DePaul: Show ‘heart,’ not SATs

SAT or ACT scores will be optional for DePaul University applicants starting next year, but those who choose not to submit scores will be asked to write short essays demonstrating “noncognitive” traits such as leadership, commitment to service and ability to meet long-term goals. From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

“Admissions officers have often said that you can’t measure heart,” said Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment management. “This, in some sense, is an attempt to measure that heart.”

DePaul hopes to encourage more applications from low-income and minority students with relatively high grades and low test scores.  “Heart” is a better predictor of success than SAT or ACT scores for low-income and minority students, admissions officials say. 

In 2008 the university added four short essay questions to its freshman application with hopes of assessing noncognitive traits said to lead to college success.

One question prompted applicants to describe a goal they had set for themselves and how they planned to accomplish it: “How would you compare your educational interests and goals with other students in your high school?” Another question said: “Describe a personal challenge you have faced, or a situation in which you or others were treated unfairly. How did you react to the situation and what conclusions did you draw from the experience? Were you able to turn to others for support?”

DePaul dropped those questions when it started using the Common Application, which requires a personal essay of at least 250 words. It was too much writing.  The questions will return for students who don’t submit test scores.

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  1. I wonder if the purpose of this is to improve their competitiveness rankings in college guides. That is, they’ll admit the same students as they would have before, but the students with crappy SAT scores will submit essays instead, and violà! their entering class’s average SAT scores goes up. Same students, better-looking stats.

  2. It’s a two-fer, since they improve their SAT scores AND improve “diversity” at the same time; does anyone really think this is an accident? According to a recently released study of Ohio State and Miami of Ohio, “diversity” was worth up to 160 SAT points; I’m guessing that’s not uncommon. The admissions people scattered fairy dust and discovered that somehow those kids who didn’t do very well on the SAT/ACTs had better recommendations and/or essays than the kids with good scores; this sounds like more of the same. Actually, it’s even worse; since suitable “diversity” can be created without SAT/ACTs, the school immunizes itself from the disclosure that the “diverse” were significantly underqualified.

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:


  4. Wait, leadership is a “noncognitive” trait?

  5. Another formerly fine college bites the dust. Another college that can be removed from the “to visit” list. Thank you for letting me know.

  6. Richard Aubrey says:

    Some people have more heart than others. Straight, white males have none and Asian valedictorians are worse.
    My guess is that there may be as many as one person in the whole admin who thinks this is not transparent.

  7. 250 words was “too much writing?” Good grief! Well, we always knew DePaul was really just there for the Basketball Team…..

  8. Richard,

    Not to get in the way of your typical rants, but if you look up the admission stats on Depaul, it isn’t a very selective school and has an acceptance rate of around 70%. The idea that they are rejecting rejecting scores of straight white males (by the way, it is a private CATHOLIC university) or asian valedictorians is just a figment of your damn imagination…

    Personally, i think getting rid of the SAT is a monumentally stupid idea because despite its flaws, it is the ONLY objective piece of data.

    In this case, this is NOT about trying to discriminate against the oppressed straight white males, but a transparent ploy to just get more applicants of ANY kind… period.

    Again, a bad idea, but not for the made up reasons you think it is.

  9. Cardinal Fang says:

    jab is right. In addition, DePaul, like a lot of private liberal arts colleges, has more female students than male students. The 2010 freshman class was 59% female. Such schools are desperate for young men. I can assure you that DePaul has no interest in finding ways to reject straight male students; rather, they want to attract more male students.

    For those who think that DePaul’s no longer requiring SAT scores is a bad thing, what, in your view, will be the negative effects? Which students will be accepted who wouldn’t otherwise have been accepted and who don’t belong there, and which students will be denied who should have been accepted?

    I suspect you may be overestimating the admissions affects, because I think the student with good high school grades and a lousy SAT score would have been accepted last year. Especially if that student was a boy. Especially especially if that student was a full-pay boy.

  10. “I suspect you may be overestimating the admissions affects, because I think the student with good high school grades and a lousy SAT score would have been accepted last year. Especially if that student was a boy. Especially especially if that student was a full-pay boy.”

    Ah, more discrimination. Boy (male) and full-pay boy (rich boy), instead of merit. Is it any wonder that the education field cannot attract academcially qualified students, males and females, who want to be teachers? Why, oh why, would they want to enter a field that rejects merit for all sorts of preferences, racial, gender, social justice, and otherwise?

  11. Cardinal Fang says:

    Because, anon, if DePaul doesn’t accept boys it won’t get girls. Young women, in the main, don’t want to go to schools that are more than 60% female.

    And DePaul, like most other private colleges, only has a certain amount of aid it can give out. After all the money is gone, the rest of the students have to pay their way. What is your suggestion for dealing with this, other than paying attention to who can pay?