As COVID-19 and other social changes push us out of our norms, we again should consider how nonacademic criteria can be used in admission decisions. This a distressing and challenging time in America. We are experiencing a deadly pandemic, reacting to police violence, confronting racism in its many forms, and enduring divisive national leadership. In education, COVID-19 has elicited changes that would have been beyond belief just a few months ago, including universal online teaching and students learning from their homes.
It has been said that character is who one is, or what one does when nobody is watching. When it comes to college admission, everyone seems to be watching and according to a recent survey, character counts. This week, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the Character Collaborative released a research brief entitled Character and the Admission Process, which includes results from a survey of trends in college admission. For the first time, the annual survey added a section on the use of character attributes in the application process, and the results highlight what many professionals have known all along: character attributes are a factor in admission.
Character counts when it comes to college admission, according to new data from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the Character Collaborative. In a recent national survey, 70 percent of admission officers said a student’s character attributes were either “considerably” or “moderately” important in the selection process at their respective institutions. The findings, along with data showing that more than half of US secondary schools have formal character development programs, are included in a new NACAC research brief — Character and the College Admission Process. “Our data makes it abundantly clear: College admission professionals recognize the value of empathy, resilience, honesty, and other attributes in assessing applicants and shaping their classes,” said NACAC CEO Joyce Smith. “While further research is needed to more thoroughly explore the various ways colleges gauge a student’s character, we now know such factors commonly play a role in admission decisions. And we also know that secondary schools are taking steps to foster positive character traits among the students they serve.”
The Character Growth Index is a quantitative, easily administered assessment of social-emotional character development.
Why measure student character development? Today college admissions fiercely compete for students. For many, necessity dictates that solvency transcends mission as students cannot learn if the school closes. With many higher education institutions choosing to be test-optional, assessment as a component of admissions is on life support.
Why then discuss a measure of social-emotional character development (SECD)? What interest would an emphasis on developing character have for prospective students?