In my last post, I discussed four noncognitive characteristics that colleges look for in applicants. Academic records and high standardized test scores matter, but colleges also want you to be more than your numbers. You have probably heard that colleges value well-rounded applicants; students who are able to successfully balance their academic workload and extracurricular activities. Assessment of noncognitive characteristics is another way to understand your college potential.
Remember, noncognitivecharacteristics are defined as not relating to or involving conscious, intellectual activity. Individuals with strong noncognitive characteristics do better in college and are generally more successful as adults and more adaptable to life changes. In addition to positive self-concept, realistic self-appraisal, preference for long-term goals and leadership experience (the characteristics from my last post), here are four more noncognitive traits colleges value. Ask yourself these questions to see whether these characteristics apply to you:
Successfully handling the system. Do you have a realistic view of “the system” (educational and social frameworks) based on your pre-college experiences? Are you able to overcome the challenges that come with handling discrimination in the system? Do you understand your role in the system and how it treats people unlike you? Can you articulate how you have learned to thrive within the system?
Community involvement. Are you involved and invested in your community’s issues? Excluding educational and club affiliations, have you participated at service sites? Have you set and achieved goals in your community through long-term commitment to your service? Does your community service relate to your career and/or personal goals?
Availability of strong support person. Is there a strong support person (personal, professional or academic) in your life whom you feel comfortable turning to in case of crisis or for encouragement? Are you willing to admit when you need help with an assignment or issue? Are you able to call on other resources (other than yourself) to solve problems?
Knowledge acquired in a field. Have you acquired knowledge in a sustained or culturally related way in any field? (Your knowledge could be in an academic discipline like English or science, or in other trades like chess or auto mechanics.) Do you pursue knowledge in your field independently, such as through outside classes, workshops or research? Do you use your field expertise to teach others about the topic, even informally?
Once you are able to recognize these characteristics within yourself, you can use them to your advantage in your applications. Use the preceding questions to clearly communicate your noncognitive strengths in your essays, statements and/or interviews. Doing so will help show colleges who you are really are, beyond the numbers.