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37 Colleges that Value Caring

37 Colleges that Value Caring


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.

Quick Guide: Am I Being Recruited?

Quick Guide: Am I Being Recruited?

Carli Lloyd's third goal yesterday was so epic that I had to include it in this post about athletes.

As I've mentioned in my How to Apply to Stanford post, and as I will continue to discuss ad absurdum, ad nauseam, and ad infinitum, you must know whether you have a hook. A hook can determine whether that school is a realistic possibility or just a dream.

One possible hook is being a recruited athlete. But how do you know, exactly, if you're being recruited? Yeah, if you're a super-awesome #1 athlete, you probably know. But what if you're on the bubble? What follows is a quick guide to help you assess where you really stand.

Stage 1: Assess Interest

  1. Are you even interested in the school that might be recruiting you? Set aside for a second whether the coach at the school is interested in you. If you're not interested in the school, then the school's interest in you doesn't matter. If you don't like Snickers, then you don't really care if someone offers you a coupon for Snickers.
  2. Are you "on the coach's list"? It's not surprising that coaches will make vaguely encouraging statements about how they'd love to have you play for them if you came. But actually being on the coach's list is one way to know you might be getting somewhere.
  3. Will the coach "support" your application? Support means a coach is putting you on a list that goes to the admissions office. If you have support, then you really do have a hook.

Stage 2: Advocate

Let's say the answers to the 3 questions above all come back positive. Yes, you're interested in the school. Yes, you're on the coach's list. Yes, the coach will support your application. Now what? Here are 3 steps you'll want to take to follow up.

  1. Ask your club or high school coach to talk to the college coach. When your coach talks to the college coach, your coach can explain your recent achievements, including participation in showcase and JO tournaments. Also, your coach can assess the college coach's level of interest to make sure it's as strong as you think it is.
  2. Advocate for yourself. Set up an online profile. If you're not sure where, ask your coach which website previous recruits have used. Then remember to update your profile and to email the college coach directly about new achievements.
  3. Register for the NCAA Clearinghouse. You're going to have to send in your transcript through junior year, along with your SAT or ACT score. Start now!

Stage 3: Build a Balanced List that Assumes You're Not Being Recruited

If you've been reading this blog, you know about the importance of a balanced list. If you need a quick refresher, then please check out my Where to Apply to College post.

When you're dealing with the uncertainty of whether or not you're being recruited, build your list so it's balanced even if you don't end up being recruited. What I mean is:

  • No, DO NOT apply to 5 dream schools that would never accept you without the hook of being recruited.
  • Yes, DO definitely apply to 2-3 of those dream schools!
  • Yes, DO apply to 3 good safety schools where your chances have nothing to do with being recruited, schools where your chances look good by your numbers alone.
  • Yes, DO apply to 4 target schools where your chances look good by your numbers alone.

In other words, your list has to stand on its own and be balanced even if you don't end up being recruited.

That's about it to get you started. This by no means a comprehensive guide. This is an "explain it to me in 60 seconds guide." For comprehensive, you have Google.


P.S. Thank you to Ellen Perkins, aka Mom, for helping me understand this process better. Also, as a bonus for the water polo players out there, even if you're not recruited, you can find plenty of great club options at the Collegiate Water Polo Association website.

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.

What You Need to Know about Chocolate Milk

What You Need to Know about Chocolate Milk

"I got to have chocolate milk at lunch today!" my son told me the other day when I picked him up from summer camp. There is a certain triumphant excitement in a child's voice when he has successfully circumvented the draconian rules of home. "But I don't have it every day, just some days," he continued. My son, the reasonable. Do I still know you? I often wonder.

Remembrances of Chocolate Milk

When I was little, my mom used to let me make chocolate milk once in a while as a special treat. Maybe one of the best parts of being a parent is getting to chance to create special moments, even small ones.

I remember being about ten, playing Lunada Bay Little League. All the other kids in the dugout were eating sunflower seeds, hot dogs, or, of course, Big League Chew. What's more appropriate for kids than gum shredded to resemble chewing tobacco? Answer me that. My dad had gotten off work early and was able to come see the game. But when I asked him if he could buy me a hot dog to eat in the dugout, he said, "No." Reasonable, but I was disappointed.

Then, the next inning as I stood in center field, the ball came off the bat with a plink. My body fully extended, I managed a diving catch. I stood up, grass stains on my uniform, and tossed the ball back to the infield. There I see my dad, sitting in the bleachers behind home plate. He leaps up, raises his arms, and turns to the parent next to him: "That's it, I'm going to buy him a hot dog!" That is the best hot dog I ever had. Being a parent is the chance to give those special moments.

I could never quite predict those special chocolate milk moments my mom would give me. How did my mom choose which days were chocolate milk days? Based on whether I was having a bad day? Based on whether she was having a bad day? Or just because? On those days, I was allowed to pour my milk into the glass, add a couple big squeezes of Hershey's chocolate syrup, mix it all up with a spoon, and enjoy possibility. Possibility that lurking among the ordinary, the routine, and the mandatory are moments of contentment.

Chocolate Milk and the College Application

As I help families through the Common Application or the UC application or whatever it is, I'm always asking myself, "What's my role?" It turns out that the answer has a lot to do with chocolate milk. I'm convinced a college application is like chocolate milk. A student's GPA, SAT scores, AP classes, and hook are like the nutrients of the milk, and a student's essays and recommendation letters are like the flavor of the chocolate. A good application has both milk and chocolate. To make these good applications happen, there are two questions I like to discuss with families.

Question #1: How Nutritious Is the Milk?

The first question is, "How nutritious is the milk?" In terms of college applications, the nutrients that count are GPA, SAT, ACT, the number of AP classes, and, just as importantly, the hook. [For more discussion of the hook, please see my post How to Apply to Stanford.] We must examine the nutritional label with clear eyes, with vision unclouded by optimism, hope, or love. When we are realistic about the nutrients on the label, then we can develop a college list that maximizes a student's choices.

If there's one tendency I've observed in parents, it's the tendency to over-estimate how good their student's numbers are. That over-estimation leads them to push for more reach schools than is prudent, say 5 instead of 2. If you want to save yourself the money of hiring a college consultant to help with the college list, I have one very simple piece of advice: find good target and safety schools. Everyone can name 10 reach or dream schools, but those are only 2-3 schools on the list. You still need 8-9 target and safety schools. Instead of saying, "I don't have to worry about that because I'm getting into my dream school," take time to find good target and safety schools.

Question #2: How Chocolatey Is the Milk?

The second question is, "How chocolatey is the milk?" Colleges want their nutrients, but they want flavor, too. We all know students are more than just numbers. They are, like, actual people with actual personalities, you know? Flavor comes through in an application in two big ways: the essays, which you control 100%, and the letters of recommendation, which you do not. Sure, you can create a "cheat sheet" for your letter writers to make sure they remember any memorable moments, if they really love you, then you won't have to!

You still control how the essays reveal your personality, though. Probably 90% of the time you spend on college applications will be on the essays. Yet, hard though it may be to accept, the effect the essays have on the final admission result often doesn't measure up to the amount of time you've spent on the essays. What I mean is that no amount of chocolate syrup can make up for a lack of nutrients. It's not as if a great essay will add 100 points to your SAT score. That said, the essay can be a tiebreaker or tip factor if it comes down to you and some other candidate with similar numbers. How often that happens is anyone's guess.

But really, the reason to do a good job on each college application, including the essay, is just because "how you do anything is how you do everything." You do them to the best of your ability because you're not the type of person who would accept any lesser approach.

Free Chocolate Milk

You don't have to pay for chocolate milk. Every year, millions of high school students apply to college without paying someone like me. Guess what? They're all doing just fine! If you're going to take on the challenge by yourself, here are some tips for the road:

  1. Read my Where to Apply to College post to understand what a "balanced list" is.
  2. Use the Essaywise College Map to find 8-9 target and safety schools.
  3. Check out the Essaywise Story Tool and click "Shuffle" to get some quick essay topic ideas.


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.