Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Considers Using Personality Quiz to Determine Admissions — Is This The End Of College Application Essays?

Imagine how much easier life would be if getting into college could be determined by one simple test (and I'm not talking about the SATs). Unfortunately for current high school seniors, we're not there yet, but USA TODAY reports that there is at least one college considering using a personality quiz to determine admissions. According to Jim Goecker, the enrollment chief of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, the Indiana college views personality quizzes as more accurate indications of confidence and future success than current admissions requirements. Goecker is eager to do away with standardized testing, extracurricular activities, transcripts, and cliché essay prompts as early as next year in favor of what he deems a more infallible approach.

Of course, don't let the term "personality quiz" fool you into associating this test with the ones you find on Buzzfeed or in the back of teeny bopper magazines. The test operates by a psychological tool that Rose-Hulman calls the "locus of control." The tool provides students with a series of statements from which they then select either "true" or "false." Sample statements include, "I'm going to college because it's expected of me," and "Studying every day is important." The results are then scored against a rubric to determine whether or not students feel like they have control over life's events. According to Goecker, this "internal locus of control" is linked to success at Rose-Hulman.

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As of now, the "locus of control" test is already used to determine scholarship winners at the university. Goecker is also considering instituting a "curiosity index" to measure both students' curiosity and problem-solving abilities. He tells USA TODAY :

We need self-starters. We need an entrepreneurial mindset. Well, that's a curious mindset. It goes well beyond what we want in the classroom. We're still fairly early in this, [but] I'm convinced this is a part to the path of the future, as far as college admissions.

Although most colleges might be reluctant to jump on board, Rose-Hulman's future admissions process is not without promise. National Association for College Admissions Counseling President Jeff Fuller, for instance, tells USA TODAY that some of the admissions methods employed by test-optional schools may in fact be better indicators of success.

Others disagree. Pam Horne, the admissions director at Purdue University, expresses her concerns to USA TODAY about this relatively holistic approach:

I think that there are many of us who are very interested in the noncognitive factors that can help predict a student's success. And we know what some of those might be: perseverance, goal orientation, maturity in general, time management, self-determination — which are difficult to measure.

On this point, I tend to agree with Horne. It's difficult for me to believe that a test asking students things like whether or not "studying every day is important" can in fact measure these "noncognitive factors" of success. It's also clear based on this type of questioning what answers might be seen as desirable by an admissions office. I highly doubt that a student would actually tell a university that studying every day is unimportant.

This is not to say that the standard admissions system currently in place is at all perfect. I, for one, sympathize with students who express reservations over having to cram information about themselves into 150-word essays. Still, that doesn't necessarily mean that a personality quiz is a good substitute. There are plenty of ways to revise the current structure without relying on a test with dubious results and somewhat transparent motives.

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In terms of admissions essays, it's all about asking the right questions and allowing students the proper space to articulate their answers. The Tufts University Admissions Office, for instance, asks students to tell the college what makes them happy, or to "celebrate [their] nerdy side." These are examples of questions that give students both the freedom and creative license to reveal who they are and what matters to them. I would argue that this is a better indicator of future success than any personality test.

Looking at a personality quiz alone also tends to discount any of the effort students have made to expand their horizons outside of the classroom. For many colleges, extracurriculars signify ambition to go above and beyond what's required, a quality that most would agree often leads to success. Although personality quizzes may function as supplementary material in an admissions process, therefore, they are neither the best nor the only way to gauge a student's ability to be successful in the future. And while I appreciate Rose-Hulman's endeavors to accommodate students whose accomplishments don't translate via transcript or essay, or who perhaps test poorly, I would argue that personality quizzes are perhaps just as alienating as any other system of admissions.

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