Schools Want More Than a Valedictorian

Annalee Gorman and Emily Borg

Mirada StaffHigh school students stay up for hours studying for tests or finishing homework, but sometimes all of that time isn’t enough to get into top schools.

“Schools look for something that makes you stand out like sports, community service, previous jobs and internships,” said junior Jake Nelson

A 4.0 GPA may not be enough to get into your dream school. UC schools look for volunteer work, internships, extracurriculars, leadership roles, jobs, SAT and ACT scores and grades. Meanwhile, state schools look at grades and test scores.

“Not only does your GPA matter for colleges, but your test scores, extracurricular activities, like sports or clubs, and hobbies also play a big part in acceptance to colleges,” said junior Annabel Lewis.

Some students focus on the prestige of a school versus if it is a good fit. This creates pressure on the student to focus only on academics and less on extracurriculars. The high standards make students forget on what should be important: happiness at their prospective school.

Universities like UC Santa Barbara and UCLA have an average GPA of 4.0 and 4.13 respectively. The SAT average test scores are 1450 (31 ACT) and 1490 (32 ACT).

The average SAT score in California is a 1076 which is far from what test scores students need to get into some schools. Having all A’s and high standardized test scores aren’t  the only thing students need.

“There is more competition and pressure than ever to get accepted into college so they are raising their standards,” said junior Alex Martinez. Straight A’s isn’t going to cut it anymore, extra curricular activities are also a factor.”

Despite the pressure for a perfect GPA, studies show that in the long run, it’s not what matters. Karen Arnold, a Boston University researcher conducted a 14 year long study following 81 high school students for 14 years after graduation.

The students had an average of 3.6 GPA in college and their high school success predicted their promising futures.

Although most of those students went on to graduate from college and land jobs, it was the students with an accumulative average of a 2.9 GPA that landed high level positions with million dollar salaries. Those students are the ones with the ability to change the world.

According to Arnold, the workplace praises those who don’t follow the mold and think outside of the box. Grades show discipline and the ability to comply with rules. Many “average” students have the ability to learn what failure is and work past it before it defeats them later in life.

According to Arnold, life is unclear and there are no specific guidelines to follow and receive an “A.” Students who have the ability to think differently and adapt to real world situations are able to shape the world.

“‘Valedictorians aren’t likely to be the future’s visionaries,’” says Arnold. “‘They typically settle into the system instead of shaking it up.’”

Although school has many rules to succeed, the world doesn’t and messiness is tolerable. 90 percent of those studied under Arnold recieved jobs and 40 percent of those received top-tier jobs.


“Valedictorians thrived in schools that focused on rewarding rule-followers, but those qualities didn’t drive them to innovative, out-of-the-box thinking in their careers,” said Olivia Goldhill, psychologist and neurologist for Quartz.

Valedictorians live comfortable lives and have great futures, but studies prove that having one focused passion leads to a bright future and creates visionaries.