The Ivy Coach Daily

February 16, 2020

Community Service is Not a Prerequisite for Admission

A piece in one of the world’s most respected newspapers presents many misconceptions about the college admissions process as realities. It’s rather disappointing if you ask us.

One of the core objectives of our college admissions blog is to correct misconceptions about the highly selective college admissions process. These misconceptions are so often perpetuated by high school counselors, by private college counselors, by college admissions officers, by the press, by moms standing behind you at the grocery check-out…you name it! Today, we happened to come across a misconception (or three) perpetuated in one of the world’s most respected news publications: The Washington Post. That’s right. Even the newspaper that broke Watergate can get it wrong sometimes. So how did the paper get it wrong?

Reporter Presents Profile of a Student Admissions Officers Will Covet

In a piece in WaPo by Steven Yoder entitled “When applying to college, what should matter?,” he tells the story of a young woman, D’naysha Griggs, who is currently applying to colleges. As he writes, “Griggs is a senior at Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics high school. When she’s not babysitting, she’s working 20 hours a week at Modell’s Sporting Goods in Brooklyn…Half her paycheck goes toward college savings. Her mother works in customer service at a taxi company and would help with college costs, but Griggs doesn’t want to put that obligation on her…She’ll be the first in her immediate family to go to college. Griggs’s work history and family commitments might seem like key selling points for colleges that say they value grit, time management skills and maturity. But many college applications don’t give much space to that kind of experience. Admissions officers at top schools tend to value community service — the sort of activities that students from low-income families may not have, given their devotion to helping their families and finding ways to save for college.”

Reporter Essentially Infers Admissions Officers Won’t Covet This Student’s Profile

Oh is that so, Mr. Yoder? No, it is most certainly not so! Admissions officers at our nation’s elite colleges do not value community service over students working jobs to help their families get by and to save for college. Contrary to popular belief, one does not need to do community service to earn admission to elite schools and D’naysha Griggs’ profile is precisely the kind of profile that wows admissions officers. D’naysha will be the first in her family to go to college. She works a job to help her family get by (this makes her so likeable which, we would argue, is a prerequisite for admission!). She is an underrepresented minority. She very much seems to be an elite college admissions officer’s dream based on her profile as presented to us!

The Reporter Is, Thankfully, So Very Wrong

And our nation’s elite colleges absolutely do — contrary to the words of Mr. Yoder — give ample space for D’naysha to detail her experiences. Working at Modell’s Sporting Goods? That’s wonderful work experience that should be listed in the Activities section of the Common Application. Babysitting? That too is work experience that should be listed in this same section. And the Personal Statement and all of the individual supplemental essays — that’s more real estate for D’naysha to tell her story. Mr. Yoder’s assertion that “many college applications don’t give much space to that kind of experience” is flat out false. And admissions officers would love to learn more about how D’naysha spends her days in multiple sections of her application.

The Reporter’s Incorrect Assertions Only Adds Stress to the Admissions Process

Unfortunately, the misconceptions that Mr. Yoder perpetuates about the highly selective college admissions process don’t end there. He writes, “This emphasis on community service can leave students from less affluent families facing the difficult decision of whether to give up opportunities to earn much-needed money so they can burnish their college applications.” Mr. Yoder! It’s 2020. It’s not 1980. Our nation’s elite colleges have not sought well-rounded students in decades. One need not do community service to earn admission to highly selective colleges. That’s a popular belief — but it’s ultimately wrong. Community service is but one admissions angle and by perpetuating this misconception, Mr. Yoder is only making the already stressful college admissions process more stressful for all by confusing his readers.

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