Guidance Counselors react to USA Today report that some colleges say grades don't matter

A USA Today report says that some of the nation's most selective colleges say they barely look at an applicant's GPA, instead evaluating a student's course load difficulty and extra-curricular activities.

The report surprises some local guidance counselors, who preach that the classroom is the most important part of putting an impressive resume together.

"If a school isn't looking at [grades], then I guess I'm not sure what they're looking at," James Wickersham, a counselor at Westhill says. "It must be based on some kind of interview or the impression they get when the student meets with them on campus and is actually talking to them."

Some students, like Westhill senior Daniel O'Brien-Mazza, say they believe the essays they wrote in applications made the difference in getting accepted.

"I think the determining factors were the essays that I wrote to the schools," O'Brien-Mazza, who was accepted into all six of the colleges he applied to, says. "I think I did a really good job of saying who I was and why I would be a good candidate for the school."

Unlike some of those other schools, Le Moyne College in Syracuse still values grades as a part of their admissions process. Dean of Admission Denny Nicholson says they perform both an academic and character review of each applicant. But, he says that sometimes the grades are difficult to compare to each other, because every high school has a difference grading system.

"There's no universal grading system for high school," Nicholson says. "So, one of the challenges particularly for large volume colleges or universities is interpreting the many grading systems that are out there."

Nicholson says he understands why some of those schools would look at more than grades, as in some cases, the numbers between students can be so similar that something else needs to be taken into account, which Heidi Green, Director of Counseling at Fayetteville-Manlius, says is key for students when they are putting a resume together.

"Students have to show intellectual interest...intellectual initiatives," Green says. "So maybe going to a local university and doing some research in the summer, or special programs showing you have an interest and a passion for learning works."