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Character Criteria for Student Scholarships

In 2009, the Katie School undertook a study into the development a criteria for Character to include in its scholarship criteria along with academic achievement and leadership. The Katie School conducted interviews and focus groups with members of the College of Business Executive Council (COBEC). The College of Business Executive Council serves as the student advisory council to the College of Business Dean's Office.

The president from each College of Business Student Organization sits on the College of Business Executive Council. These students were asked to consider the elements that should be considered in establishing a Character criterion for scholarships.


These students were tasked with the following:

Define character in terms of:

  • Attributes which would be considered
  • Review extant literature and research on character criteria

Choose the best character attributes (or an absence of character attributes or negative attributes) for scholarship purposes. For scholarships, the positive attributes (or opposite negative attributes) must be:

  • Objective
  • Observable (demonstrable)
  • If possible, measurable

Character Criteria

A list of 25 character criteria was presented to the students. These were culled from multiple sources including Stephen Covey's Principle Centered Leadership, James Kouzes and Barry Posner's, The Leadership Challenge, and Doug Lennick's and Fred Kiel's Moral Intelligence, the ISU College of Business Standards for Professional Behavior and Ethical Conduct, as well as several websites from educational institutions that focus on building character. A complete list of these criteria can be found in Appendix A.

Criteria were discussed in terms of definitions, importance, and ability to assess for scholarship award purposes. Students also considered evidence of the absence of criteria and negative attributes in developing their final list. 

Students defined and consolidated criteria to come up with the following four key criteria:

  • Accountability
  • Drive for Excellence
  • Respect
  • Integrity

Drive for excellence, although a part of character, is already contemplated in the academic and leadership performance criteria in use by the Katie School. For this reason the criteria of accountability, respect, and integrity are key to assessing the Character component of the scholarship criteria. 

Table 1 below provides a description of the criteria as defined by the students along with suggestions on ways in which the criteria may be assessed. Students were also asked to develop ideas for communicating scholarship requirements to students.


Possible Ways of Assessing


Defined as:

  • Honoring commitments
  • Being responsible for decisions
  • Accepting consequences
  • Admitting mistakes
  1. Interviews. Ask behavioral questions like:
    • When was a time when you made a mistake and what did you learn from it?
    • When was a time when you disagreed with someone on a project and how did you handle that?
    • Can others rely on your work?
  2. Get references from bosses or faculty
  3. Having a leadership role in organization that requires peers to vote in leadership. (Not likely to vote in a person who is not accountable)

Drive for Excellence

Defined as:

  • Having a good work ethic
  • Getting results
  • Continuous improvement
  • Putting in time above and beyond basic requirements
  • Being involved in the campus community
  1. Involvement in student organizations (perhaps leadership role)
  2. Reference from faculty on participation in class
  3. Having a double major or a minor.
  4. Academic performance
  5. Getting promotions (within organizations and at work)
  6. Completing certifications and professional exams.
  7. Working job(s) while going to school. (Students felt like this showed drive especially if they had good academic performance even if they did not join clubs or have double major)
  8. Reference from bosses. (Ask if they show pride in work and go beyond basic requirements)


Defined by:

  • Treating others fairly
  • Listening to others and accepting input from others
  • Living up to promises made to another
  • Maintaining self-control
  • Exhibiting consideration for things and people that they encounter
  1. References from faculty AND advisors (sometimes students lose temper and don’t treat advisors well.  Respect and disrespect sometimes exhibited in classroom as well. )
  2. Interview question.
    • Ask: Is there a time when you felt disrespected? How did you respond? Answer will indicate how they treat others who make mistakes. 


Defined as being:

  • Honest
  • Trustworthy
  • Caring
  • Ethical
  1. Community service (especially if it is voluntary and they already have busy life of work and school)
  2. NOT having record of behavior that would indicate an absence of integrity or having unfavorable character attributes, especially those showing fraudulent intent*
*Footnote on use of reports of violations in considering character criteria


With respect to records of violations like those listed in the appendix (notwithstanding convictions of felonies) student leaders felt that there were very few violations that should bar an applicant from obtaining a scholarship. However, violations related to fraudulent intent such a plagiarism and cheating and should be examined carefully as those would directly link to student integrity. Suggested “zero tolerance” violations would include:

  • Lying on the scholarship application (including failing to mention violations or criminal convictions)
  • Plagiarism (Even if it did not lead to suspension)
  • Cheating on an exam or project (Even if it did not lead to suspension)
  • Passing bad checks
  • Gambling violations
  • Trespassing

Although persistent alcohol violations may be considered, the consensus of students was that a naïve, one-time, "zero tolerance" approach to alcohol violations (aka "drinking tickets") was counterproductive and unfair. They listed the following reasons for their opinion:

  • Felt that there was a fairness issue if records were used against students who went to ISU their freshmen and sophomore years, and not against transfer students (who don’t have such records available)
  • Felt that there was a fairness issue in that students agreed to do required "punishment"  in exchange for accepting responsibility and waiving their defenses, and then later were punished again for the same offense by not getting a scholarship. (Double Jeopardy)
  • Felt that there was a fairness issue in that punishment (losing out on scholarships) was not proportionate to offense (attending a party where alcohol was being served)
  • Stated that many, if not a majority, of the students in leadership roles in college of business student organizations would not be eligible for scholarships if one "drinking ticket" precluded them from receiving scholarships. This would be a disincentive for students to students to be involved in positive behaviors and activities that might lead to scholarships. (Students pointed out that there may be a misunderstanding about underage "drinking tickets" in that they are not evidence of public drunkenness, or DUI's. Drinking tickets can be, and are, issued for being in proximity to people drinking.)

There was consensus among all student leaders that students should have a right to explain any violations. (This should be in the application form but may even require more explanation.) Students indicated that they were aware of students receiving a cheating violation and an F on an exam for sharing a calculator, or for plagiarism for failing to cite one source in a paper. Faculty apply the standards differently.

There was a consensus among student leaders that there should be time limit for looking back on a record. For example, they believed that it was unfair to consider violations occurring in the freshmen year, especially for a senior that had spent the past three years demonstrating accountability, drive for excellence, respect, and integrity through outstanding academic achievement,  community service, student leadership, and professionalism on the job. Several student leaders felt that they matured tremendously since their freshman year.

A consensus of students felt that more recent violations (for example within the past year) and multiple violations after having been warned of the possible financial consequences, showed a lack of judgment and maturity and should be considered

Appendix Items

Appendix Item A - Character Criteria for Student scholarships

Define the following, then choose the best character attributes for scholarship purposes:

  • Courage to "do the right thing"
  • Admits, corrects & learns from mistakes
  • Respectful and considerate of others
  • Honors commitments
  • Honest / sincere / trusting & trustworthy / integrity
  • Service to the community/good citizenship
  • Diligence in daily work
  • Leadership / accepting & managing
  • Reliable / responsible / dependable
  • Fair to others
  • Cares for own mental / physical health / self-control over unhealthy addictions
  • Drives for excellence / high standards
  • Fosters others’ mental well-being & self-esteem / caring / believes in others / empathizes
  • Continually educates self
  • Places the good of the whole above self-interest    
  • Prevents & resolves conflicts
  • Financially responsible
  • Manages own emotions / professional / mature
  • Team player / cooperates with and assists others
  • Strong interpersonal skills / plays well with others
  • Good communicator / listener
  • Healthy self-esteem / confidence
  • High initiative / energy / resourcefulness / creativity / productivity
  • Displays compassion for and forgiveness of others
  • Knowledgeable / skilled / has vision and inspires others

Appendix Item B: Communicating Character Criteria to Students

  • Include this in communication, and even exercise for Business 100 class
  • Include this in junior experience (which would pick up transfer students)
  • Communicate this in FIL 185- class on ethics and corporate social responsibility
  • Communicate this in FIL 240 when discussing professional standards
  • Make sure this is on scholarship application and featured on web page of scholarship information
  • Communicate to student on Transfer Day
  • Communicate each year to COBEC students to disseminate to all students in RSO's.
  • Needs to be part of a much broader university wide policy if the idea is to really raise awareness
  • Include in ISU policy for students on I-Campus
2022-03-15T09:57:15.702-07:00 2022