In a recent guest blog in The Chronicle of Higher Education, James Jump advocates for new metrics to be used in the college admissions process. Specifically, he believes colleges should be exploring ways to measure important noncognitive skills.

Cognitive skills are those measured by our current crop of standardized admissions tests, such as content knowledge, memory, or reason. Noncognitive skills long have been considered “soft” and include more difficult to measure traits such as interpersonal relations or the possession of a growth mindset. Scholar Angela Duckworth has described the combination of a growth mindset and perseverance as “grit.”

We are seeing some organizations take an early lead in this new area of assessment.

After seeing a disconnect between student engagement and test scores, the Morehead-Cain Foundation conducted a study of 350 scholarship recipients and learned that there was no correlation between campus engagement and traditional scholarship application criteria such as SAT scores, high school activities, or GPA. Considering that campus engagement is a key goal for the Morehead-Cain Foundation, it led to some changes in the way it evaluates candidates.

Now the Morehead-Cain uses student descriptions of their activities to look for noncognitive factors and then follows up those evaluations in the interview process — looking for students who have the grit to be successful, and engaged, at UNC.