Character Counts in Private School Admissions

Character in Private School Admissions Dr Lowe

Being thorough and particular when evaluating a private school choice is extremely important for parents.  But one thing is certain…the competitive private schools will be equally as picky when choosing your child as a member of its incoming class.  Private schools have been using the traditional academic criteria of SSAT/ISEE and grades for a number of decades.  However, admissions personnel have long recognized that these cognitive measures are limited in their ability to predict a student’s fit in their schools’ community and program.  Increasingly they are determining how to accurately evaluate character attributes of a student as a factor in private school admissions.

Numerous traits were evaluated and discussed by admissions professionals participating in think tanks and summit meetings regarding admissions and character. Character attributes were then rated according to importance.  Among these character attributes, honesty, integrity, empathy, curiosity, creativity, teamwork, adaptability, resilience, community, generosity, self-control, adaptability and optimism were included on the list of the most important.

Each institution considers the positive attributes in the light of the goals of the school with regard to their students’ success. They have spent the last several years determining the best way to evaluate students’ character attributes during the admissions process.

Intended to complement the cognitive measures currently assessed in the admission process, the new Character Skills Assessment (CSA) which is a non-cognitive assessment will offer insights into an applicant’s character attributes and add great value to the holistic evaluation of applicants.

This new assessment is intended to provide a more complete and comprehensive picture of each applicant, providing insight into important issues of character that currently are often difficult to evaluate.  Schools will use these assessments to make even better informed decisions.

The Character Skills Assessment will be fully implemented in the 2017-2018 private school admissions season.


Dr. Paul Reginald Lowe is the managing director and lead admissions expert at Pinnacle Educational Center Admissions Advisors Group’s Private School Admissions Advisors.   Dr. Lowe specializes in providing exclusive concierge-type admissions advisory services for U.S. and international families and students who are interested in applying to top U.S. boarding and day schools.  Dr. Lowe also helps U.S. and international students gain admissions into their top choice private schools after they have been wait-listed and rejected.