ic S/general/checkmark circled Thanks for subscribing! Be on the lookout for our next newsletter.
ic S/general/checkmark circled
Saved to My Favorites. View My Favorites
Articles / Preparing for College / Who Are You?

Who Are You?

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Nov. 5, 2015
So, you're applying to college. Great! Do you have a plan for what you want to get out of your “higher" education? Do you know what your intended major will be? Have you thought about the direction of your life's work? More importantly, perhaps, is another question:

Who are you?

I'm talking about personality type and temperament. At the core of young people's indecision about their college and life's direction is the uncertainty about who they are as a person and how their preferences about life, in general, can affect their choices and outcomes.

I thought that I would address a technique and some background about self-discovery today. Hopefully this information might help clarify your thinking about how to proceed with your college years and — ultimately — your journey into a life's work.

Happiness and success in life can come from unexpected sources. Knowing how to evaluate opportunities, in light of personal identity can be an important tool in solving mysteries and making the right choices.

Maybe a subset of “Who are you?" could be “Just who in the world do you think you are?" That's a good question. You might possibly have a mistaken idea about your self-identity. Just because we think we are a certain kind of person doesn't necessarily mean that we are.

Thus, I'd like to give you a tool to assess a very accurate answer that may confirm your suspicions or jolt you with new information. Either way, I hope you will use this cool tool.

You're unique. Shouldn't your college be unique too? Yes, you areunique, but who are you — really? If you're like most high schoolers (or even most parents), you probably don't know. In fact, sometimes you may feel as though the life form inhabiting your skin is a creature from another cosmic realm. I used to feel that way when I looked in the mirror many mornings before heading off for another day with my fellow high school aliens.

Today, though, we have the advantage of modern science and psychological research to help us discover more about ourselves. Now, right off the top, let me make it clear that I'm not going to go off on a tangent here blabbering on about arcane and recondite (nice SAT words — look 'em up) “head-shrinking" theories. What I am going to do is give you an easy-to-take short course on understanding yourself better.

[NOTE TO PARENTS: Keep reading. You'll benefit from this discussion too. In fact, if everyone in your family over the age of 14 does the short test I present below, you'll all end up understanding one another a whole lot better. Honest.]

The goal here is improved mutual respect that comes from better understanding our individual differences. I know; right about now you're thinking, “Yeah, I've heard that before: 'Why can't we all just get along.' Right! This guy's a touchy-feely freak." Truth is: not really.

Okay. Still with me? Good. Moving right along, then.

What is temperament, exactly? So you don't know who you are. Let's find out. First, let's talk about the chief component of your identity: temperament. You've all heard someone say something like, “Oh, yes! She's got a great temperament for a nurse [accountant, scientist, stuntman, writer, or whatever]." Well, what is it that makes a person right for what they're doing? It's all about behavioral preferences. Now, before you run away shrieking that you can't endure another word of this psychobabble, hang in there with me.

By the time we become teenagers, we all develop certain favorite ways of doing things. We become increasingly predictable about how we most likely will react in certain situations. Those reactions are our behaviors. The fact that we repeat those behaviors shows that we prefer them, as if they are instinctive. In fact, they really are instinctive. Thus, the phrase behavioral preferences merely means “the way we like to live our lives." Now that wasn't so bad, was it? Good. There's more.

Let's examine “temperament." Our temperament is determined by our innate preference for one of four pairs of six traits. Whoa! Say that again? Okay.

Let's start with the “six traits." What are they? Each is represented by a letter (just ignore what the letter is; I'll explain that later). Here they are:

S = realism; N = dreaming

T = analysis; F = sympathy

J = planning; P = improvisation

Other words could represent our six letters, but these will do for now. Take a minute and ponder each one. See any relationships?

These six basic traits, or — here's that phrase again — behavioral preferences form up in pairs inside our brains. We all tend to prefer one or the other of a trait from each horizontal pair in the columns above. That is, in most situations we consistently prefer, for example, realism over dreaming, sympathy over analysis, or planning over improvisation. Some of us may prefer just the opposite. That's what makes the world such a fun place.

Now, let's get a little more complex, not much, though. As I mentioned, the six traits team up in twos to form four pairs of “letters" (some letters are used twice). Recall that somewhat confusing sentence: “Our temperament is determined by our innate preference for one of four pairs of six traits"? Okay. Now we're getting somewhere.

Four pairs, but you're one of a kind. Well, what are the four pairs?

They are: NF, NT, SJ, and SP. There is no order of importance; they're all equally important. I merely put them in alphabetical order. These four letter pairs represent the four main temperaments.

NF stands for the Idealist, NT is the Rational, SJ is the Guardian, and SP is the Artisan. Now, I know what you're thinking. You're asking, “How does 'S' relate to 'realism' and 'N' to dreaming,' and so on?"

Timeout, then, for a short technical diversion. I explain this, however, reluctantly, at the risk of confusing the issue. Nevertheless (for the curious), “S" stands for “sensing," “N" stands for “iNtution," “T" is for “thinking," “F" is for “feeling," “J" is for “judging," and “P" is for “perceiving." Kind of confusing, isn't it? That's why I prefer to stick with the “trait words" listed above. Keep your eye on them.

Now, before we get into this any further, I have to acknowledge that in this blog post on temperament, I am boiling down well over 100 years of disciplined and painstaking scientific research by many great men and women. Since, however, the purpose of this blog is to aid in your college quest and not to educate you about the history and felicities of those pioneers of psychology, I have chosen to omit that background information. For those of you interested in digging deeper into the roots of personality and temperament analysis, I'll provide a listing of resources at the end of this post.

Now, let me introduce for your investigative pleasure the Jung Typology Test™. Here's the description:

“This free test is based on Carl Jung's and Isabel Briggs Myers' typological approach to personality.

Upon completion of the questionnaire, you will:

  • Obtain your 4-letter type formula according to Carl Jung's and Isabel Briggs Myers' typology, along with the strengths of preferences and the description of your personality type
  • Discover careers and occupations most suitable for your personality type along with examples of educational institutions where you can get a relevant degree or training
  • Understand communication and learning styles of your type.
  • See which famous personalities share your type …

Instructions: When responding to the statements, of the two responses please choose the one you agree with most. If you are not sure how to answer, make your choice based on your most typical response or feeling in the given situation. To get a reliable result, please respond to all questions. When you are done with answering, press the “Score It!" button at the bottom of the screen.


What will you get out of the 15-minute investment that it takes to do one of these? First, you'll learn which of the four temperaments you are. Second, once you know which pair of letters applies to you, you'll possibly be able to use this information to help you find not only better candidate colleges but also perhaps the right major. As a bonus, you may even be able to confirm which careers may be best suited to bring you success and happiness.

If you tend to be cynical, you may be sneering right now, thinking, “Yeah, right. In 15 minutes I'm gonna find out all that." No, that's not what I said. What I said was that in 15 minutes, you'll know what your temperament is. Armed with that knowledge, you'll then be able to peruse some associated information about a list of selected careers that relate well to your specific temperament. That will take longer than 15 minutes. Maybe 30. Bottom line: You'll come out knowing a lot more about yourself and your possible future than you did coming in. Promise. So do it now!


After you get your typology results … A typical case:

“Hey, Dave! I'm an NT. What the heck does that mean?"

It means you're a Rational. Let me explain the implications of temperament.

Now that you've taken the Jung Typology Test™, you have one pair of letters to call your own. Do you recall those “trait words" we talked about a while ago?

S = realism; N = dreaming

T = analysis; F = sympathy

J = planning; P = improvisation

Now we're going to put the puzzle pieces together. Let's say that the results of your Typology Test show that you are an “NF." Using the trait words, we see that two qualities combine to form your temperament: dreaming and sympathy (again, there are other words that apply, but we're going to use these). For the curious technical crowd, that's a combination of iNtuition and Feeling. The designation for “NF" is Idealist.

At the core of their beings, Idealists seek meaning and significance in all that they do and maintain a lifelong quest for a unique identity. Their values include an instinctive and high regard for ethics and morality, authenticity, cooperative interaction, unity, and personal relationships. Some of their unique roles and abilities include that of the Romantic idealist, facilitator, counselor, diplomat, catalyst, and mentor.

If you observe them closely, you'll see them display such behaviors as imagination, empathy, praise, warm-heartedness, and spirituality. They are relationship oriented, use metaphorical language, have vivid imaginations, and can become deeply involved in whatever they're doing.

If your letters are “NT," you are among the Rationals, as noted above. Rationals seek to gain knowledge and competence in all that they do, in a quest to gain power over nature. They highly value intelligence, progress, scientific inquiry, and theory. They seek expert relationships and embrace concepts and ideas while searching for ultimate truths. Logical consistency is at or near the top of their list. Roles and skills of the Rational include that of the engineer and inventor. They are life-long learners and visionaries, analyzing and strategizing master designs.

Rationals are especially adept at applying their forces to direct and organize projects. They display precision in the use of words and language, tend to be coldly logical, cynical, and analytical. For them, work is play and they love to solve problems. They can be perfectionists and highly critical of themselves while remaining oblivious to their local circumstances. For Rationals, everything can always be improved.

All of you with the “SJ" moniker are Guardians. You have at your core the need for membership and belonging. You are highly responsible and dedicated to whatever duties you are performing. You value rules and regulations, stability, security, and conformity. You like to follow step-by-step procedures and do what is necessary to preserve the social order, and you love to bond with others. Guardians are the protectors in our world, the providers. They think sequentially and supervise, measure, monitor, and stabilize situations at home, work, and in social situations. They're great at logistics, when things need to be organized and taken care of.

Guardians have a high regard for authority and respect the hierarchy of chain of command. They become upset when those around them display a blatant disregard for established rules and regulations. You usually won't have trouble understanding what a Guardian means because they use customary language. However, they do tend to be somewhat negative, or fatalistic, in their outlook. The author of Murphy's Law had to be a Guardian. They are responsible, cautious, meticulous, structured, and economical. They have a past orientation and are especially energized around the traditional holidays. Guardians are rock-solid dependable.

Are you an “SP"? If so, you're an Artisan. Artisans are the impact people in our world. Their core needs are situations that support their freedom to act on their impulses and their ability to make a strong impression (impact). As David Keirsey explains:

“Artisans want to be where the action is; they seek out adventure and show a constant hunger for pleasure and stimulation. They believe that variety is the spice of life, and that doing things that aren't fun or exciting is a waste of time. Artisans are impulsive, adaptable, competitive, and believe the next throw of the dice will be the lucky one. They can also be generous to a fault, always ready to share with their friends from the bounty of life. Above all, Artisans need to be free to do what they wish, when they wish. They resist being tied or bound or confined or obligated; they would rather not wait, or save, or store, or live for tomorrow. In the Artisan view, today must be enjoyed, for tomorrow never comes."

How does all this relate to college and me?

Well, now, this is all very nice information, isn't it? “Come on, Dave!" you may be thinking, while drumming you're fingers impatiently on your desktop, “what does all this mean to me? Hurry up, already. I have a ton of these great big applications staring me in the face!"

Breathe easy. Here's what it all means.

Once you know what temperament you are, you can find out which career fields are the most popular among many other people of your same temperament. This leads to finding out what types of work would most likely bring you success and/or happiness. The converse is true too. You can also see which fields attract the fewest people with temperaments like yours. Obviously, you may find these fields are less appealing (although not necessarily so).

Quick caveat: Just because you want to be marine biologist, for example, and that particular field does not appear among the most popular for your temperament, don't for a minute think that you shouldn't follow your dreams. Think of temperament as a way of getting into a ballpark, not necessarily as away of finding your specific seat. It is a general guideline, not a mandate. Keep that in mind at all times.

Now that you have been properly caveated, here are the most popular occupations for the four temperaments. I'm also going to include the least popular. If you know the two preference extremes, it may be easier for you to confirm your instinctive leanings for a certain type of work. Conversely, if you find that you're thinking about a field that is among the least popular for your temperament, you may want to do a little investigation to find out why. Again, obviously, you're free to be whatever you choose to be. However, many of you will tend to agree with what you see here.

Most popular careers for the Idealist (NF): Teachers of music, art, and drama; writers; priests; physicians; psychologists; vocational and educational counselors; educational consultants; journalists; social workers; musicians and composers; editors and reporters; speech pathologists; designers; and high school teachers. Some famous Idealists: Joan of Arc, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and William Shakespeare.

Least popular careers for the Idealist (NF): Police and detectives; farmers; sales managers; steelworkers; factory supervisors; service workers; bank officers; financial managers; chemical engineers; computer systems analysts; corrections officers; electronic technicians; mathematics teachers; auditors; credit investigators; and real estate agents and brokers.

Most popular careers for the Rational (NT): Attorneys; photographers; systems analysts; actors; credit investigators; mortgage brokers; physical scientists; social scientists; computer programmers; judges; sales managers; chemical engineers; research assistants; writers; marketing personnel; electronic technicians; university teachers; and computer specialists. Some famous Rationals: Socrates, Madame Curie, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ayn rand.

Least popular careers for the Rational (NT): Teachers' aids; cashiers; receptionists; nurses; bookkeepers; mining engineers; typists; steelworkers; factory and site supervisors; public service aids; guards; home economists; library attendants; secretaries; religious educators; elementary school teachers; hair dressers; health service workers; and clerical supervisors.

Most popular careers for the Guardian (SJ): Teachers, preachers, accountants, bankers, clerks, nurses, rehabilitation therapists, insurance agents, managers, sales executives, service occupations, secretaries, general-practice physicians, dentists, barbers, pharmacists, and librarians. Some famous Guardians: George Washington, Florence Nightengale, Andrew Carnegie, and Norman Rockwell.

Least popular careers for the Guardian (SJ): Actors, psychiatrists, lawyers, computer system analysts, electricians, marketing personnel, photographers, writers, psychologists, editors, reporters, education consultants, social scientists, designers, restaurant workers, counselors, musicians, composers, resident housing assistants, speech pathologists, and mining engineers.

Most popular careers for the Artisan (SP): Performers in the arts, race car drivers, construction workers, heavy equipment operators, building operators (office buildings), loggers, freight dock workers, event promoters, ambulance drivers, surfers, mercenaries, negotiators, entrepreneurs, professional athletes, bellhops, bartenders, and porters. Some famous Artisans: St. Francis of Assisi, Amelia Earhart, George Patton, and Jack Benny.

Least popular careers for the Artisan (SP): Chemical engineers, psychiatrists, mechanical engineers, research workers, education consultants, electronic technicians, dental hygienists, food counter workers, journalists, clerical supervisors, public health nurses, preschool teachers, priests, college teachers, reading teachers, public relations workers, and medical assistants.


Need to know more? Without doubt, the Internet offers the most comprehensive access to more information about the realm of temperament and personality analysis. For starters, some keywords that will give you good results from just about any search engine are: personality, temperament, psychology, character, Keirsey, and MBTI. Keirsey relates to David Keirsey, one of the true visionaries of temperament theory. Check out keirsey.com for some extremely interesting insights and resources, including the indispensable book, Please Understand Me.

MBTI relates to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator™. The MBTI reveals not only people's preferences for the six traits that we've discussed here but also two additional preferences: introversion and extraversion. The MBTI reveals which one of 16 distinct personality types you are and must be administered and interpreted by a qualified MBTI practitioner.

Knowing your MBTI personality type automatically reveals your temperament designation, but determining your temperament (as you may have done above) will not reveal your full MBTI personality type. Confused? Don't worry. You've got all the information you need for now here in this post.

Studying the implications of temperament and personality can be a lifelong effort. For the purposes of your college admissions quest, though, all you need to know right now is what your likely temperament is and how that projects into a likely field for your life's work. We've just skimmed the surface, but you now probably know more than most other prospective college applicants (or parents of prospective college applicants). Don't put all of your eggs into the temperament basket, though. Use this information as just one more valuable piece of data that forms the unique mosaic of who you are.


Be sure to see my other college-related articles on College Confidential.

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.

More on Preparing for College

See all

Moving Away from Home for College: The Tales of an International Student in Boston

Born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario, I was used to small-town living. I attended an international boarding school as a day …


2023 AP Exam Score Distributions

This year’s AP Scores have been released and Trevor Packer, head of the Advanced Placement Program has shared the details of this…

SummerApply_Article Headers

10 Summer Programs Still Open For Applications

Summer is here, marking one of the best times for motivated high schoolers to enroll in summer programs where they can diversify …


Summer STEM Prep: Start Strong and Avoid These Common Pitfalls

College-level STEM programs are notoriously rigorous, and getting off to a strong start can make a huge difference for students w…


A Solid Résumé is Worth the Effort for More Reasons Than You Can Imagine

Building a strong personal résumé in your first years of high school is recommended by counselors, college & university admis…

Get a student loan that goes beyond tuition.

Ascent offers cosigned and non-cosigned student loans with exclusive benefits that set students up for success.

Explore Now!
Find Your Scholarship

Want to find money for school that doesn’t need to be paid back? Access insights and advice on how to search and apply for scholarships!

Search for Scholarship