Mission-Driven Admissions at Hampshire College is a groundbreaking university-wide admissions process that prioritizes changemaker traits in the student selection process, which is completely challenging historical precedence for educational priorities and success metrics.

Mission-Driven Admissions – 2018 Awardee

In 2014, Hampshire College designed a new admissions policy that centered on the evaluation of changemaker traits. As part of this innovation, the College banned the submission of standardized test scores completely. This decision was a radical departure from the traditional approach to college admissions. Grounded in results from an internal longitudinal research study, the goal of this innovation was to redesign the admissions process to more robustly measure changemaker traits predictive of success within the entrepreneurial educational model. These include: follow-through, self-awareness, empathy,  grit, resilience, and a growth-mindset.

The re-imagining of college admissions to identify and celebrate changemaker traits, has three key features:

  • Creativity: Despite rapid innovation in institutional programming, college admissions has remained relatively static for decades. The inability of college admissions to embrace change has had stifling effects on the ability of high schools to innovate. Hampshire’s model creatively leveraged research in a way that makes their innovation accessible to other institutions and has sparked a nation-wide conversation around student-centric admissions..

  • Equity: This model responds directly to a deep understanding of the levers and barriers to access in higher education, in particular, standardized test scores. Hampshire’s boldest decision was to completely ban scores, rather than make them optional.

  • Impact: Most importantly, this decision was a signal to the world that Hampshire’s community highly values changemaker traits, believe that a socially impactful mindset is essential to being an agent of change and have designed their process in a way that incentives students to do social impact work in high school.


Program Design

How long did it take to launch the first iteration of this program?

  • Between 9 and 12 months

How much annual funding do you receive for the program?

  • More than $15,000
  • $5,000 for research

The key players, strategists and supporters involved in creation and implementation include:

  • Staff
  • Faculty
  • Administrators
  • Students
  • Alumni
  • Community members

The program is designed to impact:

  • Staff
  • Faculty
  • Students



This innovation has had a clear social impact in terms of equity in the admissions process. The population of first-generation students and students of color are at their highest levels ever in the near 50 year history of the College. In addition, they also have a more socio-economically diverse student body population than ever. This impact can be specifically traced back to research on barriers to entering higher education as they relate to socio-economic background, race, and gender.

While removing standardized test scores from the application process was an integral part of this innovation, restructuring the file review process was equally important. Central to this was the design of a new rubric for admissions review, one that asks application reviewers to specifically assess the presence of changemaker traits within the application. Once developed, the communications team then integrated the values from this rubric into digital marketing campaigns. This meant that over 30,000 high school students were regularly hearing about the value on changemaker skills.

To support continued innovation, Hampshire has embarked upon new longitudinal research projects that will give our community further insight into the traits that predict changemakers and the structures and resources that allow change makers to thrive. One example is the Hampshire Impact Study, which follows a cohort of students through their four years at Hampshire and pays particular attention to isolating the variables that impact student success post-enrollment.


For more information, contact:

Kristina Moss Gunnarsdottir 
Interim Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Hampshire College

[email protected]

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Ashoka U seeks to recognize globally relevant teaching, learning, and partnership practices that may be adapted and replicated across the field.


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