Character Collaborative and NACAC to Launch Second Training Course

Shanda Ivory

Character Collaborative and NACAC to Launch Second Training Course


Arlington, VA (May 28, 2021) – The Character Collaborative and the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) today announced the launch of “Writing and Evaluating Letters of Recommendation for Character,” the second course in a series designed to provide guidance on the value of character attributes in colleges and schools. The content of this course is particularly targeted to high school and independent counselors and admission office readers.

The Character Collaborative, an organization of over 70 schools and colleges, college counselors, associations, and researchers nationwide, was created in 2016 to promote changes in school and college admission practices that reflect the significance of character strengths in attaining success in school, college, and career. NACAC, with a membership of more than 23,000 institutions and individuals, advocates on behalf of the profession and students and families navigating the college admission process.

“Today, with the impact of COVID-19, renewed focus on access and equity, and rapid alteration of the testing world, there is an accelerated movement toward holistic admission, including the elevation of character attributes,” said David Holmes, executive director of the Character Collaborative.

Board Chair Robert Massa added, “College counselors need to advise their high school students based on their knowledge of how different colleges weigh certain non-academic factors in the selection process. With regard to letters of recommendation, admission staff today are challenged to design and implement an admission process that incorporates subtle but important changes in their evaluation of applicants. Recognizing this challenge, the Character Collaborative, together with NACAC, has produced the second of seven planned courses to give high school counselors and admission professionals the tools and insights they need to factor into their advising and admission processes attributes of character that are important to institutional mission.”

“NACAC is pleased to partner with the Character Collaborative on this training program,” NACAC CEO Angel B. Pérez said. “As a profession, we have long known that existing admission criteria are limited in their ability to predict success, and even more limited in their ability to create more equitable admission outcomes. This training is an important resource to help us integrate a more complete set of factors into our admission decision-making processes.”

Members of the Collaborative and NACAC can participate in the course free of charge. Also included in this link is the first course, “Assessing Character in Admission: An Introduction.” Users will need to register for a free Thinkific account before being able to access the class.

The new course reviews why character matters in letters of recommendation, the barriers to effective letter writing, writing during the pandemic, elements of an effective letter, the role of colleges, and evaluating information from the letters The 75- to 90-minute course development was coordinated by Dr. Meghan Brenneman, formerly of the Enrollment Management Association, and Arlene Cash, a recently retired enrollment manager with over 25 years of experience at major public universities and private colleges. Instructors for the course are Brennan Barnard of the Derryfield School (NH); Marilyn O’Toole, founder of The College Consortium and an independent educational consultant; Richard Clark, director of admissions at Georgia Institute of Technology, and Audrey Smith, VP for Enrollment at Smith College (MA).

Other courses in the series, which will be rolled out over the course of the next 18 months, include:

  • Writing and Evaluating the College Essay for Character
  • Signaling the Importance of Character
  • Character Assessment Readiness
  • Character Assessment in High Schools
  • Why Character Matters
  • Evaluating the Impact of Character in Admission

For more information about these courses, or to inquire about joining the Character Collaborative, contact Executive Director David Holmes ( or Board Chair Bob Massa (



The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), founded in 1937, is an organization of more than 23,000 professionals from around the world dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing postsecondary education.

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