Since the advent of standardized testing to create a level playing field for applicants across the nation, the college admission process has relied on these tests – along with GPA — in determining who is admitted.
These measures focus on cognitive-oriented abilities (quantitative and verbal), abilities that are deemed highly relevant to the academic mission of colleges and universities.
The focus on test scores and GPA, however, neglects a more holistic view of the applicant and the concept of multiple intelligences. Other dimensions, such as social-emotional attributes and character strengths, are under-valued in the admission process at most institutions.
A growing body of research (e.g., Heckman, Duckworth, Kuncel) establishes that non-academic attributes, such as character attributes, are crucial to success in school, work and life. Moreover, looking over a lifetime, character strengths may be a stronger predictor of success than test scores and GPA. For practical purposes, a combination of character strengths and cognitive skills constitutes the best possible preparation for the future.
A study of college and school mission statements indicates that character attributes and ethical values have always been important, and admission decisions have been influenced by consideration of character. Unfortunately, such consideration has been inconsistent and often influenced by personal bias.