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What You Need to Know about the Changes Coming to College Applications

You may have heard of this exciting new initiative coming out of Harvard Graduate School of Education called Turning the Tide.

Many officials of top tier schools, like Harvard, Cornell, and Columbia, have signed on as endorsers. According to the Harvard’s Making Caring Common Project, the report includes concrete recommendations to reshape the college admissions process and promote greater ethical engagement among aspiring students, reduce excessive achievement pressure, and level the playing field for economically disadvantaged students.” Sounds great, right? Today I want to break down exactly what this new initiative means.

The Importance of Sending the Right Message to Students

The new messaging is great. Emphasizing students contributions to their families and communities over taking the SAT twelve times is absolutely what colleges should be doing.

This isn’t as revolutionary as you may think, though. Insiders have always known that students need more than great test scores and a high GPA to get into the best schools. In fact, every year Harvard rejects plenty of perfect SAT and ACT scores.

The way to get into a dream school is for your child to show them how they can contribute to the school. It seems counterintuitive and against all the conventional wisdom that students don’t actually need perfect test scores. Getting into elite schools is all about your child showing their unique self and how they will contribute to the community. This new initiative really puts that front and center.

How Can Your Child Use This in Their Application?

I’m sure your child is extremely caring, but it can be hard to showcase sometimes. Not knowing how to create a really impactful difference in their communities or being unsure about how to demonstrate this on their college applications can hold students back.

What I have found to be the absolute best way to do this, is to either create an organization, like a non-profit that takes day-old bread from bakeries and gets it to homeless shelters, or an event, like a resource fair for foster families.

This is a lot easier than you may think. Sit down with your child and make a list of their interests or groups they’d like to help. Maybe they’re really into robotics and would love to share that with middle schoolers. Once they figure out some options, it’s simply a matter of asking.

Have your child spend at least fifteen minutes today brainstorming ideas for what they’d be excited to contribute to. Some of my favorites are putting on a science fair for an underserved middle school, putting on a resource fair for a specific group of people, organizing a community Earth Day celebration, and starting a non-profit.

The Earlier You Start the Better 

Nothing demonstrates your child’s commitment to caring about their community better than a long record of service. If they’re a junior, it’s not too late. I started my community service project my junior year. But it is tremendously helpful if your child starts earlier. 

Starting  freshman or sophomore year gives your child a distinct advantage to building their service project into something really impactful. It also gives them a leg up on getting their project recognized on a national scale.

Action Steps

  1. Make a list of organizations or events that you can create.
  2. Start reaching out to organizations that can help you.

If you’re looking for more help with the application and getting into elite colleges, get my Ultimate Guide to the Common App today!

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