One thing we strive to help our students understand is that there is more to them than just their GPA or their test scores. Every student applying to college has a whole identity beyond his or her work in the classroom or performance on a single test. All students have unique families, traditions, hobbies, interests, travel experiences, community involvement, friends, passions, and stories that make them who they are.
More and more, colleges are looking for ways to highlight these aspects of prospective students’ identities in making their admissions decisions.
Last year, the Harvard Graduate School of Education released a report entitled “Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good Through College Admissions.” This report lays out a plan for addressing some of the problems that have become entrenched in the college admissions process, such as excessive academic pressure and emphasis on personal achievement over good citizenship.
One of the main tenets of the report, which many colleges have endorsed and are working on incorporating into their own admissions standards (and one that we wholeheartedly support!), is the importance of contributing to one’s community in a meaningful way. Admissions officers can see right through community service that has been done solely for the purpose of being able to list it on an application. Devoting themselves to personally meaningful community service during high school gives students an opportunity to grow as individuals while making a real difference in the community. Colleges are looking to see that potential students are actively engaged in their communities, doing work that they genuinely care about.
This article by the Washington Post gives a summary of some of the highlights of the Harvard report, as well as some tips for how parents can help their teenagers incorporate the report’s recommendations into their high school experiences.
We suggest reading the entire article, but here are the five highlights:
- Reduce stress by limiting course loads and extracurricular activities.
- Value the different ways students make contributions to their families and communities.
- Stress the importance of authenticity.
- Alleviate Test Pressure.
- Engage in meaningful community service.