Our Perspective on “Character”

The mission of the Character Collaborative is to elevate consideration of character attributes in the college admission process.

Character, as we use the term, refers to personal qualities such as resilience, perseverance, gratitude, ethical orientation, self-control, etc. Research indicates that these “character strengths” predict success in school, work and life. In a larger view, these qualities support a humane and civilized society.

Character attributes, such as these, are not fixed at birth. Rather, they are malleable. Through life experiences and intent, an individual may develop these attributes.

These attributes are not the domain of a particular social environment, social economic status or ethnicity. Youth of character emerge from all backgrounds. (The converse is true also. Bad or deficient character emerges from all settings.)

In addition to seeking students with strong academic credentials and attainment, colleges seek to (1) attract students with character strengths and (2) enhance these qualities during a student’s time on campus.

Recognizing the importance of character in schooling and life, the Character Collaborative aims to foster holistic admission, whereby both character attributes and academic achievement are valued. Each institution, of course, will arrive at a balance and an approach that best fits its mission and philosophy.

In carrying out its mission, the Character Collaborative is addressing several important questions. What are indicators of character attributes? How do we assess their existence in a valid way? What student actions or behaviors do we look for? How do we ensure that our assessments of character are free from personal bias or an interpretation connected to a specific social class?