Jill Haley: Colleges are looking for good kids! | TheUnion.com
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Jill Haley: Colleges are looking for good kids!

Colleges like MIT and Yale are searching for students who work for the common good. Instead of measuring a student by how many clubs and activities the student is involved with they look for what the student does outside of the classroom that shows their character.
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It’s that time of the year again! College application time.

While it might seem early to you, colleges have been pushing up their application start dates for a few years now. The University of California application opened its portals on Aug. 1 and the California State University opens Oct. 1.

Most private colleges are already open through the common online application system.



One of the more frequent questions I get asked is, “What can I do to make myself look good on college applications?”

While grades and test scores are still very important, colleges also look at other aspects of a student.




Called holistic review, the UCs and private colleges look at a wide range of factors. Some of these are extracurricular activities and community service.

Good character

What more and more colleges are looking for are students who are good people — kind and considerate.

After all, these are students who will make a college a better place for everyone.

Harvard is still reeling from last year’s admissions cycle, in which they rescinded admissions offers for ten students after they posted obscene comments on a Facebook page.

MIT and Yale have added questions to their applications to look for students who work towards the common good.

And how do they measure common good?

It is measured not in a “brag packet” detailing the vast number of clubs and school activities a student engages in, but rather the things a student does outside of the classroom that reflects their character.

This could be taking care of siblings or working to help the family financially. It could be involved in church activities or volunteering for an extended period time in a community service organization.

Last year a letter of recommendation, written by a high school janitor, made the news.

In this letter, the janitor talked about the student’s kindness to other students and the fact that the student knew the janitorial staff’s names.

The Dartmouth admissions officer stated, “Over 15 years and 30,000 applications in my admissions career, I had never seen a recommendation from a school custodian. It gave us a window onto a student’s life in the moments when nothing ‘counted.’”

That student was admitted to Dartmouth, an Ivy league college.

Community outreach

MIT added a mandatory essay prompt: “Describe one way in which you have contributed to your community, whether in your family, the classroom, your neighborhood, etc.”

It also reduced the number of slots for extracurriculars to four, instead of the standard ten.

What is clear is that colleges look at the value of immersing oneself in an activity, devoting time and energy over a period of time rather than engaging in a one-week trip in a foreign county to build schools.

It is also clear that character matters when deciding whom to admit.

Nevada Union High School will host the district’s annual College and Career Night on Sept. 26.

College representatives will give information about admissions, and workshops will be available on such topics as admissions essay, financial aid and choosing the right college.

For more information, check the NUHS website: http://nevadaunion.njuhsd.com.

Jill Haley is a retired high school counselor who now works as an independent college counselor. She can be reached at http://www.getyouintocollege.com or jillncca@gmail.com.


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