“Grit" is an amorphous quality comprised of character and commitment, and a buzzword that has been popular among educators and admissions officers in recent years. Students and parents are wondering how much it matters, and how they can demonstrate something so vague and varied on their college applications. How do we quantify, measure and develop “grit" in our students?
It's my belief that everyone possesses grit -- we just show it in different ways. Grit is a combination of your strengths and the way you respond to challenges. A class president with a list of successful achievements at school school and a student who had to fight against family instability to even make to the classroom each day both have grit. Your grit might appear on the soccer field and propel you to be a team leader. If you struggled academically but put in the work to raise your grades over time, that's grit.
Not A New Concept
I also don't think grit is actually a new element in college candidacy -- admissions officers have been looking for grit, or gumption, or stick-to-it-iveness, on applications for a long time. Grit isn't indicated by a GPA threshold, a high test score or a specific extracurricular activity. It comes through in the holistic view of your application that so many selective schools take. Your college application adds up to something greater than the sum of its parts -- ultimately, your grades, test scores, recommendations, extracurricular activities, essays, interviews and supplemental material work together to tell a story about you. When you are able to put your accolades, challenges and passions together effectively, the story your college application tells is about your character, your interest in challenging yourself and your ability to persevere.
By taking the most challenging classes available to you, taking advantage of resources and help to earn the highest grades and test scores possible; by building positive relationships with your recommenders; by articulating your interests, experiences and growth through essays — you're showing college admission officers that you've got “grit."
Just about everything you do to prepare for college has bigger life implications, too.
- When you work hard in your classes in high school, you become better educated.
- When you find and commit yourself to activities you enjoy, you discover your talents, learn to work with other people and enjoy life outside of the classroom.
- When you learn how to do something for yourself without relying on your parents, you become more independent and better prepared to live on your own.
- When you find a subject that interests you and dive in to learn more, you see for yourself just how rewarding learning can be when you let your interests take you there.
- When you struggle in a class and approach your teacher for help, you learn how to advocate for yourself and how to seek out assistance when you need it.
- When you try your best and still come up short, you learn how to handle that failure or disappointment, learn from it and then move on.
- When you take all of these lessons with you to college, you get more out of the overall experience.