Attributes That Matter: Beyond the Usual in College Admission and Success


The research is clear. The attributes of a successful college student go well beyond measures of the defined components of standardized tests and high school grades. The abilities to adapt, persist, interpret, lead, be creative, handle disappointment, and negotiate complex systems often make the difference between a student who is a good choice or a poor one in admission and a student who is engaged and successful on campus or one who is not. Attributes That Matter explores:

  • How can these attributes be identified and cultivated?
  • Which explain success and for whom?
  • How are they considered in college admission policies and how can they be given their due?
  • How might high school preparation change if these attributes were more widely understood to be critical in college admission and success?

Conference Photos

Sponsor Acknowledgment

We would like to gratefully acknowledge all of our sponsors for contributing to the excellence of the conference:

We would also like to thank the USC Rossier School of Education for its support of Rossier faculty, staff and graduate students to attend our conference.


Conference Agenda

Presentations and Sessions

Please click on each day for the conference blog.

Day 1

  • Neuroscience, Inspiration, and Purposeful Lives

Day 2

  • Assessing Noncognitive Variables: Issues and Applications
  • Non-cognitive Variables in Action
  • Attributes of Good Students and Good Professionals
  • Beyond Grutter, Gratz, and Fisher: Legal and Educational Implications of Considerations of Race and Other Options in College Admission
  • The College Board: Moving from Here

Day 3

  • Putting it Together Independently: Rewarding Character and Achievement with Scholarships
  • Preparing Community College Students for Transfer: Highlighting the Individual, Institutional, and Policy Attributes that Matter

Speakers and Available Presentations

Keynote Speakers


  • Sheldon Zedeck, Professor of the Graduate School, University of California, Berkeley – Predicting Lawyer Effectiveness with Noncognitive Measures: Use in Law School Admission Decisions
  • Patrick Kyllonen, Sr. Research Director, Center for Academic and Workforce Readiness and Success, Educational Testing Service (ETS) – Attributes of Good Students and Good Professionals
  • Steve Kappler, Assistant Vice President and Head of Postsecondary Strategy, ACT – What ACT Research tells Us about Readiness and Persistence
  • Larry Griffith, Vice President, Gates Millennium Scholars – The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Program and the Application of Noncognitive Variables
  • Carrie Besnette Hauser, Senior Fellow, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation – Overview of Scholarship Programs
  • Charles Lovelace, Executive Director, Morehead-Cain Scholars Program, University of North Carolina
  • Jon Boeckenstedt, Associate VP for Enrollment Management and Marketing, DePaul University
  • Noah Buckley, Director of Admission, Oregon State University – Noncognitive Variables in Action: DePaul and Oregon State
  • Kedra Ishop, Vice Provost and Director of Admissions, University of Texas at Austin
  • Theodore Spencer, Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director, Undergraduate Admissions, University of Michigan
  • Richard Sander, Professor of Law, University of California, Los Angeles – Background data
  • Stephen Handel, Executive Director, National Office of Community College Initiatives, The College Board
  • Nancy Shulock, Executive Director, Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy, and Professor of Public Policy & Administration, California State University, Sacramento – Background data
  • Lawrence Nespoli, President, New Jersey Council of Community Colleges
  • Frank Ashley, Vice Chancellor for Recruitment and Diversity, Texas A&M University System
  • Pamela Horne, Associate Vice Provost for Enrollment Management and Dean of Admissions, Purdue University
  • Andrea Brownstein, Director of College Counseling, Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School
  • Gil Villanueva, Assistant Vice President & Dean, Office of Admission, University of Richmond
  • Eric Hoover, Senior Writer, Chronicle of Higher Education
  • Scott Jaschik, Editor, Inside Higher Ed

Reading Materials

Neuroscience, Creativity and Human Development

Assessing Noncognitive Variables

Student Learning and Persistence


Lawyer Effectiveness

Affirmative Action

Transfer Students

Media Coverage and Related Articles