Community Service in Foreign Countries

Community Service and College, Admissions and Service Trips, Mission Trips in University Admissions

A number of folks wrote in to “The New York Times” in response to Frank Bruni’s editorial on mission trips and their role in college admissions.

Do community service in foreign countries to make the world better. But don’t do it in the hope that it’ll improve your chances of getting into a highly selective college. Because that’s rather shortsighted. Indeed a bunch of folks have written in with letters to “The New York Times” in response to Frank Bruni’s recent piece on mission trips and college admissions. But many of these folks who wrote in to offer their opinions fail to recognize that highly selective colleges aren’t specifically seeking students who have taken community service to new heights. And what many of these folks also have failed to recognize is that mission trips — going to faraway countries to fix roads, work in orphanages, save the zebras, you name it — hurts more than helps a student’s case for admission to our nation’s most elite schools.

“Think global, act local,” said Scots town planner and social activist Patrick Geddes. Take these words to heart in college admissions.

And why? Because mission trips reek of of privilege and admissions officers are human beings. They’re not naturally going to root for students from privileged backgrounds. When an admissions officer is deciding between a student who works at McDonald’s to help her family pay the bills and another student who travels to the Amazon in the hopes of saving it, all else being equal they’re going to choose the young woman who works at McDonald’s every single day of the week. That student will always win out. Duh.

So when Bernard F. Dick, a former professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, writes in, “If admissions personnel are looking only for students who can append a list of public service activities to their applications, they will exclude those who, for various reasons, cannot work part time or travel to Guatemala to paint houses,” know that the basic assumption of his argument — that these schools seek students with a list of public service activities — is not correct. But we absolutely stand behind the point that the former professor is trying to express…that colleges shouldn’t value community service over, say, work. And they don’t! People out there in the universe just seem to think that they do!

The same goes for Justin Jee. Justin writes, “It is heartening, though, that colleges still give applicants credit for community service. There are many factors they could consider instead, like standardized tests (favoring those with resources) or donations (which they value most from alumni).” Justin, highly selective colleges absolutely value major donations. These students are considered development cases in highly selective college admissions. And these colleges also absolutely value standardized testing like the SAT, ACT, Subject Tests, and AP tests. These colleges don’t value community service over something like testing.

What do you think about mission trips? We’re curious to hear from our readers so do post a Comment below. And if it isn’t clear already, we at Ivy Coach stand firmly and unequivocally against such trips! But we trust you gathered as much…


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