Colleges More Interested in Students' Personal Characteristics

By Catherine Groux
Posted January 18, 2013 12:00 PM

Colleges are striving to analyze the personalities of prospective students.
Colleges are striving to analyze the personalities of prospective students.

In order to determine which applicants are the best fit for their institutions, modern college admissions officials primarily examine students' grades in college prep courses, strength of high school curriculum, admissions test scores and grades in all courses, according to a recent report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

While this method of gauging students' abilities has remained consistent for many years, it may soon get a drastic overhaul as schools strive to receive a more comprehensive view of potential bachelor's degree seekers.

A More Holistic Approach

While students' high school grades and standardized test scores may predict how well they will succeed in college, higher education experts have long believed that these two admissions factors do not tell the whole story. For this reason, select colleges have strived to develop noncognitive assessments to measure particular attributes, such as leadership skills and persistence, among applicants, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Admissions officials from across the country plan to discuss this topic this week at a conference sponsored by the University of Southern California's Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice. Jerome A. Lucido, the center' executive director, predicted that in the upcoming years, college admissions will take on a more holistic approach and find innovative ways to measure the qualities that can lead students to academic success.

"We don't do enough work to understand why one student with a 3.5 GPA was successful and another one wasn't," Lucido told the Chronicle. "We've ignored this realm because it was more difficult, less understood. Now we're at a point where noncognitive measures can take their place alongside other things."

Learning From Medical Schools

Undergraduate institutions are not the first to search for more comprehensive ways to find the best students to attend their schools. In recent years, an increasing number of medical schools have adopted the multiple mini interview (MMI) approach for finding future doctors, The New York Times reports. During this process, which has been adopted by at least eight U.S. medical schools, applicants must undergo several short interviews or complete a variety of small tasks that are designed to determine if they have the right characteristics to become successful doctors.

A December 2009 study in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows that analyzing the personality traits of medical school applicants can indeed be important. According to the study, which was co-authored by University of Minnesota professor Deniz Ones, certain characteristics can predict how well students will succeed in medical school.

"Personality traits predict the acquisition of knowledge, persistence on tasks, and performance in patient interactions, and thus should also be considered in medical school admissions," Ones said in a statement.

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