Do Traditional Admissions Criteria Reflect Applicant Creativity?

Jean E. Pretz, Elizabethtown College
James C. Kaufman, University of Connecticut


College admissions decisions have traditionally focused on high school academic performance and standardized test scores. An ongoing debate is the validity of these measures for predicting success in college; part of this debate includes how success is defined. One potential way of defining college success is a student's creative accomplishments. We tested the hypothesis that traditional admissions criteria fail to capture adequately the creativity of applicants by asking 610 college applicants to complete several creativity tasks. These included divergent thinking, caption-writing, an essay, and self-report measures of creativity in numerous domains. Creativity scores were compared to data from the college application, including high school rank, standardized test scores, and admissions interview scores. Results showed that traditional admissions criteria were only weakly related to creativity. Indeed, students who report the highest creative self-efficacy can be perceived as weaker applicants according to traditional criteria. Findings are discussed in light of the goals of higher education to increase diversity of the student body and the abilities of its students.