If there’s one thing that the majority of competitive students can agree on, it’s that the current college admissions system creates a lot of stress. Stress about standardized exams, extracurriculars to attend, grades to keep up … the list seems never-ending.

Recently, however, the Harvard Graduate School of Education has developed a project called Making Caring Common (MCC) to provide recommendations to revamp the college process. Essentially, the project recommends revolutionizing the college admissions process, placing more emphasis on creating a positive impact in the community than on personal achievement.

So far, this plan has been backed by all Ivy institution deans and those at 80 other institutions, which shows that MCC is gaining a lot of support. For this reason, we at Admissions Hero wanted to show you—the students going through the college admissions process—what the future of college admissions may be.

There are a number of similarities and differences between the current admissions system and this revolutionary MCC system. We’ll outline them in this post.

How they’re similar:

The two systems of college admissions don’t differ immensely at their core.

  • The current system of admissions and the recommendations made by MCC both select for top-notch students whom colleges believe are likely to be successful in their respective fields.
  • Admissions now and after MCC’s recommendations value students who possess leadership skills and who see the value in helping their communities. Colleges look for students who will contribute to the lives of others and exercise their skills in the real world beyond the small bubble within which many students tend to dwell.
  • Not only that, but it is also every college’s hope that the students they admit can eventually give back to their institution, and this does not change when it comes to college admissions under the two systems. The current system perpetuates a competitive atmosphere between Ivies, which in turn causes institutions to value alumni’s donated funds (for the purpose of trumping their competitors); the MCC system favors selecting students who give back to others, which will by nature encompass not just those in need but also the schools that gave them so much. It is also likely that the MCC will perpetuate the current system’s competitiveness between schools because a school’s rank and prestige will always be important in attracting high school seniors who are “shopping” for schools, and that will remain an important factor in future funding. Both systems can thus be said to favor the student who can give back to the alma mater.
  • Both a system featuring MCC’s recommendations and our current system do a lot of sifting for applicants who stand out above their peers in their ability to direct their energies toward greater goals. However, the means are different, which will be discussed in the next section.

As you can see, both systems share similar goals at their core. But this is not to say that the systems don’t differ in their core values about how top students should be selected. Below, you’ll find the ways in which the two systems at hand seem to drift apart in practice and ideology.

How they differ:

  • MCC wants not only students who are cranking out A’s on their report cards, but students who are actively making an authentic difference outside of school. This means contributing to the community and seeking ways to actively address problems in the outside world. MCC seeks students who will do all of the above with a genuine wish to help, not just to gain the highest number of service hours.
  • Our current system focuses much more than MCC on selecting students who outperform their peers in a multitude of areas. Such areas include. but are not limited to: academics, extracurriculars, standardized examinations, and leadership skills. Because there is no way to set a cap on how well-rounded or successful students can be, the current system tends to perpetuate more stress and competitiveness.
  • This same stress is less likely to occur under MCC. This is because MCC hopes to emphasize contribution to communities over time-consuming, high-stress activities like taking the most AP’s, starting the most clubs, etc. Such stress reduction is a key argument in MCC’s support.
  • Also unlike MCC, the current system also tends to perpetuate thoughts like “Just one more SAT retake and I’ll be on par with X friend/X school’s average score,” “I’ve achieved a lot… but I need to be doing more, and if I don’t, I won’t get into X school,” “What are my peers doing, and are they ahead of me?” Essentially, students are taught to value personal gain over “ethical engagement,” or concern for others and the common good.
  • Thus, students under the current system are not urged to value the “bigger picture” as much as they would under MCC; personal achievement takes precedence over meaningful contributions in many cases. As stated in the first bullet of this section, the key difference between the current system and MCC is that MCC values genuine, authentic service; the current system, though intending to encourage authenticity in service, tends to perpetuate competitions for the highest number of service hours. These service hours can thus be more the result of an admissions game than a genuine outreach toward the community, toward the common good.

 

While our current system is at its core similar to MCC, the two systems differ significantly in how they value and measure the accomplishments of students. Because we have no indication of how MCC would actually perform in practice, above comparisons between the two are only speculations based on the theory behind MCC. Only time will tell if and how MCC changes our admissions system.

 

 

Ruth Xing

Ruth Xing

Applications Manager at CollegeVine
Ruth is a student at Cornell University studying Math, English, and Music. At CollegeVine, she works primarily as Applications Manager and enjoys helping students achieve their unique ideas of success.
Ruth Xing