College is an important time in a person’s life; for many of us, it’s our first time away from home, and we’re surrounded by a multitude of new ideas and diverse people. College is a time to find out more about who we are, and we’re always looking to define ourselves with fun quizzes, such as “Which Character are You?,” enneagram tests and online surveys that provide students with insight into their personality traits.
In the field of psychology, there are five core domains (also referred to as the “Big Five” personality traits): extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness and neuroticism. Together, they are often referred to with the acronym OCEAN, and are usually mapped out on a pentagram diagram. A person can fall anywhere on the pentagram and display each of these personality traits in different degrees. Within each domain, there are six sub-traits, which reveal more aspects of a person’s personality.
Our personalities are developed throughout multiple stages of life; some personality traits can be inherited from our parents, while others are developed through personal experience and important life events. Your personality can also influence how you respond to and interpret future events.
Extraversion and introversion are generally viewed as two-sides of the same coin, but in psychology, the term extraversion is used to refer to how introverted people act, not the other way around. Extroverts, for the most part, enjoy going out in large social groups, and their energy gets recharged by interacting with others, while introverts generally keep to themselves, interact with a few people and recharge their energy by spending time alone. There are six sub-traits of extraversion: positive emotions, excitement-seeking, activity level, assertiveness, gregariousness and warmth.
Extroverted college students typically enjoy going to parties and meeting new people, and they are also more likely to take advantage of new opportunities, such as travel abroad experiences and on-campus events. Extroverts do well in majors like communication, hospitality, retail management, real estate and political science.
There is a common misconception that introverts are shy, but shyness generally involves the avoidance of social interaction, which isn’t always the case for introverts. College students that are introverts generally like to study in their dorm room, compared to extraverts, who tend to study in libraries and study groups. Introverts are great listeners and do well in jobs with a lot of independent work; introverted college students should look into majoring in computer science, economics or accounting. Introverts also do well in trade professions and research work.
Agreeableness is the personality trait that factors the most into your ability to collaborate and get along with other people. Highly-agreeable students do well working with others, especially in groups with extroverts; they tend to be extremely friendly and will go out of their way to help out someone who is struggling. The sub-traits of agreeableness are trust, earnestness, altruism, cooperation/compliance, modesty and sympathy/compassion.
Interestingly enough, a lack of agreeableness statistically results in a higher income, possibly because work environments are naturally competitive, and those who agree with others are more likely to get taken advantage of. That being said, those high in agreeableness statistically enjoy better relationships with their partners and do better in non-competitive work environments.
College students high in agreeableness tend to be friends with lots of people on campus and enjoy solving interpersonal problems among their friends. They also excel in majors like medicine, psychology and the humanities.
Conscientious people are organized, methodical and self-disciplined. Most people typically view this personality trait as synonymous with perfection; however, being highly conscientiousness means having control over one’s life. The sub-traits of conscientiousness are self-assurance, orderliness, dutifulness, achievement-striving, self-discipline and prudence.
College students who are conscientious are the people who plan out how they are going to prepare for a test and already know the material before they even start studying. They’re always prepared for class because they generally look at doing things in a very methodical way; if they like to party, they plan out their night beforehand. Students with the personality trait of conscientiousness generally major in work-intensive subjects, such as law, science, engineering and medicine.
Openness is perhaps the most complex of the five personality traits; it includes creative complexity and world-building development, which means that people who rank high in openness are able to solve complex problems. They tend to think outside the box and are able to view things in scale. The six sub-traits of openness are fantasy, aesthetic interest, emotional orientation, experimentation, intellectualism and diversity/tolerance.
Highly-open people also typically score high on IQ tests, which are used to determine how people interpret the knowledge they have obtained. Students high in openness have a propensity to seek out new and original ideas. Those same students also look to discuss deep issues with fellow students and are always looking for diverse and interesting perspectives.
People in the creative class (including entrepreneurs, philosophers, lawyers and advertisers) are generally linked to having high amounts of openness. If you are studying the arts, you’re probably creatively open-minded, with high levels of the sub-traits fantasy and aesthetic interest.
Neuroticism, also known is emotional stability, is the fifth personality trait, which defines an individual’s ability to be calm in stressful situations, as well as the amount of control they have over their innate desires. Highly-neurotic people have little self-control and tend to feel more negative emotions during their day-to-day life. The six sub-traits of neuroticism are anxiety, irritability, immoderation, self-consciousness, depressivity and vulnerability.
Mental health is an extremely important issue nowadays, especially on college campuses; as I mentioned earlier, college is the first time most people live away from their families, and many students discover their emotional instability for the first time. Many mental health disorders manifest during the typical college years (ages 18-22), and it might be the first time students are able to get help because they can utilize campus services instead of trying to navigate the expensive channels that people usually have to take to work on their mental health.
Each person has different degrees of these personality traits and sub-traits, and having a good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses gives you more opportunity to develop your sense of self. There are pros and cons of ranking high or low in each psychological domain; no matter what you score, there is room for self-improvement.
Entrepreneurial college students, who rank high in openness, will often work well in collaboration with extroverts, who can speak well in public and are good at expressing what they want. Students with high agreeableness can help neurotic students by befriending them and encouraging them to step out of their comfort zone, while highly-conscientious students can teach their peers, who rank highly in the other four traits, how to channel their energy into being productive.
Each student is unique, and college is the perfect time to work on understanding and developing your personality. General day-to-day responsibilities are scarce, and there are plenty of opportunities for new experiences, so it’s time to take advantage of the resources provided by your college and get to know yourself.