What is an excellent student?

Author: Óscar Hidalgo-Redondo, MPhil

Position: Chair of International Economic Relations

This is the time of the year when faculty members are asked by graduating students to write recommendation letters that will help them in their application to graduate programs. UNYP has been able to build a solid reputation, and many of our students have been accepted to top programs in renowned universities.

Often our students ask us for advice in their application processes. Many students share the wrong belief that a good average grade (a good GPA) is the key factor on which their success will depend. It is true that an average grade lower than required may mean that the candidate will be immediately discarded. However, a good academic record is not a single guarantee of success. In fact, the good programs receive plenty of applicants with good academic records and they make a very big effort trying to select the best among those that have applied.

In the department of International Economic Relations we believe that it is very important that in addition to offer a good education in our courses:  we offer students the possibility to complete their education outside of the class. In fact, an active extra-class activity is what distinguishes excellent students from good students. That is why we consider so important the existence of opportunities for students to develop that crucial dimension of education . One thing that helps students with this is the student societies. There are two student clubs that are particularly notable for International and Economic Relations students: the Model United Nations Club and the Debating Society. Participation in the activities of those clubs helps students develop skills that are incredibly important in their future professional careers, such as argumentation skills, capacity to work under pressure, speaking in public, and teambuilding. In addition to that, it demonstrates a passion for their studies that is particularly appreciated by those in charge of selecting candidates in postgraduate programs.

A second element that helps students in their processes of application is some form of professional experience. Students that have taken part in internships in the course of their studies are adding precious experience to the programs they would be enrolling in. In addition to that, interns show that they are able to deal with the demands of their work both as interns and as students. Again, that is an important factor that may be crucial when the selection committees make their choice. That is why we always encourage our students to find time for an internship in the course of their bachelor studies.

And finally, social contribution and community involvement must be also taken into consideration. Candidates who have a desire to give back to their communities, to share with others, possess something of incredible value for selection committees. Students that get involved show that the knowledge that they will acquire in their programs will be put back into society, and that is a commitment that good educational institutions have.

Thus, building a good curriculum vitae is not something that students can do in the last year of their students. It is something that you need to create from the very beginning of your university career (if not earlier) and requires much more than just being a good student in class but to have the desire to learn and engage beyond class work. We are lucky at UNYP since we have a good number of these students.

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