For example, MIT recently changed one of their application questions to this one, focusing on one’s interest in helping other people.
“At MIT, we seek to develop in each member of our community the ability and passion to work collaboratively for the betterment of humankind. How have you improved the lives of others in your community? (This could be one person or many, at school or at home, in your neighborhood or your state, etc.)”
The creation of this report was hosted by Making Caring Common, a project from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It’s main recommendations, endorsed by Stu Schmill, include
- Promoting and incentivizing students to do good in their community.
- Finding ways to accurately give students credit for helping others.
- Redefining achievement with an understanding of income, race, and cultural differences in a way that is fair for all applicants.
At Ardent, we’re happy to see these factors being taken seriously by MIT, Harvard and other elite universities. For the past several years we have stressed the importance of 'caring for others' to students and families through our courses and volunteer projects. Rather than endorsing distant ‘volun-tourism’ initiatives that last just a few weeks and attempt to look good on college applications, we focus on year-round projects that make a difference locally.
We manage these projects with a strong focus on serving others and bringing about personal transformation and have seen the beneficial effects of these programs on our students. Therefore, we are very excited to see the overwhelming acceptance of reports like “Turning the Tide” by Harvard and other elite institutions.
What does this change in focus mean for you? It certainly doesn’t mean that you should focus less on GPA, SAT II, or AP scores than before. These numbers are still exceptionally important for getting into elite universities like Harvard, Stanford or MIT.
You should, however, be aware that colleges are starting to look into the ethics of students by asking questions like the one mentioned above. Discussing these topics as a family can help prepare you to answer these questions well. Also, considering extracurricular activities that show a desire to help others (such as volunteer work at hospitals or soup kitchens) may help you prepare stronger answers.
For more information on this report, and a greater understanding of what it might mean for your child, you can view the executive summary here.