College Admissions: How It's Changing

Some wealthy families are using money to do the thing that everyone wants for their children: ensure success. Based on recent news, people are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to open a “back door” to the nation’s most elite universities. However, is that really what college admissions do? Does your life’s happiness really depend on what university you attend for four years?

Making Caring Common does not agree. This is a project from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education that focuses on improving the care that children have for each other, especially in the school setting. In their second report, Turning the Tide II, they shift their focus to spreading caring values even during the college admissions process.

Introducing a New Mindset

Now that the world is aware of the lengths that some students and their families will go to in order to get into college, something must be done. Paying people to cheat on the SAT, fake photos to suggest athletic promise at universities, and bribing coaches are punishable offenses. Not to mention they take away from the true purpose of college: learning.



In the modern world of education, learning has taken a backseat to competition and college admissions. This is exactly what Turning the Tide II mentions and wants to change.

Instead of students being too stressed out to do their homework, Harvard’s program wants them to care for others, learn for the sake of learning, and enjoy being a kid while they still can.

Educators want students to go to a college that is best-suited for them, rather than to a college that is the best. This is the major change. It should no longer just be about competition.

Who Can Change College Admissions?

The expected answers apply such as teachers, universities, and students. Interestingly enough, though, the main source of change that Turning the Tide II focuses on is the the parents. This definitely aligns with what has been happening in the media lately; parents seem to pay their way through college admissions whether or not their children know or care about their moral indiscretion.

The report puts a large amount of responsibility on parents to talk to their children about their future options. Instead of just telling them to get into the best school, parents should be minimizing the pressure. Not only this, but they should also be “promoting ethical character” when it comes to college admissions and school itself. College applications opens the door to “ethical education,” and parents should take advantage of that according to the Making Caring Common project.

A concrete example of parent improvement in the college hunting process is to provide a list of lesser-known universities for their children to see. This way, they will be eliminating the idea of only being able to attend a few of the top, selective universities in order to please their parents or to be successful.

What Has Already Been Done?



One major socking change that this report created is the Dean’s Commitment Letter. This marks a statement of ethics that shows a list of 140 colleges that will look at more than just an impressive resume on a college application. These Deans sign this agreement to work with Turning the Tide to lessen the stress, involvement, and course load of high school students. In turn, they will not reject students based on

encourages students to become involved with extracurricular and volunteer activities that they actually enjoy. In terms of service, the letter recognizes that “the scale of the problem and the location of the service don’t determine its value.” It’s more about the student’s passion in the project and how they put forth their efforts. Universities should see this stand out over number of years of involvement, leadership positions, and other surface-level resume builders.

Specifically, “This letter commits these colleges to honoring high schools’ curriculum. That means that no student will be disadvantaged in applying to these colleges if their high school, for example, limits advanced coursework—a commitment that is key to reducing excessive achievement pressure. Nor will students be disfavored if a school is only able to offer a few advanced courses and extracurricular activities—a commitment that is key to strengthening the prospects of economically disadvantaged students.”

Wake Forest University Perspective

I myself am a junior at Wake Forest University. My university is a test-optional school, which already implies a sense of ethics. The admissions office does not believe that you should have a certain test score to bring value to our community. In fact, they were one of the first schools to do so, even before the cheating SAT scandals came out in the last few months.

Wake Forest University is also one of the schools that signed the Dean’s Commitment Letter. My school believes in getting to know the student, rather than seeing how impressive they are on paper.



However, that being said, it is interesting to look at the rest of the schools on the Dean’s Commitment Letter. Wake Forest University was involved solely through a men’s volleyball coach, whereas other schools like University of Southern California, Yale University, and Georgetown University let in students with the help of Singer. Interestingly, USC and Yale are both on this list.

Other schools of mention include University of Virginia, Williams College, Southern Methodist University, and more. Although, one is not doing more than the others. All 140 colleges are making a difference in the lives of stressed out high-schoolers with tons of AP exams and science homework.

Clearly, ethics in college admissions still matter, especially to the universities students want to get into the most. However, Turning the Tide shows that the admissions process should be about a university and student match, rather than a competition. Students should work hard to get into college, but not so hard that they turn to poor moral decisions and excess stress. Moreover, it is up to the parents to ensure that they align with these values.

Universities do not guarantee success—the student does.

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