…something that has long bothered me and other critics of that process: the persistent vogue among secondary-school students for so-called service that’s sometimes about little more than a faraway adventure and a few lines or paragraphs on their applications to selective colleges.
It turns developing-world hardship into a prose-ready opportunity for growth, empathy into an extracurricular activity.
And it reflects a broader gaming of the admissions process that concerns me just as much, because of its potential to create strange habits and values in the students who go through it, telling them that success is a matter of superficial packaging and checking off the right boxes at the right time. That’s true only in some cases, and hardly the recipe for a life well lived.
In the case of drive-by charity work, the checked box can actually be counterproductive, because application readers see right through it.
Frank Bruni, “To Get to Harvard, Go to Haiti?”, The New York Times (14 August 2016), SR3.