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Articles / Preparing for College / "Who Am I?" Is Who You Are What You'll Be?

"Who Am I?" Is Who You Are What You'll Be?

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | July 11, 2017

One of the more stressing questions teenagers ask themselves, especially those more introspective than others, is, "Who am I?" Maybe some of you middle-agers out there have also asked this question of yourself. One of my favorite places for self-interrogation is in the bathroom mirror (while making sure to keep the lighting level low!).

Inquiring into self-identity is an instinctive trait. Yes, each of us is unique. Even identical twins exhibit differences. The bigger, more global issue, seems to be, in part:

What does my uniqueness offer me in the way of a life's direction, possible accomplishments, and a life's work?

Of course, the thrust of this blog is college admissions. However, the college quest requires some sense of personal awareness and direction in order to know what to look for in a school and, ultimately, what to do with the education you gain there. Which specific kind of education to pursue is an important link that connects who you are and what you may become.

So, allow me to address a question to college-bound high schoolers and even current college students:

Have you ever wondered why you are the way you are?

When I was a boy (back around the time that automobiles were becoming popular), I would happily spend my summer months reading Archie and Superman comics. I also spent far more time than I should have lying in my family's hammock, which was conveniently located under an apple tree in our back yard. Its shade provided an ideal atmosphere for me to read those comics and my piles of baseball books, most of which were about Mickey Mantle. I would also keep daily track of the Major League standings, both the Yankees (obviously my favorite team) and the Pittsburgh Pirates, since I lived near Pittsburgh.

These are wonderful memories of childhood for me. I'm sure that many of you, both students and parents, may have similarly fond memories. But, again, the questions begs: Why are we now the way we are? Or, why have we turned out to be who we are and what effect does who we are have (or did it have) on our college and career choices? Let's take a moment to explore that, even for you parents reading this.

There are billions of people in the world. Even so, there are amazing similarities among us. Modern psychological research has produced a classification system that assigns all of us into one of four basic temperaments, which lead to one of 16 personality types. So what does this mean to you?

If you are the parent of a high school student, you may have already discovered that your child gravitates toward some tasks or situations more easily than others do. This relates to his or her temperament and personality. Have you ever heard someone say, "Alice has the right temperament for (this or that)"? This implies that the person and the task have a good fit. They just seem to go together naturally.

Helping your child to know who he or she is can go a long way in helping you understand what path you they may want to follow through college. How can you find out more about who you are? Probably the best book on the subject is Please Understand Me II written by David Keirsey.

This little paperback contains a self-test called the Keirsey Temperament Sorter that will detect which of four main temperament types you are. David Keirsey, a great pioneer of temperament theory, dramatically extended the work done in that area by the noted Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. Also try the Keirsey web site at www.keirsey.com. You'll find profiles the temperaments and personality types into which we all fit.

The theory says that all of us display one of four temperaments: Artisan, Guardian, Idealist, or Rational. Each has its own core values and behaviors. Preferences also play a big part in each temperament. These preferences often determine which career path will prove most rewarding and successful for each of us.

Here are some very simplified guidelines about temperaments and the careers that often provide happiness and success for them:

- Artisans prefer careers where there is some risk involved and where they can make an impact: actors, performers, surgeons, athletes, stunt people, artists, and so forth. Famous Artisans include:

Elvis Presley (Performer)

Elizabeth Taylor (Performer)

Pablo Picasso (Performer)

"Magic" Johnson (Performer)

Madonna (Promoter)

Ernest Hemingway (Promoter)

F. Scott Fitzgerald (Promoter)

Norman Mailer

Hugh Hefner (Promoter)

Neil Simon (Composer)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Composer)

Paul Gauguin (Composer)

Johnny Carson (Composer)

Mel Brooks (Composer)

Jonathan Winters (Performer)

Barbra Streisand (Composer)

Clint Eastwood (Crafter)

Michael Jordan (Crafter)

- Guardians love to guard the welfare of the social unit and are frequently fond of police work, elementary teaching, security work, nursing, and related health services. Famous Guardians include:

Louis B. Mayer (Provider)

Jimmy Stewart (Protector)

Andrea Mitchell (Protector)

James Herriot (Protector)

Fred McMurray

Ed Sullivan (Provider)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Protector)

Barbara Walters (Provider)

Larry King (Provider)

Dan Rather (Supervisor)

Mike Wallace (Supervisor)

Vince Lombardi (Supervisor)

Judith Scheindlin (Supervisor)

Laura Schlessinger (Supervisor)

Jack Webb (Supervisor)

Thomas Hardy

Andy Rooney

Oscar Levant (Provider)

- Idealists are big on meaning and significance and helping others become what they need to be. They like the ministry, counseling, psychology, social work, writing, and college teaching. Famous Idealists include:

Oprah Winfrey (Teacher)

Jane Fonda (Teacher)

Margaret Mead (Teacher)

John Wooden (Teacher)

Shirley MacLaine

Richard Gere (Healer)

Mia Farrow (Healer)

Pearl S. Buck

Charles Dickens (Champion)

Joan Baez (Champion)

Charlotte Bronte (Champion)

Emily Bronte (Counselor)

Sidney Poitier (Counselor)

Emily Dickenson (Counselor)

George Orwell (Healer)

Aldous Huxley (Healer)

Herman Hesse

Albert Camus

James Joyce

Leo Tolstoy (Champion)

Ann Morrow Lindbergh (Healer)

Oliver Stone (Champion)

- Rationals have a hunger for knowledge and control over nature. They like to be lawyers, architects, college professors, scientists, economists, and philosophers. Famous Rationals include:

Steve Allen (Architect)

Issac Asimov (Mastermind)

William F. Buckley (Mastermind)

Ayn Rand (Mastermind)

George Bernard Shaw (Fieldmarshal)

Walt Disney (Inventor)

Mark Twain (Inventor)

Albert Einstein (Architect)

Ludwig Boltzmann (Architect)

Nikola Tesla (Inventor)

Lise Meitner (Mastermind)

Charles Darwin (Architect)

David Hume

Friedrich Nietzsche (Mastermind)

Adam Smith

Marie Curie (Architect)

Booker T. Washington


The Keirsey book and web site can clarify all of these for you.

So, take the time to help yourself (or your child) find out who you (or they) are. It can save you much stress and money later when the meter starts running in college.


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.


Admit This

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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