Post by Mimi Doe
I received my Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard many years ago, but still find the Harvard Ed. Magazine full to the brim with interesting articles, studies, data, and interviews. The Winter 2015 interview with Jenn Charlot, a Director at the Character Lab, was simple and yet critical for those of us working with students to keep at the forefront of our work so that we might inspire students to achieve mastery in their areas of interest.
Charlot talks about what “grit” looks like in a school kid. She says: “Gritty students try really hard, especially when they experience failure or when they feel like quitting. When frustration and errors happen, they persist.”
In over a decade working with high school students to manage the college admissions process, I have seen kids with grit create high impact high school careers and incredibly bright students who don’t have that persistence and determination get lost in the shuffle.
Charlot notes that parents and teachers can help students discover a goal that they are passionate about, then get it across that reaching that dream requires lots and lots of practice.
Nobody wakes up an extraordinary oboe player, chess champion, ornithologist or winning coxswain on a crew team. It takes grit. No high school junior will get to RSI, or be published in the Concord Review by becoming discouraged that their high school doesn’t offer AP classes and settle for that or head to Cancun with their families every vacation rather than continuing the lab research job he or she landed last year. No student gets into an Ivy League by being ordinary and accepting what’s spoon-fed to them. They try hard, they fail and try again; they don’t blame bad teachers or circumstances for their results, but rather they create opportunities – led by their passions not just their desire to get an A or get into a good school.
Practice is hard, Charlot says in her interview. Kids with grit “relentlessly pursue their goals, finish whatever they begin, and stick to things for more than a few weeks.”
What I have seen is that when enthusiastic learners channel that positive energy into their interests and creatively set out to explore, solve, lead, and overcome — they soar. A love of learning and a demonstrated interest taken to measurable heights is what colleges are eager to see pop off the pages of the Common Application.
Far from “common” kids with grit get noticed in the admissions game.