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College application change could make caring for others count
Researchers based at Harvard University released a report this week offering suggestions for how college applications can reward students for being good people. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
A new report on the college admissions process has school administrators considering whether applications ask the right kind of questions.

"We want students who have achieved in and out of the classroom, but we are also looking for things that are harder to quantify, (like) authentic intellectual engagement and a concern for others and the common good," Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale University, told The Washington Post.

"Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions," produced by the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Making Caring Common project, offers recommendations for how colleges and universities can recognize applicants who have big hearts and strong moral grounding.

"Too often, today's culture sends young people messages that emphasize personal success rather than concern for others and the common good," the authors argue. "The college admissions process is powerfully positioned to send different messages that help young people become more generous and humane."

Research shows that teenagers who volunteer their time to community organizations and express a willingness to help strangers are less likely to be involved in delinquent or aggressive activities, the Deseret News National reported last month.

Citing similar findings, "Turning the Tide" states that adding questions about moral behaviors will increase the incentives for teens to be good people and good students.

Additionally, application adjustments could level the playing field for students from different socioeconomic backgrounds, the authors suggest.

Applicants from richer families often stand out in the applicant pool when questions focus on extracurricular or classroom successes, as a former Yale student wrote for Yale Alumni Magazine in 2014.

"Nationwide, the well-off are more likely to enjoy the amenities and expectations that encourage academic achievement," the alumnus noted.

More than 80 academic leaders have endorsed "Turning the Tide," but its impact on the admissions process remains unclear, The Washington Post reported.

Yale administrators have announced a new essay question asking applicants to reflect on their relationship to their family and community, while other schools simply said they'll reflect on ways to adjust their applications.