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Admissions with a focus on locus

Indiana college adds personality quiz to admissions process
University Business, December 2014

Beginning in 2016, when prospective students to the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (Ind.) submit their SAT scores and transcripts, they’ll be asked to take a personality quiz to help the school determine who has the right stuff to succeed.

“I’ve always felt there’s something missing in admissions, something that we can do better,” says Jim Goecker, vice president of enrollment management and strategic communication.

About five years ago he came across the “locus of control index,” developed by psychologists in 1954. The quiz asks a series of questions to determine the extent to which subjects believe they can influence their destinies. People with an internal locus believe they’re responsible for making their own success; those with an external locus believe what happens to them is generally beyond their control.

“Four years ago we began administering this locus of control quiz to our freshmen to start building a baseline of understanding of our students,” Goecker says. Then, retention studies found correlations to how students had scored on the locus of control index. Those who were confident they’re in charge of their fate were more likely to stay at Rose-Hulman and succeed.

Rolling out the quiz on a mass scale as part of the admissions process will take time. “We certainly don’t want to complicate our lives with another form,” he says. “But if we can find a way to administer and score it electronically, it can become part of the overall package.”

Ultimately, the locus of control index may influence some admission decisions.

“If I have 10 applications but can only accept three or four, with everything else being equal, the locus of control score may help make the decision,” Goecker says. “What we’re looking for is evidence that the student will be successful in our environment. If this piece of information can help us do that better—and we’ve seen evidence that it can—then we have an obligation to consider it.”

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