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New for Independent School Admissions – The Character Skills Snapshot


The Character Skills Snapshot

Are you in the midst of the independent school admissions process? If you have been on school admissions pages, you may have noticed this image popping up:

Ah, but what is this Snapshot? Is it a test? Is it required? I recently attended a webinar hosted by The Enrollment Management Association covering the rollout of this new tool. There has been a lot of mystery around this new feature and what it will be used for in the independent school admissions process. Here’s a summary of what I learned:

First, what is The Enrollment Management Association?

  • The Enrollment Management Association is an organization servicing admissions teams at independent schools. They are also the creators and facilitators of the SSAT: Secondary School Admissions Test.

What is the Character Skills Snapshot?

  • The Character Skills Snapshot has been developed through the EMA to provide a standardized online tool for schools to assess the character of their applicants. The Snapshot does not replace other pieces of the application process, such as the interview or recommendation letters.  It is a supplement designed to enable a more holistic view of the student.  The Snapshot does not replace the SSAT or ISEE tests.

Who is requiring it?

  • At this point, over 400 schools have added the Character Skills Snapshot as a component of their application as either requiring or recommending. There is not a master list available, so you will have to check the specific admissions pages of the schools you are applying to in order to determine if it will be required for their application process.
  • In a quick search of schools, I was able to find the following language being used by schools:
    • Strongly Recommend: Choate Rosemary Hall (CT), Phillips Academy (MA)
    • Strongly Encouraged: Middlesex School (MA)
    • Optional, Invited To Take: Hopkins School (CT)
    • Completely Optional: The Taft School (CT)
    • *I was not able to find a school that listed The Character Skills Snapshot as required in my preliminary search of private day and boarding schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

What skills are tested?

What does the test look like?

What are the logistics of taking the test?

  • The test can be taken at home or at a location of choice by the applicant. Admissions Offices are not permitted to administer the test, as the test is designed to be completed in a low-stress environment.
  • The test is untimed, but must be completed in one sitting. You cannot save your answers and revisit it.  On average, students took between 20-30 minutes to complete the test.
  • Students are permitted to take the test only once during the testing year.
  • The test launched on September 25th. Students testing between now and December 10th will not receive their results until later in December.  Following December 10th, students will receive their results within two weeks.
  • The Snapshot is free for students who have or are registered to take the SSAT. For students who are not planning on taking the SSAT, the fee for the Snapshot is $25.
  • Students who are SSAT testers can log into the Snapshot through their SSAT account.
  • For non-SSAT test takers, the school they are applying to will send them a link to complete the Snapshot.

My student is prepping for the SSAT or ISEE exam.  Should my student also be prepping for the Snapshot?

  • Students do not need to prepare for this. The idea is for them to answer the questions in a low-stress environment and answer honestly.

With the rollout of any new piece in an application process, there are always many unanswered questions.  As admissions teams have no prior experience working with the Snapshot, counselors are not entirely sure how much of a factor the Snapshot will be in the review of applicants.  As it seems most schools are recommending rather than requiring it, it will be interesting to see how many applicants actually opt in to taking the Snapshot.

Many of the questions I still have lingering about the Snapshot have to do with the admission team’s uses of the results. What will happen if recommendation letters or the interview conflict with the results of the Snapshot?   Are schools looking to balance their classes amongst the different character skills or are they valuing specific traits more than others? Just as each school has its own unique personality and environments, so will each school no doubt have their own unique use for this piece in their admissions process.

The Enrollment Management Association has some additional information about the Snapshot on their website at

If you have additional questions about the SSAT, you can find our new Independent School Admission Testing Guide here. Also, if you are interested in scheduling a practice test in one of our offices, you’ll find the latest schedule here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.

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