Going beyond grades

College admission officers want to know who you are beyond your grades and understand what you are passionate about.   | Photo Credit: Freepik

When it comes to college applications, a common theme is whether universities really care that students have done volunteer work. The question actually should be: What universities care for and why community service is on that list?

Universities don’t necessarily look for a specific set of things or prefer one particular activity over another. However, they do look for students who are not just intelligent (not just in terms of good grades and test scores) but also young impactful intellectuals, who demonstrate leadership, initiative, creativity and the intent to make an impact in the world they live in. The Harvard report, ‘Turning the Tide Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions’, mentions that “both ethical engagement — especially concern for others and the common good — and intellectual engagement are highly important”.

Community engagement

Universities want students who will immerse themselves in the community at and around the school, contribute as a student, and continue to engage as an active alumnus. Your level of engagement with the communities you are currently part of — family, neighbourhood or school, as well as contributions to others across societal boundaries — are a testament to how likely are you to be an asset to your future university. Here are some recommendations that can help you think about serving the community, the right way.

Meaningful contributions to others come when you are deeply interested. Choose projects and volunteering opportunities in areas that you are passionate about and around causes you care for most.

Quality over quantity. Teaching one child for a year and triggering a transformation is much better than teaching a class of 100 students at a local school for a month.

Your community project shouldn’t seem like a ‘transaction’ to help you get through a top university or ‘appropriating a cause’. A community project doesn’t necessarily have to be about improving someone else’s life but could also be about collaborating with people from communities different from yours — culturally or socio-economically. For example, a project for underprivileged kids, doesn’t have to necessarily be about teaching them; you can collaborate with them and build something together; so that you are learning from them while teaching.

High-profile or brief forms of service aren’t the only things that count in admissions. While scaling your impact to a national or a global stage can be a life-changing experience for you and can make for a riveting college essay, a consistent and deeper contribution to one person can be equally impactful.

Think about this. Did you participate in any COVID relief work (however small) while the whole country was reeling under one of the worst crisis and fellow citizens, especially those from underserved sections of the society, were struggling for survival? If your answer is no, then there is no reason for your future school to believe that you are going to contribute to a community in a foreign land.

Remember, college admission officers don’t expect every applicant to have already changed the world. But they do expect and hope that you care for others. They want to know who you are beyond your grades and understand what you are passionate about — a cause that you are committed to that betters your community or school, and builds skills and deepens your understanding of diversity and ethics.

The writer is the Country Manager, Crimson Education, India.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 6:18:47 PM |

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