Kindness is the New "Perfect SAT Score" for College Admissions?

04/18/2017 06:31 pm ET
photo credit: Arenamontanus Ivy League via photopin (license)

On April 4, 2017 the New York Times published an op-ed written by Rebecca Sabky, who is a former admissions director at Dartmouth College. In the article, Ms. Sabky argued that kindness should be one of the criteria used in evaluating college applicants, in addition to SAT scores, grades, letters of recommendation, summer internships and extra-curricular activities.

How exactly does a college applicant show that they are "kind" on a college application? Ms. Sabky admits that kindness is "a trait that would be hard to pinpoint on applications even if colleges asked the right questions."

But she doesn't have to worry about that much longer. Since the op-ed was published, high school students around the country and the globe will be racking their brains to figure out how they can cash in on the kindness-cow so they can impress college admissions committees. My guess is they'll come up with a plethora of creative solutions to demonstrate their real, or trumped-up, newfound kindness.

There will soon be an epidemic of gestures of kindness on college applications in an attempt to stand out from the other applicants. Students will compete to out-kind each other during their high school years. Parents will brainstorm ideas about setting up tax-exempt charitable organizations in their child's name so their child's kindness will be tangible.

Businesses offering "college kindness coaching" will spring up like cases of the flu in winter. While this will be a boost to the economy, the wealthier students will once again have the advantage. Not only do many students not have the funds for coaches to help them navigate the college admissions process, but many also need to work paying jobs after school, leaving them precious little time for unpaid acts of kindness.

It is heartening to hear, however, that college admissions committees are looking beyond grades, test scores and exotic summer internships when reviewing college applications. There are so many qualities in a good person that are not evaluated in school or on tests. Many of these qualities are indicative of success in college and beyond, such as dedication, perseverance, humbleness, compassion, honesty and leadership.

So if there is an increase in gestures of kindness in the future, that can't be a bad thing, even if the gestures are wholly self-serving for the purpose of trying to impress colleges. But hopefully, someone benefits from the kindness other than just the college applicant.

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