This study examined the use of nonacademic factors on holistic admissions decision making. The authors adopted a multi-pronged approach to investigate the ways admissions officers use nonacademic factors when making decisions. They surveyed more than 300 admissions professionals; of those, they interviewed 19 who worked at one of ten private and public institutions with varying degrees of selectivity. Results indicated that these factors were often used deferentially, based on the selectivity of the institution. While all institutions used nonacademic indicators of success as admissions criteria, officers from less selective institutions were more likely to use these factors to “admit students who might not otherwise be admitted” thus providing “an explanation for admitting students whose profile does not suggest that [they] will be academically successful.”
Since the 2016 meeting of the National Association of College Admissions Counseling, a group of admission deans from more than a dozen selective colleges has been working to elevate the influence of ethical and performance-based character in the admissions process. Calling themselves the Character Collaborative, the deans were joined by high school admissions counselors, representatives of major associations like the College Board and ACT, and researchers at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania to work toward this objective.
Since its founding, the group has focused on recognizing and nurturing student character as essential to education and a civilized society.
In these disruptive times for education, when the integrity of the college admission process is being questioned by the media in their reporting and by parents and students in their application behavior, members of the Character Collaborative think it critical that character attributes in our applicants, aligned with institutional mission, be signaled as important in the college/school selection process and that admission deans develop tools that would allow a consistent assessment of character as one factor in the admission process.
Most people consider getting into college a numbers game.
However, in the wake of last year’s college admissions scandal, which underscored how much pressure parents and students feel to be accepted into elite universities, admissions directors are quietly turning their attention to something besides test scores.
Today, “almost every institution is looking more carefully at character,” said Eric Greenberg, president of Greenberg Educational Group, a New York-based consulting firm with clients throughout the U.S.
“Authenticity and honesty are at a premium,” he said.