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January 2, 2019

What is the New Paradigm Shift in College Admissions?

In the winter of 2016, January to be precise, the Harvard Graduate School of Education published a body of work entitled, “Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good Through College Admissions.” This transformative report and the recommendations within it are a substantial attempt to reframe the narrative in the admissions process. The main points of the report are:

  1. The college admissions process sends powerful messages to students about what colleges value most, and hence society.
  2. Meaningful contributions to others and community service are a civic responsibility for all, including students.
  3. Honesty and Integrity are cornerstone virtues for all good citizens.
  4. College admissions officers and other stakeholders must do a better job reducing excessive achievement pressure among students.
  5. The playing field should be leveled for economically disadvantaged students.

The stakeholders in the Making Caring Common (MCC) Project include America’s elite and premier colleges, universities and private schools. This collaboration determined from scientific articles by Putnam, and Weissbourd & Jones in 2014, that teenagers feel strongly that parents, colleges and society value personal success and achievement more than service to humankind. This mindset creates an extraordinary amount of stress, illness, hospitalizations and avoidable (antidepressant) medications. The admissions committees of these prestigious institutions are compelled to use their platform to deliver the message that “concern for others and the common good,” and “academic excellence” are both highly Important.

This Harvard Graduate School of Education’s sponsored report recommends:

  1. Meaningful, Sustained Community Service
  2. Collective Action that Takes on Community’s Challenges
  3. Authentic, Meaningful Experiences with Diversity
  4. Service that Develops Gratitude and a Sense of Responsibility
  5. Prioritizing Quality, not Quantity of Activities
  6. Awareness of the dangers of Overloading on AP/IB classes
  7. Reducing SAT/ACT Test Pressure
  8. Expanding Students’ Thinking of what makes “Good” Colleges

The challenge here is that these messages will be drowned out by parents, peers and the prevailing competitive culture. Success shouldn’t be determined by the college you attend, but by your virtue and contribution to the greater society.