The Character Skills Snapshot

Better understand your applicants for a more holistic admissions process.

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Character matters —

to students, families, and to independent schools.

Families want schools to have a more complete picture of students during the admissions process.

Enrollment professionals want a more consistent way to understand the whole applicant.

The Character Skills Snapshot is the answer to the question: how do we better measure students’ essential character skills , improve independent school admissions practices, and support the current strengths and emerging skills of all students?

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The better you understand your applicants,

the stronger your admissions process.

What is The Character Skills Snapshot?

It’s an innovative tool that gives EMA members a standardized way to assess the essential character skills of students seeking entrance to grades 6-12:


Intellectual Engagement

Highlights the student's preference toward willingness and enjoyment of pursuing learning opportunities, regardless of how much difficulty they might experience.


Highlights the student's preference toward a willingness to try new things.



Highlights the student's preference toward an inclination to work on assignments in a timely manner and emphasizes the point at which a student chooses to start work rather than when the student finishes work.


Highlights the student's preference to adjust to unexpected situations and changing circumstances.


Highlights the student’s preference to monitor and control his/her/their thoughts and actions, and what he/she/they say to others.


Social Awareness

Highlights the student’s evaluation of the appropriateness of responses to everyday situations.


Highlights the student's preference to engage in supportive behaviors and emphasizes empathetic qualities that enable productive collaboration with others.

“The Snapshot is a wonderful piece of information to see where your child is right now. I think that’s exciting as a parent to see what my child is just getting going, or what they are going to grow into as they move into an independent school.”

Jay Lasley
Director of Admission
Norfolk Academy (VA)
See it in action

Here’s how it works:

The Snapshot is an online assessment that students can take in a location of their choosing (it is not permitted to be given at schools). The assessment is untimed but takes approximately 25 minutes to complete.

Families who register students for the SSAT will automatically receive an email inviting them to consent for their students to take The Snapshot. Schools that do not use the SSAT can use EMA-provided messaging to instruct applying families to take The Snapshot.
Review Step-by-step Registration


Applicants access The Character Skills Snapshot online.

There are tons of multi-purpose options.
Each question on The Snapshot was written by assessment development specialists and subject matter experts in psychology and education, as well as members from the independent school community.
View Sample Questions


Students answer two types of questions.

There are tons of multi-purpose options.
The Snapshot measures a student’s preferences, attitudes, and beliefs about their character. It does not measure their behavior and is not an achievement test.

Member schools using The Character Skills Snapshot will receive reports from those parents/guardians who select them as report recipients approximately two weeks following Snapshot completion. Families have the opportunity to review their report before it appears on their selected schools’ Member Access Portal (MAP).
Access Snapshot Results


Snapshot Reports summarize results.

There are tons of multi-purpose options.
The Snapshot is meant to complement, not replace, a holistic admissions process that includes information from cognitive tests (such as the SSAT), recommendation letters, interviews, etc.

It is not intended to determine if a student should or should not be admitted. Instead, it offers context to help you better understand the whole student.
Learn How To Interpret Results


Schools use Snapshot insights to better understand applicants.

There are tons of multi-purpose options.

The Character Skills Snapshot:
Impact in Action

“We feel we have a better idea of who our kids are. The content of our conversations evolved.” Lakeside School (WA) discusses how the Character Skills Snapshot ensures a more holistic admissions process.

Finally, character skills can be measured consistently.

The Science Behind The Character Skills Snapshot

The Snapshot’s framework stems from extensive research drawn from and conducted by:

  • EMA’s Think Tank on the Future of Assessment
  • Independent School Enrollment Leaders
  • The Educational Testing Service (ETS) 
  • Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century (The National Research Council, 2012)

To maintain security, a new form of The Snapshot is developed every academic year. Every item on The Snapshot undergoes rigorous pilot testing that involves multiple stages. For example, the 2017-2018 Snapshot form was pilot-tested on 12,000 students prior to its launch.

Download Summary Of Research

Snapshot Resources

Some of the Schools Benefitting From Snapshot

Click the logos below to read success stories.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is The Character Skills Snapshot?

The Character Skills Snapshot is a noncognitive assessment tool that measures character skills (initiative, intellectual engagement, open-mindedness, resilience, self-control, social awareness, and teamwork).

Why are character skills important?

There is a plethora of literature that suggests character skills are important for success in school, work, and life. It is one goal of independent schools to foster these skills in their students. Learn more about character and assessment on this NAIS page authored by David Holmes.

How was it developed?

The Enrollment Management Association collaborated with admission directors, heads of schools, and teachers from more than 56 independent schools to develop The Character Skills Snapshot. Assessment development experts from the Educational Testing Service wrote some of the questions, and others were written by teachers and admission professionals from independent schools. It has been through rigorous pilot testing with approximately 12,000 students enrolled in or applying to independent schools across the country. Listen to a podcast with Dr. David Holmes, cofounder and codirector of the Institute on Character and Admission, and Meghan Brenneman, Ed.D., Director of Character Assessment Programs for The Enrollment Management Association, at the bottom of this page.

How is The Snapshot administered?

The Character Skills Snapshot is administered online in a student's home or other location with internet service. It is not available on mobile devices and is not given at schools.

What is the cost of The Character Skills Snapshot?

There is no cost for The Character Skills Snapshot if a student registers to take the SSAT; registration will be available through the student's SSAT account. If a student does not register to take the SSAT, the cost is $35.00.

Check back later as we add more FAQ's!

Character Skills Snapshot Success Stories

Eric Barber
Crossroads School
for Arts and Sciences (CA)

For Crossroads School in Santa Monica, the admission entry point at sixth grade is particularly challenging. With applicants coming primarily from public schools, there is significant price sensitivity and less of an orientation to the value of an independent school education and the admission process. In addition, the information the admission team receives about students varies widely, depending on whether the student is coming from a public school or private school.

Eric Barber, director of enrollment management at Crossroads, believes The Character Skills Snapshot will help level that playing field. It will also help us “differentiate our admission process from the competitor schools, in that we really are showing that we care about the entire brain and the entire kid, because that's who we are as a school.”

Add The Character Skills Snapshot to Your Enrollment Toolkit.

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