There was a new report released this week by Making Caring Common, a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, which takes a major step in trying to change the college admissions process to make it more humane, less super-human.
The report, entitled Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good Through College Admissions, offers specific recommendations for redesigning the college admissions process in the following three area:
- Promoting more meaningful contributions to others, community service and engagement with the public good. The specific recommendations are:
- Meaningful, Sustained Community Service
- Collective Action that Takes on Community Challenges
- Authentic, Meaningful Experiences with Diversity
- Service that Develops Gratitude and a Sense of Responsibility for the Future
2. Assessing students’ ethical engagement and contributions to others in ways that reflect varying types of family and community contributions across race, culture and class. The specific recommendations are:
- Contributions to One’s Family
- Assessing Students’ Daily Awareness of and Contributions to Others
3. Redefining achievement in ways that both level the playing field for economically diverse students and reduce excessive achievement pressure. The specific recommendations are:
- Prioritizing Quality—Not Quantity—of Activities
- Awareness of Overloading on AP/IB Courses
- Discouraging “Overcoaching”
- Options for Reducing Test Pressure
The hope is that the report sends a compelling message that both ethical engagement— especially concern for others and the common good—and intellectual engagement are highly important.
More than 80 stakeholders, including admissions officers (including, for example, the ones at Harvard, Yale, and University of Virginia), deans, professors and high school counselors have endorsed the report.
Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale University, notes that a new essay question on its application is designed to get a sense of the student’s intellectual engagement and concern for others and the common good.
Richard Weissbourd, lead author of the report, hopes that many of the recommendations in the report will also find their way into the Common, Coalition, and Universal applications.
Weissbourd also recognizes that some applicants may try to game the new recommendations, but he believes that even if a student engages in community service with misplaced motivation, the student may still have a powerful learning experience. Research shows that for many students service activities are an opportunity for maturity and growth, even when they are mandatory or driven by the college application process.
I’ve written about the importance of an attitude of kindness and compassion several times (Kindness in Action, Congratulations Patty B!, Is Nice the New Black?, Thank You!, Why Compassion Is Better than Toughness), and this report is just further evidence of the importance of such attributes.
To paraphrase the words of the Dalai Lama, “The cultivation of compassion is no longer a luxury, but a necessity, if high school students want to be accepted into the college of their choice.”
P.S. Thank you to Daryl W., a fellow swimmer from college, for making me aware of this report.