Thanks to budget cuts, California’s higher education system is going through tough times, and students from across the state are feeling the strain. We’ve already gone over the fact that the UC’s are now admitting a lower percentage of residents, which means that their ever-higher admissions standards are only getting more so for Californians. It’s becoming harder and harder to stand out. These days, with the abundance of AP and Honors classes offered at many high schools, a 3.6 GPA or even a 4.0 doesn’t get you nearly as far as it used to. Many students know this, and try to cram as many sports and extracurricular activities into their schedules as they can, but it can be hard to stand out even by doing that because so many kids take that approach.
If you’re an upcoming high school senior, not only does this make it harder to get into Berkeley or UCLA, it makes it harder to obtain quality financial aid once you get there. A UC Regents Scholarship is notoriously difficult to get, and is reserved for only the most exceptional students. So, how can you convince them that you’re exceptional and put yourself over the top? By doing a Project - an original undertaking outside the classroom that reflects your interests and aspirations. A Project can take many forms; you could start a business, invent a new product, produce a film, publish a book, or campaign for policy changes. What’s important is that by accomplishing something unique and impactful, you’ll be demonstrating the creativity, initiative, and tenacity that admissions officers truly covet.
Projects have helped many Merit students get into the college of their dreams. My own daughters, Nicole and Jaclyn, impressed many an admissions officer with their tales of starting a nonprofit for alternative energy and building a hydrogen fuel cell. Because they involve accomplishing something in the real world, projects put you in touch with leaders of science, industry, and politics. They also help you develop your entrepreneurial skills, hone your ability to do independent research, and learn to interact with the media. Not only will of this give you a wealth of insight into who you are and what careers you’re best suited for, it’ll also endow you with the self-confidence that comes from knowing that you did something very few kids your age even attempt – change the world for the better.