We came across a piece in “Christianity Today” that focused on how religion can help us rethink the college admissions process. While we’re not regular readers of the faith-based publication, we found the editorial interesting nonetheless, particularly the piece’s tagline which reads, “The ‘soulcraft’ found in faith-based learning is just what higher ed needs right now.” The editorial’s writer, David Coleman, the CEO of the College Board who has been facing intense scrutiny of late for his response to the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, essentially argues that students and parents get way too crazed in the singleminded pursuit of earning admission to the best college possible and they’d be well served by heeding some of the lessons of religion. So what exactly does Coleman mean by this? Well, let’s see.
The Importance of Fewer But More Meaningful Activities
As Coleman writes in his editorial entitled “College Board CEO: How Religious Education Helps Us Rethink the College Admissions Race,” “The sometimes-crazed pursuit of college admission tends to destroy such solitude and inhibits excellence in any activity outside of the classroom. Typical college applications have five to ten spaces for activities. There should be no more than three. If you want to do more, so be it. But those pursuits should stem from genuine interest, not the anxiety of needing to fill blanks on an application.”
Mr. Coleman is both right and wrong all at the same time. You see, highly selective colleges don’t want students to just fill in ten blanks in the activity portion of the application. Sure, plenty of applicants do that — but those who are just filling in those blanks for the sake of filling in those blanks, well, it shows. Highly selective colleges want students who show that genuine interest in a single pursuit (not 10) — just as Coleman describes. But one can demonstrate that genuine interest in that single pursuit through more than three activities. For students who are genuinely interested in a singular passion, Coleman should know that it’s actually quite easy for these students to then demonstrate that passion for a multitude of activities that don’t make students and parents go crazy.
The Importance of Reading for Pleasure
Coleman writes, “A second powerful practice is reverent reading. Reading deeply—attending to a text with the full powers of the mind and heart—is vital to communities of faith and to academic success…I find that students are often asked more about themselves than the books they have read. [C.S.] Lewis describes true reading as enlarging the soul, a skill critical for the first year in college, when students spend less time in class and more time reading independently.”
We disagree again with Coleman on this point. In the many college admissions essays, students have such an opportunity to showcase their love of reading. They have a chance to demonstrate that they love reading not only that which is required of them but they love reading for pleasure, too. And if these students approach their college admissions essays correctly, they can absolutely share about themselves — through their reading in, yes, solitude as Coleman recommends. After all, one can learn quite a bit about oneself by reading for pleasure under a tree.
What do our readers think of David Coleman’s piece in “Christianity Today” on college admissions? Let us know your thoughts by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the soulcraft of college admissions!