MIT, University of Arizona, Colgate, Rutgers, University of Denver, Carnegie Mellon...and 30 more

This weekend, I completed a Character Collaborative course and am eager to use what I learned as a new tool to help my students craft more focused essays and applications.


In 2016, the above colleges committed to a new organization called the Character Collaborative. Its mission was to go beyond simple numbers in college admissions and to emphasize applicants’ character traits, including ethically-based attributes such as empathy, honesty, humility, open-mindedness and unselfishness as well as performance-based character elements such as resilience, grit, teamwork and taking responsibility.


Since I began helping students write their personal statements in 2009, it has been my objective that students' stories would communicate these qualities, albeit subtly to avoid generic versions of the “activity laundry-list,” athletic injury, and community service epiphany essays. The Character Collaborative provides colleges with a framework to allow them create rubrics to assess the particular traits that matter to them most. Below, see how “teamwork” may be evaluated through essays and recommendations, extracurricular activities, and interviews:


Empathy, honesty, humility, open-mindedness are, of course, valued by all colleges. I add academic curiosity to that list. However, a college’s identity and priorities, including location, size, academics, and culture, may call for more fluidity of performance-based qualities. The degree, structure, and style of teamwork desired by MIT or CalTech for science and tech majors varies greatly from what many other colleges and majors might seek.


This excites me because I can start conversations with college admissions officers, whether their institutions belong to the Character Collaborative or not, about which character traits they value most in their communities and pass that information on to my students and families. Something new for the Class of 2022!


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