New campaign aims to level the playing field by transforming college admissions process


Nice guys may not finish last anymore, at least as far as college admissions are concerned.

In a concerted effort to level the playing field, leaders from the nation’s top colleges and universities released ‘Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions’ — a report aimed at reshaping the college admissions process.

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Reshaping the college admissions process

Endorsed by some 85 colleges and universities, the report calls for widespread changes to the admissions process to shift the focus away from the pressures of achievement and more toward community involvement and better opportunities for economically disadvantaged students. Leaders behind the effort say Turning the Tide is just the first step in a two-year campaign aimed at ‘substantially’ transforming the current admissions process. 

Here are three key areas the effort aims to transform:

  1. Promoting meaningful community service and consideration of the common good;
  2. Consideration of race, culture and class when assessing contributions, giving value to situations such as caring for a younger sibling or working a part-time job to help the family finances;
  3. Redefining achievement to reduce excessive academic pressure.

“Too often, today’s culture sends young people messages that emphasize personal success rather than concern for others and the common good,” said Richard Weissbourd, senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and co-director of the Making Caring Common Project. “As a rite of passage, college admissions plays a powerful role in shaping student attitudes and behaviors. Admissions deans are stepping up collectively to underscore the importance of meaningful engagement in communities and greater equity for economically diverse students.”  

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The new recommendations — and new way of thinking — are the result of a meeting at the Harvard Graduate School of Education that was hosted by Making Caring Common, a project that helps teachers, parents and communities ‘raise children who are caring, responsible to their communities, and committed to justice.’

Turning the Tide addresses concerns that the college admissions process has helped to create a society focused on personal achievement, rather than a concern for the common good. By changing recruiting strategies and essay questions, as well as making standardized tests optional, ideally students will be less compelled to choose activities and courses simply for the sake of getting into the schools of their choice.

The Making Caring Common project says it will host a summit this upcoming summer in order to develop a plan of how the new campaign’s goals will be implemented over the next two years. You can get more information here.


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