As Ben notes, I was surprised to see not one mention of non-academic experiences in the full-page piece on college advice in Sunday’s New York Times. Even the entry titled “Off-Campus Life” instructed kids to read the newspaper to improve their own writing skills and chat with professors outside of class.
It is often said that the typical student spends no more than 20 hours a week in class, leaving at least 148 hours for other things. I happen to have the good fortune of working with the most intellectual students imaginable. (I had a young woman in my office last week say “I LOVE science!” using the exact same tone and affect one would expect from someone declaring her love for Zac Efron.) Yet even here at Swarthmore, it is not unusual for students to tell me that their most meaningful, life-changing experience was their service on the town’s ambulance corps, or their leadership of a religious group, or their work on the school paper, or their participation in their a capella group, or their work as an RA, or their membership on a team, or their study abroad. This doesn’t even begin to address the more subtle things, like learning to live with a roommate, to deal with failure, to get along with people from different backgrounds and values, to organize and be responsible for one’s own time.
Couldn’t the New York Times have found even just one veteran dean to address any of these issues?