Making kindness a weighted grade

One of the first things I ask students at the beginning of a The Student Success Project presentation is:

1. When is the last time you thanked a teacher for anything?
2. When is the last time you thanked cafeteria staff for delivering 100’s of lunches in less than 30 minutes?
3. And finally, when is the last time you thanked the custodial staff for keeping the school clean?

In the scheme of things, it seems as if the value of being nice is not as important as:

1. Test results
2. GPA (weighted and not)
3. SAT, ACT and even ABC scores

With the season of nail-biting, heartbreaking and gut-wrenching college acceptance notices over; it gives way to the need of asking – doesn’t being a good person carry clout in the college sweepstakes? Come on, what really matters to the world is character and moral compass; not how many AP or honors classes you have taken.

The Student Success Project has introduced me to many talented young people. On one end of the spectrum they climb mountains, head extracurricular clubs and develop new technologies. They’re the “next generation’s leaders” (such an overused and under delivered term) and their accomplishments stack up quickly.

The problem is that in a deluge of “promising students,” many become indistinguishable from one another, at least on paper. It is incredibly difficult to choose whom to admit. I mean, how do you decide between the student with the 7.8 weighted GPA, 1530 SAT and the other with the 7.5 weighted GPA and the 1560 SAT? – and yes, both have saved the world.

How do you rank the student who has spent the last summer in Central America building a water treatment station against the one building school houses for the underprivileged throughout South America? Again it’s mighty tough!

However, I have ALWAYS preached there is one factor in the chaos of SAT scores, extra-curriculars and recommendations needing to be front and center. It’s the irresistible trait that somehow gets overlooked – kindness.

I have met some wonderful students who may not be the most gifted academically but are off the charts in empathy, nurturing, and support. You see, unless you value kindness as important as a 34 on the ACT those special great students still might not get the recognition they deserve. And forget finding it in letters of recommendation, as most are typically superfluous, written by people who the applicant thinks will impress a school.

I say try a “regular person” who can give a real honest look into your soul. Let the school know how wonderful this student is and has a refreshing respect for every person at the school, regardless of position, popularity or clout.

It has become a blood fest, as they’re so many super academic achievers for just a precious few college spots. This is brutal for students, as being a wonderful person seemingly doesn’t account for much.

Until admissions committees figure out a way to effectively recognize the genuine but intangible personal qualities of applicants, we must rely on little things to make the difference. Sometimes an inappropriate email address is more telling than a personal essay. The way a student acts toward his parents on a campus tour can mean as much as a standardized test score. And, as I’ve seen, a sincere character evaluation from someone unexpected will mean more than any boilerplate recommendation from a former president or famous athlete.

Let’s start labeling a gifted student as one who is loaded with character traits and has real strong grades in kindness, caring and concern. I’m happy to help start that trend.

This column is by Ritchie Lucas, Founder of The Student Success Project and Think Factory Marketing. He can be reached at 305-788-4105 or via email and on Facebook and You Tube as The Student Success Project.

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