Editorial: A high rate of personable students

According to the Los Angeles Times, a new college program in California and Colorado that admits students by personal characteristics, “grit, resiliency and motivation,” began their call for applications this week. A joint projection between the MyCollege Foundation and Mount St. Mary’s College in California, the program took off with students in San Francisco and Denver. Students will be selected through an interview process, as well as a psychological test and “initial online course.”

It will be interesting to see if the experimental higher education project yields a sharper group of academics, more fine-tuned for a higher retention or graduation rate, not to mention if it will be more advantageous in employment searches. The new program might signal the move to a mode of pedagogy where test scores aren’t the be-all, end-all to intelligence. A high school diploma certainly doesn’t indicate a dedicated work ethic, much like a college education won’t create a higher skilled worker. Personality traits, like resourcefulness, adaptability and humility might have more to do with the inclination to stay in school than an IQ number.

But because such a program has never existed, several issues regarding the admission process emerge. The new program could be interpreted as a blatant attempt to artificially create a college culture. Prospective students are selected for their personality traits, not test scores or high academic performance in high school — not academic merit, but individual makeup. It would appear that the new program tries to force a process that occurs naturally. High-performing students already tend to be adaptable, resourceful and humble. Why reverse the selection process?

There’s no denying that students are more than a SAT score or a GPA, but undergraduate programs that require interviews or recommendation letters already make efforts to assess students holistically. Universities are often already flavored by their geographical religion — a factor that might not have anything to do with universities themselves.

While the new California and Colorado programs might increase college accessibility, it perpetuates the misconception that everyone is meant for college, that a college education necessarily leads to success. It could be just another misguided attempt to fit people in an academic mold in which they don’t belong.

It feels as if college recruiters begin their work in the classroom of kindergarteners, hailing the supposed increase million-dollar increase in salary. The 53 percent of college graduates who are jobless or underemployed say otherwise. It would appear that our current higher educational system does little for skills-based programs. Classroom discussions of ideas are important, but they don’t always translate to fruitful livelihoods post-graduation.

Just ask liberal arts majors how successful they were with finding jobs post-graduation.


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