Tips & Advice to Succeed in College Based on Your Personality Type
When people think about personality, they usually only consider how it affects their interpersonal relationships. However, personality can influence how well students do in school—as well as the majors they choose and the careers they pursue after graduation. In this guide, we discuss how understanding their Myer-Briggs personality type can help students leverage their strengths, and improve on their weaknesses, in order to be successful in college and beyond.
What is the Myer-Briggs Personality Test?
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, is an inventory that determines people’s personality type based on their answers to a series of questions. Developed from the personality theories of Carl Jung, the test was created by mother-and-daughter team Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs in order to help people understand their strengths, weaknesses, and preferences depending on their personality. After completing the test, people are categorized according to four scales:
Extraversion (E) – Introversion (I)
which is based on whether people gain their energy from spending time with others or being alone.
Sensing (S) – Intuition (N)
which describes whether people get information from paying attention to facts and details, or from impressions and patterns.
Thinking (T) – Feeling (F)
details how people make decisions, which can be based on the data about a topic or the viewpoints of the people the topic pertains to.
Judging (J) – Perceiving (P)
describes whether people interact with the outside world based on structured rules or in a more flexible manner.
People with this personality type tend to be practical, organized, and dependable. ISTJs are also extremely logical, so when they make decisions, they thoroughly collect and analyze information in order to make the most informed choices. In addition, this type is associated with adhering to procedures and rules, so doing everything by the book is important to them.
Positive Traits: Attention to detail that can help with assignments; commitment and strong planning skills that drive them to get work done on time; like having responsibility, which makes them good at taking leadership roles
Negative Traits: May feel the need to be right, which can make it difficult to collaborate with other students; can have a hard time thinking outside the box and trying new approaches to work; sometimes have difficulty expressing feelings, which can make it hard to work with peers
Majors Suited Personality: Accounting, Computer Science, Geology, Business Management, Journalism
Careers to Avoid: Photographers, Art Directors, Preschool Teachers
ISFJ (Introversion, Sensing, Feeling, Judging)
People who are ISFJ are extremely warm and caring, and they love to help others. They value relationships and tend to put a lot of effort into nurturing their connections with the people they care about. Although they like to do a lot for others, they often don’t want to take credit for all of the hard work they put into being so helpful.
Positive Traits: Strong desire to help others can make them good tutors; strong listening skills for absorbing class material; hard workers who pride themselves on doing a good job with assignments
Negative Traits: May take criticism personally, which can make it difficult for them to learn from professors’ feedback; have a hard time accepting change, which can make it difficult for them to adjust to something new when working; can be humble to the point where they don’t take credit for their own work
Majors Suited Personality: Nursing, Economics, Psychology, Education, Religious Studies
Careers to Avoid: Mechanical Engineers, Marketing Managers, Chemists
INFJ (Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Judging)
INFJs are idealistic and have a strong sense of values and empathy that spark their desire to make the world a better place. In addition, those with this personality type are good at reading people and understanding what they are feeling. This type is also associated with creativity and they use their imagination to solve problems.
Positive Traits: Excellent verbal and written communicators; good listeners; altruism that gives them the desire to help their peers
Negative Traits: Extremely private, which can make it difficult to open up about themselves when necessary; strong dislike of conflict may make it difficult to work in groups; their dedication can cause them to get burned out, so they need balance
Majors Suited Personality: Psychology, Fashion Merchandising, Art, Communication, Social Work
Careers to Avoid: Police Officers, Sales Managers, Surveyors
INTJ (Introversion, Intuition, Thinking, Judging)
This intellectual personality type is known for using logic and reasoning to solve complex problems. Although they like to be helpful and share information with others, people may mistake their confidence for arrogance. INTJs are also perfectionists who work tirelessly to make sure their assignments are the best they can be.
Positive Traits: Ability to work independently; good at retaining and understanding complex information; highly committed to their work
Negative Traits: May put pressure on others to meet their high standards, which can make them hard to work with on group assignments; people may think they’re insensitive because of their highly-analytical nature; may have a hard time taking criticism
People who are the ISTP personality type like to understand the mechanics of their environment, so they are good at taking things apart and putting them back together to figure out how they tick. These natural problem solvers are also good at analyzing data to find practical solutions to complex problems. In addition, ISTPs are goal-oriented and efficient.
Positive Traits: Good with conflict resolution, so they work well with their peers; relaxed nature that makes others feel comfortable around them; efficient workers who can get a lot of work done in the moment
Negative Traits: May have poor planning skills, which can make it difficult to stay on track with deadlines; can get bored if they don’t feel mentally stimulated, so they may not be good at some types of tasks; can be stubborn, so they may have trouble taking instruction
Careers to Avoid: Social Workers, Journalists, Dentists
ISFP (Introversion, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving)
Those with this personality type see the world in unique ways and enjoy going against traditions and expectations. ISFPs can be friendly and charming, but like all introverts, they still need quiet time alone in order to recharge. Also, people with this type like to live in the moment.
Positive Traits: Passion that they bring into their work; strong listening skills; desire to always do high-quality work
Negative Traits: Competitiveness that may make it difficult to collaborate on group projects; can be withdrawn, so classroom participation may be challenging; may have a hard time dealing with conflicts
Majors Suited Personality: Fashion Design, Dietetics, Nursing, Music, Foreign Languages
This type is characterized by authenticity and the desire to be original. One way this authenticity manifests itself is through their open, nonjudgmental nature, which allows them to accept people for who they are and see the good in everyone. Also, INFPs are idealistic and altruistic.
Positive Traits: Dedicated to their work and doing a good job; creative and imaginative, which can help them come up with unique ideas; have an inquisitive nature, which can help with intensive research
Negative Traits: May have a hard time giving and taking criticism; tend to dislike large groups, so they may feel uncomfortable in larger classes; may not be interested in data or facts that contradict their beliefs
Majors Suited Personality: Creative Writing, Business Administration, History, Communications, Counseling
Known for being logical and philosophical, INTPs love to delve into complicated theories in order to make sense of the world. They are extremely precise and inquisitive, so they can easily find discrepancies in their work and make an effort to ensure everything they do is consistent. In addition, INTPs tend to test their beliefs with a logical scrutiny and may be frustrated when others don’t do the same.
Positive Traits: Good verbal communicators who can make clear arguments that have been well-thought out; highly curious and willing to do research; creative and imaginative ways of thinking
Negative Traits: Sometimes may not be able to read other people’s feelings, which can affect their work with other students; can be absentminded, so they may forget deadlines; may be stubborn
Majors Suited Personality: Chemistry, Philosophy, Physics, Graphic Arts Management, Engineering
ESTPs are active and playful, so they tend to be the life of the party no matter where they go. They also thrive in fast-paced environments that allow them to utilize their energetic nature when solving problems. In addition, people with this personality type tend to seek out excitement in order to get the stimulation they need.
Positive Traits: Work well with others; observant; goal-oriented
Negative Traits: Have a hard time handling criticism; may be impatient; sometimes have a hard time following rules, so they may not listen to instructions from professors
Careers to Avoid: Electrical Engineers, Physician Assistants, Animators
ESFP (Extroversion, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving)
People with this personality type are charming and love to encourage everyone around them. ESFPs are spontaneous, so they have no problem taking on unexpected projects and putting all of their energy and effort into them. Also, this type has a more active learning style, so they like to actually do something rather than read about it.
Positive Traits: Strong interpersonal skills that help them collaborate well with their peers; enjoy stepping outside of their comfort zone; observant
Negative Traits: Like to be the center of attention, so they may try to overshadow others; may be overly sensitive and take criticism personally; tend to be unfocused and have trouble with long-term projects
ENFPs are passionate about making connections with people and love to entertain or motivate others. In addition, those with this personality type are artistic, and they use this to help them understand the world and everyone’s place in it. ENFPs also have an extremely serious side, which they balance with their desire to be lighthearted.
Positive Traits: Express themselves well verbally, so they are good at class participation; intrigued by different creative fields; enthusiastic and open to new experiences
Negative Traits: they may not pay attention in class; can become overwhelmed easily; may get emotional during conflicts
Majors Suited Personality: Sociology, Architecture, English, Early Childhood Education, Sociology
Those with this personality type are clever and resourceful, so they enjoy finding ingenious answers to life’s questions. They are also analytical, and they like to use their critical thinking skills in order to understand other people. In addition, ENTPs thrive on playing devil’s advocate to help them get a grasp on other points of view.
Positive Traits: Strong debate skills; good at brainstorming; energetic when working on tasks they enjoy
Negative Traits: May become bored and want to abandon projects; can be dismissive of other people; sometimes their debate skills cross over into being argumentative
Majors Suited Personality: Environmental Science, Construction Management, Finance, Marketing, Photography
Careers to Avoid: Machinists, Medical Records Technicians, Preschool Teachers
ESTJ (Extraversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judging)
Thanks to their conscientious and honest terperament, people are happy to let ESTJs take leadership positions on projects or within organizations—and they enjoy mobilizing people behind them just as much. In order to bolster these leadership qualities, people with this personality type rely heavily on facts and aren’t interested in making decisions without rules and standards in mind. Also, ESTJs have a strong work ethic and they inspire others to work hard alongside them.
Positive Traits: Strong analytical abilities; management skills that can help them act as leaders in group projects or campus organizations; desire to help others can make them good tutors
Negative Traits: Workaholic nature can cause them to burn out; can be inflexible, which may cause problems in relationships with professors and other students; can be resistant to ideas that go against their established rules
Majors Suited Personality: Legal Studies, Political Science, Hospitality Management, Public Relations, Risk Management and Insurance
Careers to Avoid: Social Workers, Psychologists, Writers
ESFJ (Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling, Judging)
ESFJs are social butterflies who love making other people happy—whether they are planning a birthday party for their best friend or helping another student in a study group. These altruists are also concerned with creating harmony in their environment, and they are willing to understand other people’s feelings in order to achieve this goal. In addition, people with this personality type have a strong sense of the morals and manners that they believe should guide interpersonal interactions.
Positive Traits: Desire to help makes them good in study groups; care about people’s feelings, which make them strong team players; take commitments seriously, so they are reliable and consistent with assignments
Negative Traits: Not good with conflict; may have a hard time accepting constructive criticism; may be reluctant to try something new or see another viewpoint
Majors Suited Personality: Nursing, History, Education, Religious Studies, Business Administration
Careers to Avoid: Software Developers, Editors, Electrical Engineers
ENFJ (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Judging)
Leadership comes naturally to ENFJs, so they often put themselves in positions that allow them to help and inspire people. Passionate and genuine, people with this personality type have ambitions centered around improving their environment and the lives of others. Also, ENFJs value creativity and education, so learning is important to them.
Positive Traits: Strong persuasion skills that can help them make verbal and written arguments; leadership skills; reliablility
Negative Traits: May spend so much time trying to help others that they neglect their own work; can have poor decision-making skills; may be overly sensitive
Careers to Avoid: Pathologists, Computer Programmers, Electricians
ENTJ (Extraversion, Intuition, Thinking, Judging)
People with this personality type are passionate and driven, so there is nothing they love more than tackling a challenge. ENTJs are skilled at coordinating tasks and making decisions, which makes them solid leaders that command respect. Also, ENTJ personalities are associated with a strong work ethic.
Positive Traits: Team-building skills that make them good in group projects; enjoy reading and getting information; efficient planners
Negative Traits: Can be impatient; may be argumentative, which can strain relationships with peers and professors; strong personality can be seen as arrogant
Careers to Avoid: Craft Artists, Preschool Teachers, Medical Records Technicians
With over 18 years of experience in higher education, Kim works with college students to understand their strengths and use their strengths to make connections on campus and out in the community to prepare them for success.
Coordinator of Student Engagement and Activities
Central Arizona College
In what ways can understanding their personality type help college students inside of the classroom?
Understanding your personality type helps you understand how you do things best and most comfortably. When I talk about personality type with students I usually do this activity:
“Sign your name on a piece of paper using the hand you are most comfortable writing with. Now, sign your name next to it with the other hand.”
The discomfort we feel when writing with the other hand is the same discomfort we feel when we have to do something that doesn’t quite mesh with our personality style.
When college students are given an assignment or need to work in a group, knowing their personality style is vital. It helps you know how to break the assignment in to pieces and how you should approach completing it. It helps with group assignments because you know what part you can play and what your strengths are. If you look at things analytically or need to work according to a deadline, you can put those into play and be more successful.
One example: With the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, a student will be either an extrovert or introvert. An extrovert will process their thoughts out loud by talking them through. An introvert will process internally before saying anything. Extroverts will be among the first to raise their hand to give an answer, while introverts will consider the question before and think through the answer before speaking it to the class or group. By understanding that this is true, students of both personality types will have more confidence about how they approach the class.
In what ways can understanding their personality type help college students outside of the classroom?
Even when you are not in an academic classroom, your personality type influences your interactions with others. By understanding your personality type, you can work better in groups and successfully take on leadership positions.
Understanding your personality type also helps you have better relationships with friends. If you are an introvert, knowing that you need time to re-energize yourself away from others helps you feel more comfortable in social settings.
Understanding that your friend, room-mate or partner, has a different personality type (and that they are not purposefully trying to annoy you or get under your skin), keeps things comfortable and allows you to talk through conflicts in a more productive way.
With the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, a student will be either a “J” or a “P”. “J” is for judging and “P” is for perceiving and it helps you understand how you interact with the world. For someone that is “judging”, you like to take a planned approach to the world. You have your Spring Break plans determined well in advance. Someone that is “perceiving” likes to be more spontaneous and flexible. You want to keep your options open and may know a week ahead of time or even wait until the day of to know what you are doing on break.
If you are serving a leadership position on campus or working with a club and organization, be upfront with which style you are will help your group understand when your tasks will be completed and how quickly you make decisions.
What influence can personality type have on the majors and careers students choose?
Personality type can influence the majors and careers students choose because each personality type has strengths that work really well with different careers and within a company’s vision. Someone that likes routine, checklists, and working through a procedure would benefit in a job that requires it, whereas a person that tends to wait to make decisions and likes having the flexibility to change things until the deadline might be suited to a different position.
By knowing your Myers-Brigg style, you can link your personality type to majors and careers that are known for being well-suited to that style. For example, if you are an ENFP (extrovert – intuition – feeling – perceiving) you are considered an innovator. You like getting new projects started and are great at making connections between two ideas that others might not see. ENFPs are great entrepreneurs, social workers, teachers, and human resource professionals.
How can students leverage information about their personality type to be successful?
Students are more successful when they know how they interact with external forces. You can leverage the information about your personality type to put yourself in situations you know will help you shine.
This information is very valuable to know when you are interviewing for a position because it helps you put your best foot forward. You know how to build up your strengths and instead of a weakness being a weakness—it is a challenge that you have learned to overcome.
And by understanding your personality type, you will also be able to understand other people’s personality types. With a little research you can see how to best interact with other people. You can’t change your supervisor’s personality but you can change how you interact with your supervisor. If you know he or she is a “J” on Myers-Briggs, then you know they are looking for decisions to be made in advance and that you should stick to the deadline. If you are presenting an idea to someone to is an “F”—feeling over thinking—you know that you need to appeal to their values because they will make decisions based on their values or how it concerns the people around them.
What are the most important things people should know about their personality type?
Everything personality has a different way of interacting with others. It is worth your time to examine your own personality style and the styles of people you work with daily. It helps you have better interactions and be more successful.
You should not let your personality stop you from accomplishing your goals. Just because your personality assessment says you are more suited to one role than another, you can still make it work for you. You might need to change how you tackle the goal based on your strengths and challenges.
You can always learn more about your personality type and observe interactions so find your best approach towards a person, a task, or a role that you play, in and out of the classroom setting.
Personality can affect every area of people’s lives—not just their academic success. The following resources provide a deeper understanding of personality and how information about personality types can be used in personal and professional environments.
16Personalities This site provides in-depth information about each of the 16 Myers–Briggs personality types, including descriptions of their strengths and weaknesses, how they handle interpersonal relationships, and their workplace behavior. In addition, people can take a test to find out their personality type for free on the site.
Personality Hacker Podcast In the Personality Hacker Podcast, hosts Joel Mark Witt and Antonia Dodge discuss topics such as personality and romantic relationships, listening skills, developing intuition, self-care, and handling emotions.
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