A recent report published by leading colleges and universities is calling for concrete changes to the college admissions process. Here, two of our expert educational consultants discuss their opinions and ideas about the report.
Ian Fisher: Last month, I wrote an opinion piece for our blog on Turning the Tide, a report compiled by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and endorsed by college admissions professionals nationwide. In the month or so since that report has been released, I’ve seen a mix of skepticism, usually from admissions professionals and school counselors, and optimism, usually from those on the outside of the field looking in. At the heart of this tension is a big question: is this something new? And will it change how colleges approach admissions? I’m interested in getting your (Elyse Krantz’s) take on those two questions, but I’m also interested in continuing the conversation for our readers.
So let’s assume that Turning the Tide contains a lot of good recommendations for students (something I argued in my initial post), and let’s talk about some of the core elements of the report. I’m interested specifically in the recommendations that the paper gives about meaningful engagement in the application process and how students and families might internalize these recommendations.
What did you find to be the best idea in the report and what do you think it means for families going through this process?
Elyse Krantz: That’s a tough question because there are two recommendations that really speak to me.
The authors of the report strongly suggest that students should find a way to contribute to their communities by way of “meaningful, sustained community service.” While many high schools require that students log a certain number of volunteer hours as a graduation requirement, too often students fulfill this goal through activities that have little or no personal meaning. Volunteering to help clean up your local park may sound wonderful to a budding environmentalist, but not all students would find this activity rewarding. Similarly, many nursing homes would welcome volunteers with open arms, but not all high schoolers would thrive or feel comfortable in this setting. Whether students are considering attending a 2-year college, a public research university, or a highly selective liberal arts college, they will directly benefit from engaging in a long-term service project that has personal relevance.
My second favorite recommendation comes at the end of the report. Given all of the media attention surrounding the dozen or so most selective schools across the country, it’s easy for students and parents to forget there are literally hundreds of exceptional colleges that provide top-notch educational opportunities. Every year at College Coach, I find that students from the same high schools are targeting the exact same colleges. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with aiming for a well-known dream school, I appreciate the report’s recommendation that students need help expanding their notion of what defines a “good” college. When junior families receive their personalized college list—whether it’s from their own high school counselor or College Coach—I encourage students to take the time to research those schools whose names are unfamiliar to them. Just because your best friend hasn’t heard about X College doesn’t mean it’s not a great school; it’s simply means that your friend isn’t very knowledgeable about colleges!