Extra Points for Being Nice?

TalkingEDU_Logo-576877-editedThe criteria for admissions at colleges and universities continue to evolve with Stanford and Princeton joining Harvard and Yale in dropping the required writing test for both the SAT and the ACT and replacing it with the submission of a graded writing sample. These schools hope to make entry easier for low and middle income and minority students who may not test well. Portfolios of work, video essays and proof of commitment to the community are now opening doors for students whose test scores prevented them from attending some of the country’s most elite schools.  

A new and surprising twist in the criteria for admissions comes to us from Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business.

In addition to grades, test scores, work experience and the traditional freshman essay, Dartmouth has announced that, “it would henceforth look for applicants who possess four qualities: smart, nice, accomplished and aware.” At first glance these four attributes may seem at odds with the highly competitive world of MBA students. Quoting executive director of admissions and financial aid at Tuck Luke Anthony Peña, “What we’re looking for is emotional intelligence, empathy and respect for others.”

A Test for Niceness?

In Extra Points for Being Nice, Scott Jaschik writing for Inside Higher Ed asks representatives from Tuck just what their intentions are in making this change and just how they’ll go about determining niceness. According to Peña, “Being smart and being accomplished would be evaluated through traditional evaluations of grades, test scores and experiences. Niceness would come out in essays and in recommendations.”  To this end, and to ensure their application process is as transparent as possible, Tuck has posted new essay prompts to guide prospects and those writing letters of recommendation. These prompts and essay questions offer students the chance to reflect on these four attributes. One sample question reads, "Tuck students are nice. Please comment on how the candidate interacts with others including when the interaction is difficult or challenging.”

Will it Work?

Officials at Tuck believe that promoting niceness will make for better collaborators. This change to admissions practices has “formalized what they’ve long valued: a community of leaders who prize empathy and emotional intelligence at least as highly as financial and strategic acumen.”

According to Chad Troutwine, co-founder and CEO of Veritas Prep, “It should work, primarily because Tuck has been talking about these qualities for some time, so its reputation is consistent with its new admissions approach.”

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