Applicant extracurricular involvement predicts creativity better than traditional admissions factors

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


Researchers are challenging college admissions to shift practices to become more inclusive and to consider a range of abilities, including creativity. Admissions counselors must examine limited information and then maximize what they learn. How can admissions counselors use existing data to identify creative students? Research suggests that creative individuals tend to be more involved in extracurricular activities and that those involved in creative activities tend to be more involved in extracurricular activities overall. We expected that extracurricular involvement would predict creativity better than traditional admissions factors alone. Participants were 232 applicants to an undergraduate program recruited by the admissions office who completed online supplements. Data on SAT scores, high school rank, and extracurricular involvement were obtained from admissions files. Creativity was measured through a divergent thinking task, a self-assessment, a rated photo caption, and a rated essay about a student's dream project. Involvement in art clubs significantly predicted caption creativity, explaining twice as much variance as traditional factors alone. Arts club membership, but not traditional admissions factors, explained a significant amount of variance in self-reported performance creativity (i.e., writing, acting, music, etc.). Curiously, intensity of participation in academic clubs was negatively related to divergent thinking creativity. These findings demonstrate that extracurricular activities reveal valuable information about applicants' creativity that traditional admission factors do not.