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What to Know About the Character Skills Snapshot

By Cheryl, IvyWise WiseStart™ Counselor

With the increasing number of applicants applying to independent day and boarding schools, admissions committees have started adapting additional testing tools to the application process. One tool that’s growing in popularity is the Character Skills Snapshot, which was developed by the Enrollment Management Association, makers of the SSAT standardized test.

What is the Character Skills Snapshot?

The Character Skills Snapshot is designed for students entering grades 6-12. The assessment requires the applicant’s honest, personal responses to statements and hypothetical situations. Its purpose is to provide a more well-rounded view of the student apart from standardized tests, essays, and interviews. An increasing number of schools either require or recommend Snapshot as part of the application process. Families are advised to contact individual schools to determine if this test is a part of the application process.

Which Character Skills Are Measured?

Seven character skills are measured within three categories: intellectual, intrapersonal, and interpersonal.


  • Intellectual engagement: how much the student loves to learn
  • Open-mindedness: how willing the student is to try something new


  • Initiative: how much the student prefers beginning tasks on time
  • Resilience: how well the student responds to change and unexpected situations
  • Self-Control: how well the student monitors and controls their thoughts, actions, and responses to others


  • Social awareness: how appropriately the student responds to everyday situations
  • Teamwork: how well the student demonstrates supportive behaviors and empathy in a group setting

How Is Snapshot Used?

The Character Skills Snapshot provides an opportunity for school faculty and administrators to know more about your child. It gives admissions counselors a more complete picture of your child by highlighting their skills and providing a bit of insight into how they will succeed in that school. It also gives teachers and advisors another tool to better support your child on their academic journey. As a parent, you can better understand your child based on their responses, so it helps you offer support, guidance, and encouragement where needed.

What Is Snapshot Like?

The online assessment takes about 25 minutes to complete and requires no preparation because there are no right or wrong answers. One part includes “forced choice” questions in which three statements are presented, and students are asked to select whether the statements are most or least like them.

Statement                                                                                        Most like me                 Least like me

I enjoy trying new things.                                  

I usually avoid my friends when they are upset.

I follow through on my commitments to others.

The other type of questions asked are “situational judgement” questions that ask students to rate the appropriateness of each statement from 1 (not appropriate at all) to 4 (very appropriate). Students are allowed to assign the same rating to more than one response. Here’s an example:

Kainoa is assigned a group project, and the group needs to meet once after school to finish work before the deadline. The group wants to meet Tuesday afternoon, but Kainoa has baseball practice at that time.

Rate the following from 1 (not appropriate at all) to 4 (very appropriate)

Ask his coach for permission to miss practice so he can work on the group project.  

Ask his group members to meet on another day that suits his schedule.

Tell the group that he will do his portion of the work at home and send it to them later.

Meet his group members on Tuesday rather than going to baseball practice.

It’s helpful to remember that Snapshot is an effort to see where your child is in that moment. Their answers will probably change over time with age and maturity.

Of course, Snapshot is just one part of what can be a complex and highly competitive school admissions process. IvyWise counselors provide expert support and strategic admissions planning to help your child thrive and succeed at their best-fit school. Learn more about our WiseStart™ School Placement Services.

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