Learning, Building, and Caring Through the College Journey

The college journey – an amazing time for students to have new experiences, ask new questions, make new friends, embrace new dreams, gain new skills, and set new goals.

And it is a wonderful time for students to begin to bring about positive change in the world – in their families, school communities, neighborhoods, and cities.

How can families help students reflect on the changes they have made and want to make in themselves and in their world? What are they learning? What are they building? How are they caring for themselves and others?

As a student, start by making a list of all the activities that you have pursued and spent time on in the past two years – you know, those academic and extracurricular activities you are planning to put on your college applications. Organize them into three broad categories:

  • LEARNING Summer academic courses, arts intensives, skills you have acquired in your part-time job or internship, skills you have developed through sports, artistic performance, or tutoring; and more!
  • BUILDING Problems you solved, projects or teams you have built or helped lead, initiatives you have taken, tools you have made, dances you have choreographed, portfolios you have created, games you have designed; and more!
  • CARING Times you have sought to comfort, serve, support, defend, lift up, or encourage others in your community, family, friend group, school, or beyond!

Now dig a bit deeper. Think about activities you have undertaken that actually combine aspects of learning, building, and caring. This is where things get even more interesting! For example, have you mentored or inspired a younger student in your art class? As club treasurer, what did you learn about managing budgets and allocating resources?  When you volunteered with a community organization, did you contribute to a training handbook or help recruit new volunteers?

Notice what you have prioritized. Lead from your strength. Notice what you have ignored. Close those gaps. Notice where you have brought different aspects of yourself and engaged with the world in in powerful and original ways. Keep going!

Use these simple concepts – learning, building, caring – to analyze and reflect on your journey so far. Use this framework to plan your next steps. And use this vocabulary to write and talk about the journey you are on in the application process.

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