is most important: grades or extracurricular activities?

QUESTION: What are colleges looking for? Do they want students with many extracurricular sports and activities or are they only interested in their GPA? Signed, Seeking Secret Formula

Dear Seeking Secret Formula:
If only there were a secret formula that outlined precisely what colleges want. Seven percent analytical ability, thirteen percent social capabilities, six percent maturity, etc. It would make life a lot easier for students. Unfortunately, there is no such magical formula. However, there are traits that colleges seek. Most importantly, they want students who will be able to handle the academic rigors. The main measures of this ability, grades and test scores, are crucial. They also want students who will participate in and contribute to the school community, are mature, show initiative, and have integrity. Naturally, this means that accomplishments in sports and other activities count, too. Through these activities, you can demonstrate how you will fit into the entering class and make a difference on campus. Our advice is to always put academics first. Participate in activities because you enjoy them, not because you think they will be your ticket into college. That’s a winning combination.


Gen & Kelly Tanabe
Gen and Kelly Tanabe are the founders of SuperCollege and the award-winning authors of 11 books on college admission, financial aid and scholarships. Together they were accepted to all of the Ivy League colleges and won more than $100,000 in merit-based scholarships to graduate from Harvard debt-free.

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