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Articles / Applying to College / "Temperamental" Colleges

"Temperamental" Colleges

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Jan. 5, 2017

Some of you have already been accepted to a college, either through the commitment of Early Decision (ED) or the more flexible, option-laden Early Action (EA). Granted, you no doubt (or at least should have) done careful research about the type of school in which you showed sincere interest. Maybe your show of interest was more strategic rather than sincere, as is the case with some EA applicants.

In any case, those of you who have applied and been accepted already, now have some good news on your side. Those who have applied EA and gotten good news may very well have Regular Decision (RD) applications out there percolating up and down through the admissions system. Naturally, if you have followed the rules, any good-news SCEA or REA — that is Single Choice Early Action and Restricted Early Action — applicants have submitted just one early application so far. That's the “single choice" and “restricted" limitation. You have not mixed (at least according to the rules) ED with EA. You may have also just released some RD applications to enhance your future options come May 1.

Noting all that, I thought it might be appropriate to discuss the area of type and temperament as it applies to colleges. In past posts here, I've gone over the specifics of type and temperament as they apply to college applicants. Today I would like to throw out a few considerations that speak to the temperaments of colleges. In my view, institutions of higher learning have their own general personalities. This is something important for you to discern before making that crucial enrollment decision and, even before that, when you're visiting, either prior to or after applying or being admitted.

Before I comment further and give you a couple specific examples of college-related personality traits, let me quickly review the basics of type and temperament. Here's a portion of what I said in a previous post entitled Personality Type = Good-Fit College Major?:

The study of personality type and temperament can be fascinating. In my admissions counseling work, I use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (TM) (MBTI (TM)) to assess high schoolers' personality preferences to see which direction in life may provide more happiness and success for them. By the way, if you're curious about which type you may be, try this little online questionnaire. It's not the formal MBTI (TM) instrument, but it will get you into the ballpark of knowledge about your personality type and temperament. Once you have your “four letters," you can then explore the Web for an almost limitless amount of enlightening data that will help you better understand yourself.

One of my many to-do projects is attempting to deduce the “personality" of certain colleges and universities. This may sound rather pie-in-the-sky-like to most folks, but I believe that if one looks deep enough, one can infer specific characteristics about a school's “attitude" and “preferences" to fit into the type and temperament matrix. Obviously, I haven't explored this project sufficiently enough to report any progress here, but when I do, you'll be among the first to know.

In 10 Best College Majors for Your Personality Shatkin provides more than 90 “best majors" lists that connect the six RIASEC personality types to specific college majors. These lists include “Best Majors with the Best Income Potential," “Best Majors with the Best Job-Growth Potential," “Best Majors with the Best Job Opening Potential" and many more. Below are some examples of the “best majors" Shatkin links to each of the RIASEC personality types.

  • Majors for a Realistic Personality: Computer Engineering, Civil Engineering, Dentistry, Environmental Science, Veterinary Medicine
  • Majors for an Investigative Personality: Medicine, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Pharmacy, Biochemistry
  • Majors for an Artistic Personality: Architecture; Classics; Graphic Design, Commercial Art and Illustration; Interior Design; Modern Foreign Language
  • Majors for a Social Personality: Nursing (R.N. Training), Physical Therapy, Physician Assisting, Communications Studies/Speech, Graduate Study for College Teaching
  • Majors for an Enterprising Personality: Law, Business Management, Bioengineering, Management Information Systems, International Business
  • Majors for a Conventional Personality: Pharmacy, Computer Science, Accounting, Management Information Systems, Business Management

For more information regarding personality type and college majors, see this interesting article. …

If you're mystified by that little chart that shows the 16 personality types, and you would like to know how it applies to you, do some self-examination. Go here and do this simple 10-minute exercise to learn which one of the 16 types you are. It's free, easy, and very educational.

Now, let's take a look at two specific schools and their “temperamental," so to speak, personality traits. First, the University of Chicago.

The University of Chicago is a school for those who prefer to study intensively. In many (but, in fairness, not all) cases, students who put an overriding emphasis on academics tend to have an introverted personality. Check out personality types INTP, INTJ, INFJ, INFP, for starters. That's what the “I" stands for: Introvert.

An interesting thread on the College Confidential discussion forum addresses school differences. Here are some excerpts out of key comments from What's the difference between UChicago and Northwestern?

– So I've heard that the two schools are completely different. How are they different – what types of students go to UChicago? Northwestern? And why?

– UChicago is very intellectual, liberal artsy, quirky, writing intensive, etc. Northwestern is more pre-professional and seems larger and more impersonal, aided in part by the fact that there are specific undergraduate schools. It also has a large sports/frat scene, which is virtually nonexistent at UChicago.

– Suggest you visit both schools if you are seriously considering them, as they are complete opposites as Jazzed stated above. Go to NU if you are more interested in a traditional college experience and a more “practical" education; go to UofC if you are more interested in a liberal arts curriculum and intellectual experience.

– Northwestern has a sportsy, fratty feel, and Chicago doesn't, and Chicago has a more uniform culture of intellectualism.

– If I had to pin it down, there were more bright, well rounded types and a noticeable absence of students whose personalities and habits reflected an intense focus on intellectual persuits. The scale of the frat scene is also on par with a state school whereas Chicago's is smallish beyond the first year. There are many students at Chicago when I was there that had only experienced fraternity life …

– … my son was also accepted at both UChicago and Northwestern. UChicago had been his first choice all along, and he wanted to escape the Northeast, so he decided to visit Northwestern and just “rule it out" before accepting UChicago's offer. Virtually everyone who knew him saw UChicago as the perfect place for him, and for that matter so did he. But he surprised everyone when he re-visited Northwestern and UChicago by saying that he couldn't decide. Even though he is rather introverted and intellectual, he nonetheless enjoys spectator sports and college athletics and enjoyed the classes he visited there a lot. So for a full week, he simply could not make up his mind about two very different schools. He ended up choosing UChicago and has been very happy there …

So, you may be able to discern that the University of Chicago has a rather “introverted" personality. Your intellectual prowess may be sufficient to deal with the academic rigors of Chicago, but, if you have a strongly extraverted nature (those are the “E" types in the chart above), you may find things less than stimulating. Keep in mind that there are exceptions to every generality, and I include my generalities here as fair game for exceptions.

Now, let's see if we can find some comments about a truly extraverted school. How about West Virginia University?

Since I'm a big advocate of student opinions about schools, I went to StudentsReview.com to get some from-the-trenches opinions about West Virginia University. This school is on the other end of the spectrum from The University of Chicago. Keep in mind, I'm not talking exclusively about academics. I'm referring to the “temperament" or “personality type" of the school. So, here are some excerpts from StudentsReview.com about WVU:

– Overall, the school and town is full of school spirit and an affinity for drinking, partying, and football. Many of the students appear to be happy and social and enjoy partying several days out of the week. However, I did not meet many people who were very academically driven. Some students seemed unaffected by their low GPAs, failing classes, or that they had to repeat those said failed classes. However, students were always enthused to go out and get wasted at whatever party or club up the street. …

– Greek life is huge at this university. Many students involved with greek life are obsessed with partying and looking good all of the time. This superficial attitude seeps into the entire student body, as I met many people who were only preoccupied with being seen with popular and attractive people, looking good, and going to the “hottest" parties.

– This school is great for the average white male or female who likes to party with friends and have parents to pay all there expenses, but if you're not a person who parties alot (ME) then wvu might not be for you. I was pressure constantly to go out and party and when I didn't I felt like a loser or something.

– The party scene here is outrageous. Literally ALL people do is party. I don't mind people going out on the weekends or something, but people go out every single day of the week and get hammered. They don't care about their academics at all. I've met so many people who openly state that they came here to party and not for school. So many people don't go to their classes or they don't do their work.

-WVU is a place to party, get wasted, and smoke weed. The academics are decent but more and more classes are being taught my teaching assistants instead of faculty. Morgantown, itself, is a complete total dump. If you aren't drinking you're not doing anything.

Quite a contrast. If I had to make a judgment comparing both of these schools, based on the 16 personality types established by the MBTI, I would note the University of Chicago as INTP and West Virginia University as ESTP. Here's the short version of those two types:

INTP: The INTP personality type is fairly rare, making up only three percent of the population, which is definitely a good thing for them, as there's nothing they'd be more unhappy about than being “common". INTPs pride themselves on their inventiveness and creativity, their unique perspective and vigorous intellect. Usually known as the philosopher, the architect, or the dreamy professor, INTPs have been responsible for many scientific discoveries throughout history. …

ESTP: ESTP personality types always have an impact on their immediate surroundings – the best way to spot them at a party is to look for the whirling eddy of people flitting about them as they move from group to group. Laughing and entertaining with a blunt and earthy humor, ESTP personalities love to be the center of attention. If an audience member is asked to come on stage, ESTPs volunteer – or volunteer a shy friend. …

I encourage you not only to investigate your own personality but also think of the schools to which you have applied (or will apply) and think of them in terms of personality and temperament, as noted in the above linked resource pages. What will that tell you about possible matching, or mismatching?

Now, one final caveat. Painting with a broad brush —stereotyping — can be a dangerous and misleading activity. In fact, it more often is dangerous than not. However, I believe that, like people, colleges have their own defining characteristics that can be a plus or minus for incoming students. This may be why we see so many negative reviews about schools on those opinion/review sites from which I've quoted. Again, we're talking about making the right “match."

Bottom line: Do your homework about colleges before you apply or enroll. This is time well spent. Don't spend a semester (or less) at your new college and comment, as one StudentsReview,com poster did, that your college choice was “the worst decision of my life."


Check College Confidential for all of my college-related articles.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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