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Why Whole Student Development Matters for the College Process

Written by: Julie Glusker, Director of College Counseling

College applications can be a high-pressure time for student athletes and their families,
but they can also be a time of meaningful self-reflection and growth. Throughout the
college process, it is always important for students to remember that their worth goes
far beyond grades and test scores. This is where and when whole student development
comes into play.

A well-rounded, highly engaged student is someone who has pursued opportunities
outside of the classroom to explore and develop their interests, hobbies, and character.
This can include training and competing in sports, volunteering or working in the
community, or participating in various extracurricular activities. By showing an interest in
and commitment to various extracurricular activities, students can demonstrate to
admissions committees that they are curious and engaged community members, and
their value is far more than just their grades and test scores. US Performance Academy
students are these students.

One key aspect of whole student development is character, and colleges often assess
candidates through the lens of various character traits – diligence, loyalty, respect,
motivation, self-initiative, courage, perseverance, teamwork, kindness, compassion,
resilience – character traits colleges espouse in their school cultures and student life
These character traits are evident through achievements and failure, overcoming
obstacles, facing personal challenges or overcoming difficult situations – academically,
athletically, and personally. By showcasing whole student development and examples
of character, students demonstrate to admissions committees that they have the
determination and grit to succeed in college and beyond. Furthermore, these qualities
can be further developed through experiences such as sports, where students learn to
persevere through adversity and come out stronger on the other side.
Another important aspect of whole student development is leadership, which can be
demonstrated through holding leadership positions in clubs, organizations, or sports
teams. By taking on leadership roles, students learn valuable skills such as
compromise, organization, planning, communication, delegation, and conflict resolution.
But leadership is not dependent only on a student’s role; leadership is an approach to
life and how a student shows up in the classroom, on the field, or within their family and
community – with dedication, integrity, courage, and compassion.

Ultimately, while grades and test scores are important factors in the college application
process, it's also crucial for students to focus on whole student development. By
pursuing interests, hobbies, and experiences outside of the classroom, students can
develop their character and demonstrate qualities such as resilience and leadership.
These experiences not only make students more well-rounded and stand out in the
college application process, but also equip them with the skills they need for success in
the future. So, while it may feel like the focus should be only on academics, taking the
time to develop as a whole student athlete can help applicants better enjoy, reduce
stress, gain control, and make decisions in the college application process.