GPA is a tricky number. When a student tells me what her high-school GPA is, I respond with a blank stare. I usually just make a non-committal noise in my throat and say, “OK. Now tell me what kind of courses you’re taking and what kind of grades you’re getting.” As a college admissions counselor, GPA tells me almost nothing because GPAs vary wildly from school to school. Some schools use a 4.0 scale; others use a 100-point scale. Some schools weight both Honors and AP courses; others don’t weight any courses at all. Some schools offer every AP and IB course ever invented; others offer none. So GPA is, from our point of view, pretty much useless.
When we review your application for admission, we don’t look at your GPA. And we don’t try to re-calculate it or do any kind of crazy mathematical voodoo to it. Instead we look carefully at your transcript. We look at the courses you have taken over your four years of high school, while also considering what kinds of courses your school offers. We look at the grades you’ve gotten, taking note of any trends. Maybe math is your downfall and all of your math grades are slightly lower than your other grades. Well, I can certainly sympathize with that. Math was never my strong suit either. Maybe you have one blip of a C in World Geography. Not the end of the world. Maybe you had a rocky start to high school but your grades have steadily improved over the last couple years. We love to see that.
Your transcript tells us so much more than your GPA ever could. And, as we’re doing with the rest of your application, we’re trying to see beyond the numbers to have as full an understanding as possible of your past accomplishments and your future potential. The big picture of who you are and who you’re going to become, that’s what we’re trying to understand. And one number can’t even begin to tell us that.
Today we welcome Kristine Leary, a business major who has just returned from studying abroad through the GLOBE program.
In the past year I have traveled to 22 countries. I have made a presentation in front of executives from one of the largest companies in Europe. I have worked on teams comprised of students from three top universities on three different continents. Most importantly, I have built a network of friends and colleagues that spans from the US to Europe to Asia and back again.
While all of this might sound like something from the life of an international businessman, it was all a part of my life as an international business student with Kenan-Flagler’s GLOBE (Global Learning Opportunities in Business Education Program). This collaboration between UNC, Copenhagen Business School, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong is one of a kind in the world of undergraduate business. Lasting three semesters, the program selects 15 students from each university to live and study first in Copenhagen, then in Hong Kong, and finally in Chapel Hill. Over the course of these 18 months, this international cohort of students learns about the unique business environment in the host country and what it is like to work on multicultural teams.
Perhaps even more important than the coursework, however, GLOBE students get the unique possibility to see the world from a new perspective through the friendships built with their international counterparts and through the travel opportunities the program affords. There are few things as transformative to a person’s point of view as international travel, and international travel with international students by your side provides an even more insightful experience.
While GLOBE is a program demanding academic excellence, the students, especially the Americans, come from all walks of life. In my group there some students who had already traveled the world when GLOBE began and for some it was the first time leaving the country. Two are international students. We have double majors ranging from philosophy to religious studies to mathematics. By any definition of the word, we are diverse. But what we have in common is the quality that is most important when applying to the GLOBE program: we all have a genuine curiosity about the world, a desire to better understand what is beyond our borders.
When I started at Carolina three years ago, I knew I wanted to study abroad, but I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to study in both Europe and Asia. I never imagined that I would call students from Denmark and Hong Kong my best friends. I never could have known how much I would learn and how many places I would visit over the course of a year. And I never thought it would become such an integral part of shaping who I am today. So I urge any business student to whom this sounds appealing to apply for GLOBE, because you never know where it might take you.
What about rank in class? How do we view that?
Rank in class is just about as tricky a number as GPA, because it depends so much on your school. The size of your school, the rigor of your curriculum, the academic achievements of your fellow students—all of these things affect class rank. So, as with GPA, we work very hard to understand your class rank within the context of your specific school. We ask your counselor to report your rank in class, or to estimate it if your school does not rank. We also ask your counselor to tell us about the curriculum in your school, whether they limit how many advanced classes a student can take, if there were any circumstances that limited your curriculum, and what percentage of graduates from your school typically go on to a 4-year college. All of this information taken together helps us understand the context of your school, and how you are achieving in comparison with your nearest peers.
Last year, as reported in our class profile, 80% of our enrolling class was in the top 10% of their high school class, so that gives you a rough idea of where most of our admitted students fall. But please don’t think that there is any type of cutoff. We hear that rumor a lot: “If you’re not in the top 10% of your class then you can’t get in.” NOT TRUE! We would never make an admission decision about a student on the basis of a single number.
At the heart of the matter, we’re looking to see that you’ve taken advantage of the opportunities available in your school and community by continually challenging yourself. We want students here at Carolina who are going to continue pushing themselves and their fellow students to grow intellectually and explore new ideas—both inside and outside of the classroom. So help us understand how you’ll do that. How are you hoping to stretch your mind once you get here? That’s a great thing to think about as you write your essays.
Please just let me know what other questions you have. And don’t forget that our Early Action deadline is only 10 days away. October 15 will be here before we know it!
Charletta Sims Evans, assistant dean for student affairs at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, talks about public health and the opportunities available to those who decide to major in it.
Charletta, what’s a good working definition of ‘public health’?
Public health is everywhere. It’s about protecting and improving the health of communities through health education, promotion of healthy lifestyle, and disease and injury prevention. Unlike medicine, which addresses problems as they occur and diagnoses individual problems, public health focuses on improving the health of populations through prevention.
Students can pursue several different areas of public health here at UNC, including biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, health behavior, health policy and management, maternal and child health and nutrition.
What types of careers do students find themselves in after graduation?
They go into all sorts of different careers. They work in a variety of sectors from non-profits, commercial firms and pharmaceutical companies to hospitals and health care organizations, university research settings, government and consulting. A large number of them also pursue graduate work in public health.
What are some examples of public health initiatives students might know about?
Often when I’m talking with students about public health, I’ll ask them to think of what they see or read in the media on a daily basis. So much in the news relates to public health problems and potential solutions. Does your local drug store offer flu vaccinations? We have folks who can give you data about why the vaccination is a good idea. Did you read about the drought in the southwestern U.S.? Our environmental sciences and engineering researchers can tell you about water scarcity and climate change. What do you think of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! program? Our nutrition department knows all about why eating healthful foods and exercising regularly are important.
What is the one thing you’d like students to know about the programs or undergraduate experience at the Gillings School of Global Public Health?
Our school ranks as the top public school of public health in the country and is in second place among all public health schools (U.S. News & World Reports, 2012). Undergraduates are given opportunities to help with research and often are taught by and interact with professors who are renowned experts across many public health disciplines including cancer, global health, health disparities, and obesity and water safety, among others.
Our students also love to volunteer. They are very active on campus and in the community. Through their experiences here, they are able to gain fabulous skill sets and are more than qualified when they leave UNC to make a real difference in public health. Many join the Peace Corps or Teach for America, or enter competitive graduate programs.
Learn more about public health at Carolina.