Harvard report’s “Turning the Tide” inspires but changes nothing for UH admissions
After Harvard’s Graduate School of Education released a report on college admissions, several schools around the nation made changes to their application process to create a more holistic approach that places a heavier emphasis on community involvement. The University of Houston, however, is standing by its criteria.
The report includes “concrete recommendations to reshape the college admissions process and promote greater ethical engagement among aspiring students, reduce excessive achievement pressure and level the playing field for economically disadvantaged students.”
“Our students are already living a lot of what the Harvard report is talking about,” UH executive director of admissions Djuana Young said.
The report, “Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions,” advocates that what’s important in college admissions is not achieving high numbers of impressive accomplishments, but rather embracing ethical engagement, promoting genuine concern for others and acting for the sake of the common good.
Young said UH doesn’t need to make drastic changes in order to find a genuine and caring student.
“Ideally, it’s great. It’s what we all what our student body to look like,” she said. “But I believe our ApplyTexas applications already give an accurate snapshot of a student’s character.”
If a student made a mistake, if they could not get involved in extracurricular activities because they were working 30 hours a week or if they have a real passion for the University, the application can see all of those things, Young said.
Despite that, Turning the Tide suggests several changes, including limiting spaces for courses and extracurricular activities on the application, valuing the unorthodox ways that students contribute to their families and communities, making the SAT and ACT optional and focusing on authentic community service.
“I think there is definitely more that colleges should look into,” marketing junior Marissa Montoya said. “I liked how they asked about my hobbies, and I can see how the essay really helps.”
Young said ApplyTexas gives students the option to fill in the gaps their application may leave with an essay. It allows students to explain what the numbers couldn’t say.
“The application speaks for itself,” Young said. “You have the flexibility to give us whatever you want.”
According to the College Board, class rank, rigor of secondary school record and standardized test scores are classified as very important factors for high school applicants at UH. Freshmen must submit an application fee, their high school transcript, standardized test scores and the ApplyTexas application to be considered for admission. Students have the option to submit an essay, but it is not required.
Although the admissions office stresses how much essays can help a student’s application, students like Kin Wong, an information and logistics technology junior, recall the essays being the most stressful part of the process.
“I didn’t even know what to write about,” Wong said. “I think I just wrote about my mom and how I admire her.”
Montoya felt the same way. Although she was able to reuse her essays for all her college applications, coming up with an idea was difficult because she knew what she wrote mattered.
“I wanted to paint the best picture of myself.”