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By Dr. Arthur Schwartz 

This past summer the Supreme Court ruled against the use of race in college admissions. In his majority opinion, the Chief Justice wrote: “Nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university (emphasis added).”  

I’ll never forget reading those words. Almost four years ago, when I first became president of Character.org, my colleague Lori Soifer shared with me her hope that  Character.org would begin to work with others to envision a future where a high school student’s “quality of character” would become an essential component of the college application process. 

Following up on her suggestion, I learned that a group of educators started in 2016 the Character Collaborative, an effort led by high school counselors and college admissions officers to promote the use of character attributes in the evaluation of a young person’s admission to both independent schools and colleges. I also met with David Holmes, one of the group’s co-founders and invited David to write a blog post for Character.org that highlighted the organization’s mission and activities. 

More recently, the Collaborative has become an initiative of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). As part of NACAC’s education and training offerings, the initiative’s purpose is to develop and disseminate research-based resources and proven practices that will help students, counselors, and admissions officers incorporate and consider the role of “positive character attributes” during the application and selection process. 

NACAC is currently offering 3 online courses developed by the leaders of the Character Collaborative. One course focuses on what to emphasize when advising students on how to write about their character attributes in their college essay. The second course explores how to assess character during the admissions process and the third examines how to write and evaluate letters of recommendation that focus on character. 

The Character Collaborative was founded as a volunteer effort led by educators who believed that character is fundamental to a flourishing life and a humane society. These incredible educators continue to serve on the front lines as they strive to help the different stakeholders how to identify character attribute indicators and how to assess their impact in a valid way. May their work continue to blossom and take root in the hearts and minds of all educators, from PreK through graduate school. 

To learn more, here’s the link to NACAC’s Character Focus Initiative. 

Author’s note: This post is dedicated to David Holmes, the co-founder of the Character Collaborative. May he rest in peace. 



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