Getting into college on personality

Colleges are using “personality scores” to decide who gets in, not just grades, test scores, extracurriculars and essays, reports Robert Tomsho in the Wall Street Journal. New “evaluation systems” claim to “quantify so-called noncognitive traits such as leadership, resilience and creativity,” Tomsho writes.

Colleges say such assessments are boosting the admissions chances for some students who might not have qualified based solely on grades and traditional test scores. The noncognitive assessments also are being used to screen out students believed to be at a higher risk of dropping out, and to identify newly admitted students who might need extra tutoring.

Testing companies are jumping in to offer “new tools to recruit more minority and low-income students.”

Boston’s Northeastern University looks for leadership potential and ability to overcome adversity to choose Torch Scholars, who have lower SAT scores (by about 200 points) and grades than their classmates. Northeastern says 90% of Torch students make it from their freshman to sophomore years, close to the university-wide average of 92%.

DePaul asked borderline applicants for 100 words on “a goal you have set for yourself and how you plan to accomplish it. How would you compare your educational interests and goals with other students in your high school?”

At Oregon State University, every would-be undergraduate must now provide 100-word answers to six questions that are part of what the school calls its “Insight Resume.” One question, designed to measure applicants’ capacity to deal with adversity, asks them to describe the most significant challenge they have faced and the steps they took to address it. Another asks them to describe their experiences facing or witnessing discrimination and how they responded. Every answer is reviewed by two admissions officers and scored on a 1-to-3-point scale.

How does this differ from asking applicants to write an essay? I’m not sure. Perhaps if an applicant isn’t smart enough to find an acceptable adversity, they’re not smart enough for college.

Critics say students will learn how to game the system. You want a motivated, resilient, diligent leader? C’est moi!