Designer Service Trips

Service Trips and Admission, Admissions and Travel, College Admission Service Trip

There is a good piece in “The New York Times” on college essays.

We came across a piece in “The New York Times” about the theme of money in the storytelling of students’ college essays that we figured we’d share with our readers. There were a couple of good points raised in the article and we figured we’d share one in particular with the folks who come here day after day to learn about highly selective college admissions. This particular point, one raised by a former Brown admissions officer, is that doing service projects in far-away lands and then returning to the United States more appreciative for all that you have is utter cliche drivel. We’ve been saying it for years on the pages of this college admissions blog, in the press, and on our soapbox.

But it’s always nice to see when folks agree with us. And that former Brown admissions officer went so far as to call these foreign service trips “designer service projects.” Like designer vitamins. We love it. That’s exactly what they are — designer activities that only showcase mom and dad’s wealth. They show a lack of initiative on the part of the student. What these kinds of designer activities convey is that the student (or his or her parents) thought it would improve their candidacy to the colleges of their dreams by making it seem as though they’re a great person interested in making the world a better place. But that’s not how it comes across. Not even close.

‘Designer service trips’ are much like designer vitamins. The trips will not help your case for admission. And the vitamins likely won’t help you stay healthy. But do them (or, in the case of the vitamins, swallow them) if you wish.

Admissions officers at highly selective colleges want to see students who take initiative. They want to see students who take initiative without following mom and dad’s money. Think about it. Who is going to root for the student who gets to galavant all over the globe over the student who made the best of what’s around by doing something in her local neighborhood? Nobody. Not a soul. They’ll all choose the young woman who made the best of what’s around, like “Dave Matthews Band” played.

Avoid ‘designer service trips’ at all cost! The moniker for these kinds of excursions, one aptly named by a former Brown admissions officer, speaks volumes.


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