Kindness is Irresistible - Colleges Are Looking For It
Nov 09, 2018
By Mollie Jonart, College Counselor, The International School of Minnesota
As a college counselor, I am often asked by students what they need to do to get into the best colleges in the United States and around world. Although there are steps students can take to increase their chances of getting into top colleges (high GPA, high test scores, community involvement, etc.), the answer I offer is often not clear-cut. The truth is that colleges and universities look at the “whole picture.” Yes, they want to know that you have taken AP classes, have exceptional grades, strong test scores, and extracurricular involvement. However, having these accomplishments does not guarantee you a spot at the most prestigious universities in the world. Colleges want to know who you are as a person. What makes you stand out?
Last year, a co-worker of mine recommended a New York Times article to me. This article, Check This Box if You’re a Good Person, offers a different perspective on what universities look for in applicants. Written by Rebecca Sabky, the former international director of admissions at the Ivy League college, Dartmouth, this op-ed piece discusses the importance of strong character in a candidate. Sabky states that “one quality is always irresistible in a candidate: kindness.” Sabky uses specific examples of candidates that stood out to her and the admissions committee at Dartmouth for their displays of kindness. For instance, she discusses a specific student that was impressive academically and had a strong list of extracurricular activities; however, what made this student stand out was one unique letter of recommendation from an unlikely source: a school custodian. In the letter, the custodian stated that this student “knew the names of every member of the janitorial staff… turned off lights in empty rooms, consistently thanked the hall monitor each morning and tidied up after his peers even if nobody was watching.” This student had “a refreshing respect for every person at the school, regardless of position, popularity, or clout.” This student was admitted to Dartmouth by a unanimous decision (you can view Sabky’s full article at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/04/opinion/check-this-box-if-youre-a-good-person.html).
Sabky’s op-ed is one of the best articles I have read related to college admissions hands down. It offers a refreshing perspective and shows that colleges want to know about your character. The applicant in Sabky’s article stood out because he was making a difference in his community in a positive way through kindness and pure intent. Although every college and university may be somewhat different, Sabky’s article is evidence that some of the best colleges in the nation (Dartmouth is currently rank #12 in the nation by the U.S. News and World Report), including Ivy League schools, want to know that “you are a good person.” As Sabky expressed at the end of her compelling article, “Colleges should foster the growth of individuals who show promise not just in leadership and academics, but also in generosity of spirit.” If you can show that “generosity of spirit,” it might just be the key to getting into your dream school.
Mollie Jonart is the college counselor at The International School of Minnesota in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. For more information on college, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.