Turning the Tide
Ivy Coach is featured today on the pages of “The Yale Daily News,” the newspaper of Yale University. The piece by Jon Victor is entitled “Admissions to focus on character” and it focuses on the report released yesterday by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. This report, titled “Turning the Tide,” delineates how highly selective colleges will go about seeking out students who demonstrate genuine, authentic civic engagement. As Victor sums up the report, “The report, titled ‘Turning the Tide,’ was released Wednesday morning at a panel in New York City and focused on three main concerns: emphasizing authentic civic engagement over personal achievement, reducing undue pressure on students and increasing college opportunity for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.”
Giving a homeless teenager a turkey sandwich when nobody’s looking is a nice thing to do. It seems like this “Turning the Tide” report out of the Harvard GSE is asking college applicants to tell them about the times they give away turkey sandwiches. And while our analogy may be ridiculous, our point is not.
It all sounds good if you ask us. But it also sounds like a…duh! Of course students should be good people. Of course there shouldn’t be as much stress in the highly selective college admissions process. Of course students from all socioeconomic backgrounds should have access to highly selective colleges. Of course, of course, of course. But we guess that’s what happens when you put a whole bunch of Harvard academics in a room together to write a report. You end up with a fancy report that says nothing that we don’t know and proposes little in the way of concrete ideas to go about fixing any issues in the admissions process.
As we’re referenced in the piece, “Brian Taylor, director of New York-based college consulting firm Ivy Coach, said that Yale’s additional application question will only encourage students to be boastful about their personal qualities, rather than revealing their true characters through their essays. This would run counter to the report’s mission, which is to encourage genuineness in a process often touted by cynics as inauthentic.” Think about it like this. We’re taught at a young age that true character is revealed when nobody is looking. It’s not when celebrities boast of their philanthropic efforts. It’s when you buy a homeless teenager a sandwich and don’t tell a soul about it. That’s character. But now highly selective colleges are going to be asking students to demonstrate their civic-mindedness in their applications. They’re asking them to tell them about the turkey sandwich they gave a homeless teen. It seems counterintuitive if you ask us. There’s something to be said for subtlety. Our students demonstrate their civic-mindedness very subtlety in their essays. They demonstrate how they’re going to change the world but they sure don’t say, “This is how I’m going to change the world!” Because that would be cliche.
What do our readers think about the “Turning the Tide” report. Do you think it will turn the tide? Or do you think it’s a fancy report written by Harvard folks that essentially states the obvious? Let us know your thoughts by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you!
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