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Character counts in the boarding school and college admission process

September 14th, 2021

What do schools want? This million dollar question is asked time and time again by students applying to boarding schools and colleges. Many of you have heard me say that we shouldn’t allow that question to lead us; we don’t want the tail to wag the dog. Instead, we want you to find ways to develop into the strongest version of you possible, to make the greatest possible impact on the world around you. That, in itself, will make you a more compelling applicant.

Admissions committees in both settings are looking for a candidate who has depth and will offer value to their school community. Evaluations, of course, begin with academic transcripts, activities, teacher recommendations and standardized test scores (although scores are increasingly considered optional).

Image via Niche

Schools are also looking for evidence of personal qualities that foster cooperation, community and compassion. In order to accomplish this kind of evaluation, many boarding schools ask applicants to complete the Character Skills Snapshot, which helps admission officers get a sense of seven key character skills in students. College admission officers must read between the lines to develop a comparable sense of each applicant’s character.

Overall, colleges and boarding schools are trying to understand you as a whole person and before you can adequately reveal this on paper, it is important for you to get to know yourself. What are your passions, interests and talents? What motivates you? How are you impacting those around you? How do you demonstrate resilience, persistence, grit?

I’ve always believed that self-discovery and reflection will lead you down the path of finding the right fit for college, boarding school and life in general. When you are your true, authentic self you can really deepen your impact all around.