Curriculum Corner

Are KW Students Actively Preparing for College and Beyond?

College Admissions: A New Set of Values

In the article “College Admission 2.0: Service Over Self” by Richard Weissbourd in Education Week, Weissbourd (Harvard Graduate School of Education) reports on the Making Caring Common project, one goal of which is to make the college-admission process less of a rat-race.

One of the core recommendations concerns what students submit in their college applications as evidence of service learning. What’s important, says Weissbourd, “is not whether it occurs locally or in some distant country, or whether a student shows leadership. What’s important is whether students immerse themselves in an experience that is meaningful to them over a sustained period of time, and whether they learn about themselves and the perspectives of others, especially those who are different in background and character, and their responsibilities toward their communities.” One key question is whether the service project was done with rather than for a community group.

High schools need to give students a wide range of choices for community-engagement and service opportunities based on their individual interests and passions, and follow up with opportunities for students to reflect on those experiences. Faculty guidance is key: “Without thoughtful facilitation,” says Weissbourd, “diverse groups too often simply reinforce divisions and biases.”

Another recommendation of the Making Caring Common project, says Weissbourd, is for the college admission process to send a clear message to students and families that “significant and demanding family responsibilities are highly valued, and provide clear opportunities for applicants to discuss these responsibilities. Many students, particularly those in low- and modest-income families, often contribute vitally to others in ways that are not measured by traditional forms of community service… caring for a sick relative, supervising a younger sibling, helping to run a household, or working after school to support their family… These contributions often build ethical character and demonstrate the perseverance that is key to college success.” These experiences belong in the college application.

A final recommendation is to reduce the pressure for students to focus on generating long lists of extracurricular activities and Advanced Placement courses. Quality matters more than quantity, says Weissbourd, and more and more colleges are buying into the idea of looking at two or three activities that are truly meaningful to a student. Parents need some counseling in this department, especially those who are over-coaching their children through the admissions process and putting too much emphasis on getting into highly selective colleges. “College admissions is a tremendous opportunity for parents to understand their children more deeply,” says Weissbourd, “to uncover with them what makes them thrive and to support them in writing about their interests and inspirations authentically.”


“College Admission 2.0: Service Over Self” by Richard Weissbourd in Education Week, January 20, 2016 (Vol. 35, #18, p. 32, 27),; Weissbourd can be reached at


As educators in King William, we strive daily to prepare students for the world that lies ahead. Our mission, goals, and values ensure we teach students what is necessary for them to be productive members of their community. We have learned over the years that earning good grades is important, but is not the be-all-end-all. Effort matters and character counts. It is our responsibiliy as educators, along with familes and our community, to value these soft skills and encourage students early on in their education to think of "service over self."