Parents: start the trend at home

Some college admissions articles resonate so much with readers that many people forward them to me, and that was certainly true with the recent New York Times piece “Check This Box if You’re a Good Person.” But the article also struck a chord with the counselor community as a whole, both inside and outside of Collegewise (many have been posting and commenting on social media).

I can hear what the cynics will say.

It’s a sweet message, but “nice” doesn’t get you into good colleges.

You can’t list “nice” on a college application.

If the writer likes nice kids so much, why did she and her former colleagues at Dartmouth focus so much on grades, test scores, and impressive activities?

But naysayers, especially those who are parents, are missing the larger message.

Parents, what kind of teen are you hoping to raise?

Do you want to raise one with perfect grades and high test scores? Or are you trying to raise a mature, compassionate, and, yes, nice human being?

Of course, those two outcomes are not mutually exclusive. There are plenty of kids at the top of their class who are also compassionate, sensitive, generous, etc.

But here’s the parental gut check: are you teaching, acknowledging, and praising the behaviors that make your teen a good person? Or has the college admissions frenzy caused you to ignore those traits in favor of teaching, acknowledging, and praising behaviors that lead to stronger GPAs, test scores, resumes, etc.?

The author would love to start a trend where colleges “foster the growth of individuals who show promise not just in leadership and academics, but also in generosity of spirit.”

Until that day, why not start the trend at home?