The "Turning the Tide" Report

This week, the Harvard Graduate School of Education released a report entitled "Turning the Tide." The report contends, "College admissions can send compelling messages that both ethical engagement—especially concern for others and the common good—and intellectual engagement are highly important." That is, colleges can and should clarify that they value more than just academic achievement.

I'm not sure this is news. Don't elite colleges delight in pointing out how many valedictorians they reject each year? Of course students need more than just academics. Still, since this is Harvard talking, we're all obliged to pay attention, I suppose.

3 Areas the Report Targets for Improvement

The report offers three broad goals for improving the college admissions process:

  • "Promoting more meaningful contributions to others, community service and engagement with the public good."
  • "Assessing students’ ethical engagement and contributions to others in ways that reflect varying types of family and community contributions across race, culture and class"
  • "Redefining achievement in ways that both level the playing field for economically diverse students and reduce excessive achievement pressure.

To put it another way, the report seeks a definition of achievement that goes beyond academics-- a definition that includes contributions to family and community. Good.

Why the Report Strikes the Right Tone

All this focus on quality and diversity of experience might not be novel, but that doesn't mean it's not valuable. We don't need more kids getting crushed psychologically as they labor to keep up in the arms race of more AP classes, more extracurricular activities, and more test prep. We need kids to find things that genuinely interest them, and then we need to encourage kids to excel in those things. If the report's message is to push colleges to inform students that quality of involvement matters more than quantity of involvement, I'm all for it.

And no one needs to reflect on this idea more carefully than parents of high school students. Why? Because, as I tell families I work with over and over, "Parents set the tone." When parents succumb to the "laundry list" approach -- Grades? Check. SAT? Check. Community Service? Check. Sports? Check. Leadership? Check. -- the pressure can get in the way of students doing a good job on their college applications. They're so busy and tired that they just run out of energy.

37 Colleges that Value Caring

Since the Turning the Tide report is "endorsed" by people at dozens of colleges, I thought you might appreciate knowing which colleges, exactly, are at least considering how to make the application process more sane.

Before I give you the list, though, I'll give you a caveat: I'm leaving off all the schools that often appear in the "top 25" of various rankings for national universities or for liberal arts colleges. You already know those schools. Seeing them on yet another list isn't going to help you create more college options for your child. To create more choices for your child, you have to look a bit farther afield.

Here we go:

  1. Albion College
  2. Allegheny College
  3. Antioch College
  4. Babson College
  5. Boston College
  6. Boston University
  7. Brandeis University
  8. College of the Holy Cross
  9. College of Wooster
  10. Connecticut College
  11. Denison University
  12. DePaul University
  13. DePauw University
  14. Drew University
  15. Earlham College
  16. Hope College
  17. Kalamazoo College
  18. Loyola Marymount University
  19. Michigan State University
  20. Ohio Wesleyan University
  21. Purdue University
  22. Rhodes College
  23. Santa Clara University
  24. The Catholic University of America
  25. Trinity College
  26. University of California Davis
  27. University of Florida
  28. University of Illinois at Chicago
  29. University of Maryland
  30. University of Michigan
  31. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  32. University of Virginia
  33. University of Washington
  34. Wabash College
  35. Wake Forest University
  36. Willamette University
  37. Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Jon Perkins holds a B.A. in English from Stanford University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He helps students with their college, law school, and medical school applications.