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Colleges seek students with empathic behaviors learned through FIRST

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Stu Schmill

Dean of Admissions, MIT

Today, there's a real mismatch between what students think they need to do to get into college and what they actually need to do.

The new advice for students applying to college is, pursue the things that interest you with balance, initiative, and persistence; make the lives of those around you better; and, have fun! A new study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education entitled "Turning the Tide Report" recommends that colleges and universities give more credit to students who make meaningful contributions to others. In essence, colleges and universities want to achieve more of the gracious behaviors and attitudes so prevalent in FIRST. We can do so by changing our admission processes to emphasize that we're looking for these gracious qualities.

FIRST has been inspiring and measuring concern for others since it started with awards like the Chairman's, Inspire, and Champion's Awards. At colleges and universities, we're looking for super nerds steeped in empathic response to others. We now recognize that active FIRST participation is a great predictor of active concern for others.

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