In today’s entry, we continue the discussion between Ian Fisher and Elyse Krantz on the Switching the Tide report from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. You can re-read part one on our blog here, and if you’re interested in further conversation, you can explore the archives of our Getting In radio show to hear more from Ian, Elyse, and At the Heaton, on the impact of the statement.
Ian Fisher: Fascinating to see you highlight community support first, because that’s the one that stood out to me. Nearly one year back, I wrote an article for this weblog titled “Colleges Do not Care About Community Service. ” I felt pretty good about that declaration because nothing I had ever seen from college admissions suggested that there was something special regarding community service within the full collection of extra-curricular activities. At a glance, this particular seems like a departure from that position.
But I’m not so convinced. The report also argues students can fulfill this ideal through “community engagement, ” e. g. “working in groupings on community problems, whether the problem is a local park that is dangerous, bullying in their schools or communities, a high teen pregnancy rate or some form of environmental degradation. ” This kind of engagement might be satisfied by more traditional college clubs like the GSA, the Black Student Union, the Recycling Membership, or Students Against Destructive Choices (SADD).
For me, the big takeaway from this recommendation is that college students should first broadly define their community (family? school? city? ethnic group? state? ) and then determine the best way to get personally involved in enhancing one element of that community. And like you say, that requires some considered what a student’s interests and values are; which I think is precisely the point of this report. Colleges are hoping that students will use their high school years as an opportunity to reflect on what they care about and how they can impact the world.
Really does that summary of the report sit well with you, or do you see this report as aiming at some other objectives (implicit or explicit)?
Elyse Krantz: Absolutely. The particular authors of the report, as well as the 80+ individuals who have formally endorsed its common message, genuinely wish that a lot more high school students would step out of their comfort and ease zones and look beyond traditional procedures of success and achievement. What better way to realize personal development in high school than to support the greater good and create a lasting influence in one’s community?
And it’s wonderful, too, that this “Making Caring Common” project acknowledges psychological wellbeing as a key motivation behind their recommendations. In recent years there has been a marked uptick in reports surrounding student depression and stress at both high school and college level. As the frenzy to gain entrance into an elite college is at an all-time higher, acceptance rates at these institutions continues to plummet, leaving many high achieving students wondering if it’s physically and emotionally possible to push themselves harder.
I worry that some families will read this report and think, “Great – now Jane has to volunteer even more to stand out at the Ivies. ” I also get worried that other families will review these recommendations and falsely imagine their service-oriented child with directly Bs and modest testing will be a shoe-in for Harvard. They won’t. Last month, Harvard’s Dean of Admissions William Fitzsimmons told the Harvard Crimson that he doesn’t support the report’s recommendation that students limit their number of AP classes. And despite the report’s recommendation that colleges consider eliminating their SAT/ACT needs, Dean Fitzsimmons firmly believes that standardized tests are a useful way to measure students’ “academic excellence. ”
In the admissions sport, grades come (and have at all times come) first; but if you’re a student who is drawn to this notion of “giving back, ” and you’d love to immerse yourself in community provider, take on a community challenge, or legitimately experience diversity, get out there is to do it. Not for the sake of colleges, however for yourself.
For more on this topic, catch the particular Turning the Wave segment on this episode of Getting In: The College Coach Conversation .
Ian Fisher is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts . Ian received his master’s in policy, organization, and leadership research from the Stanford Graduate School associated with Education. Prior to joining College Coach, Ian worked as a senior admissions officer at Reed College.