What Colleges Say About Authentic Inquiry and the Essential Skills and Habits

Tim Breen, Head of School

In my last post, I wrote about our research on the skills and habits that correlated with success at college and beyond. As part of this ongoing research project, I have been meeting with academic leaders and admission leaders at colleges and universities (so far: Boston University, MIT, Tufts University, Barnard College, Northeastern University, Olin College of Engineering, and Wellesley College).

Across the board, academic and admission leaders at these colleges are enthusiastic about our focus on authentic inquiry and our attention to the essential skills and habits of academic success. For example, Jennifer Desjarlais, Dean of Admission at Wellesley College noted that the habits we focus on (curiosity, reflection, collaboration, and persistence) are the same things they train their admission board to look for in applicants. When discussing our LASR Project (a major authentic inquiry experience at White Mountain) Kelly Walter, Associate Vice President & Executive Director of Admissions at Boston University noted that, “We embrace students who have completed a project like LASR – exploring new ideas, taking ownership – because this is exactly what they will be expected to do at Boston University.”  And Danielle Jacob, Senior Admission Officer at Barnard College stressed the importance of the intellectual curiosity that authentic inquiry promotes.  She said, “Students at Barnard tend to be independent and to take ownership of their learning. We are looking for students who demonstrate a high level of intellectual curiosity and critical thinking skills.”

Finally, Matt McGann, Director of Admission at MIT noted that, while they have long had supplemental admission portfolios for art and music, this year they have introduced a supplemental research portfolio as part of their admission process.  They hope to recognize and honor those students who have followed their curiosity and done significant research. This aligns perfectly with the LASR Project at White Mountain. It is exciting to be part of this growing movement in education: engaging students in authentic inquiry, helping them pursue their own questions with rigor and creativity.

—Tim

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