Do you know what colleges really want your kids to have?


Colleges want students to stop working so hard at racking up accomplishments, accumulating extracurricular activities and taking AP courses because they think it will give them an edge.

Focus more on authentic community service.

“Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions” is a report by Making Caring Common, a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It’s calling on colleges to lower the pressure on students to impress admissions committees by racking up achievements and accolades.

The document is endorsed by over 50 colleges, including a list of Ivy League schools. It concludes that teens are taught to emphasize personal success rather than concern for others. “We have elevated achievement as the primary goal of child-raising and demoted or sidelined concern for others and the common good,” Richard Weissbourd, a senior lecturer at Harvard’s School of Education and the co-creator and director of “Making Caring Common,” told ABC News.

Colleges are looking for students who are academically rigorous, but who also lead well-balanced lives and are authentically involved in their communities. Kids should have transformative experiences of diversity across race, class, culture, also political and religious orientation.


Our kids enjoy serving the kids at St. Vincent DePaul’s Family Dining Room.

Serving should be who you are, not what you do.

Your teen shouldn’t be involved in community service because they think it will one day impress a college admissions officer. I have personally volunteered with numerous youth who are there only because they ‘need the hours.’ The countdown is on for them to complete their mandatory time so they can simply check the community service piece off their list of achievements. There is nothing meaningful or transformative about serving someone because you feel you have to. Don’t let this happen to your child. Help them find a cause that they believe in.

Serving others is the backbone of our family. We take our kids to work overseas and we volunteer together right here in our backyard. One thing I know for sure is that you have to be intentional in fitting in volunteer work or it may never happen because family life is so full of other obligations.


Our family loves serving the Valladolid, Mexico community.

Get involved in authentic, transformative community service

What does your child do for others because he truly wants to, not because he has to? Community service isn’t an accomplishment. Look for opportunities for teens to work side by side with the people they are helping, instead of for them, which can sometimes feel patronizing.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the schools that endorsed the Turning the Tide report, has already changed its essay question to reflect community involvement rather than another kind of highlighted achievement.

Is meaningful community service a part of your family? Harvard thinks it’s a good idea and so do I!

1 reply
  1. Toni
    Toni says:

    My favorite line you wrote is ” Serving should be who you are not what you do .” Thank you for reminding me how important it is to get your kids involved. Daily life gets so busy but it’s so important to experience those time with your kids.


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