A newly released report from leaders of some of the most respected colleges in the country are calling on admission programs everywhere to begin looking at more than just academic and individual achievements of prospectus students. The report, “Turning the Tide” is a product of the Making Caring Common project which stems from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and is aimed at making children put a higher value on community service and social justice.
“This report communicates our expectations much more clearly to applicants. We don’t want students who do things just because they think they have to in order to get into college. To the contrary: we want students who lead balanced lives, who pursue their interests with energy and enthusiasm, and who work cooperatively with others, all of which will help them to be successful in and after college,” said Stuart Schmill, Dean of Admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The group states “Turning the Tide” is the first step in a two-year plan to reshape college admissions across the country. The report has three main suggestions for admission offices to follow, all of which center around giving students equal opportunity and instilling a sense of caring for others, something researchers have found to be lacking in students at selective colleges where high academic success is prioritized.
“Previously the highly selective institutions have put emphasis on individual achievement, and what the highly selective institutions value is heard by students and then in their mind associated with colleges everywhere. It’s a sort of trickle down effect,” said Amber Schultz, St. Cloud State’s Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Recruitment.
Schultz also noted that these recommendations are primarily for the selective institutions that routinely reject good students because of a lack of achievements and awards. SCSU uses a rolling admissions policy that accepts nearly every student who has a high school GPA of three or higher as long as they also have a respectable ACT score.
SCSU doesn’t look into students’ extra-curricular activities unless they’re put in the ACE Program coming out of high school, meaning their grades aren’t enough to grant them immediate acceptance. Schultz said these students are asked a series of questions about their community involvement to see if they have the desire and motivation to succeed in higher education.
“I want it to be successful because of what it promotes, but it’s going to be a transition with effects not felt for years, especially at a local level,” said Schultz. The higher educations system moves rather slowly, and Schultz doesn’t expect to see the selective institutions implement changes for another couple of years.
“Turning the Tide” isn’t just a report recommending changes to better the admissions process, it’s setting out to improve the lives of students who currently are putting too much stress on themselves over academic success at the high school level.
“Escalating achievement pressure is not healthy for our youth. Young people are suffering from higher rates of depression, anxiety and substance abuse as they juggle the demands of their lives,” said Kendra Ishop, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management at the University of Michigan.
“Turning the Tide” has already been endorsed by 85 stakeholders across college admission offices and is the first step in promoting greater ethical engagement among students, reducing the pressure of excessive achievement, and leveling the playing field for economically disadvantaged students.