There is a movement afoot across the education sector including higher education, secondary schools, test companies, researchers and others to bring awareness to the importance of character in admissions. The nascent group leading the charge is the Character Collaborative and part of its mission states, “We believe that character is fundamental to an engaged life, the fullest consideration of human potential and a humane society.”
This group has come together because they passionately believe that moral judgement, respect for others and social responsibility is valued in citizenship and leadership; that personal attributes and skill sets such as collaboration and composure are important in the development of young people; that stress, depression and anxiety need to be diminished in our schools and institutions; that admission, enrollment and completion rates need to be enhanced for underserved student populations; and that there should be a greater recognition of and responsibility for social, emotional and character competencies.
At Bishop’s character is -and has been -an integral part of the admissions process. Our mission and our identity as an Episcopal school call for it. As a school community that is intentionally pluralistic and encourages critical and independent thinking, we value human reason and civil discourse. Therefore, our focus in admissions cannot just be on prior academic achievement and a well-crafted resume, but at the core must be a genuine care for others and respect for human dignity.
We tour prospective families on a daily basis and spend hours peeking into classrooms across all grades and departments, and we see students who are engaged, prepared, collaborative and as our chaplain, Nicole Simopolous-Pigato, writes “listening to one another’s truths.” The ability to do so goes well beyond entrance tests, grades and co-curriculars, to be present and listen is deeply embedded in one’s values, and in personal attributes including respect for others and a willingness to serve.
The time we spend with students in the admissions process allows us to hone in on their ability to be open-minded, kind, curious and, we hope, develop a sense of personal well-being. We actively support the mission and vision of the Character Collaborative to make change and challenge the status quo. At the same time, we are grateful for our defining identity as an Episcopal school, one that honors and celebrates both diverse and common life because it naturally establishes character as the cornerstone of our work.