Roadmap to College: Self-Assessment - What Are My Strengths and Weaknesses?

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

I love the patterns and complexities of numbers.

I love painting and drawing people and objects.

I love writing stories and analyzing literature.

I love building things and I love the physics of rollercoasters.

I like helping people with their problems.

How would you describe yourself? Are you creative, a problem solver, an analytical person, a planner, a motivator, a teacher? Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, or even 20 years? How do your family and friends describe your personality? Before you even consider applying to college, it’s worthwhile to take a step back and take a good look at yourself.

Do you excel in math, science, art, music, social science, or humanities courses? By learning more about yourself, your interests, and your preferences, you will be able to make a more informed decision about which colleges best meet your needs.

Some high schools require that you formalize a self-assessment by taking a career or interest inventory before meeting with a guidance counselor, usually in your junior year, to discuss prospective colleges. Most of these inventories evaluate your personality style and assess your preference (not whether or not you’ll be successful) for different types of careers. Many of these assessments are based on the works of psychologist Carl Jung and the mother-daughter team of Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, developers of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

Some states offer students free services, which combine self-assessment tools with college and career searches, along with opportunities to develop a resume. For example, the New York and California Web sites have links to “The Interest Profiler,” a 20–30 minute online personality assessment tool with potential career matches. The federal government also offers many resources that allow you to explore potential careers, obtain salary information, and identify jobs in high demand in the future. One very useful Web site is, which offers detailed career information that is linked to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Another useful Web site,, is based on the very popular career book, Do What You Are (Little, Brown & Co., 2001), and is a great resource for determining your personality type.

Students sometimes take interest inventories and say, “Oh, it didn’t work for me; the test said I was going to be a bank teller or a hairdresser.” What these instruments do is assess your preferences (not strengths) in dealing with people, processing information, making decisions, and organizing your life. They are not foolproof, but they are useful in gaining data about yourself. The checklist below can be used to highlight your strengths and areas for improvement. Getting to know who you are will assist you in writing essays and forming a list of potential colleges.

In the checklist below, use a check to indicate your agreement.

Self-Assessment: Taking Inventory

Area of Assessment: Personality Agree Unsure Disagree

I describe myself as an extrovert (I prefer to be around people; I don’t mind large crowds; I am outer-directed).


I describe myself as an introvert (I prefer to be alone; I am quiet and inner-directed).


I prefer to process information through the use of my five senses; I am detail oriented; I like facts and figures.


I prefer to process information through my intuition; I look for the big picture; I am an “ideas” person.


I prefer to make decisions based on logic and rational thinking; justice and fairness are important to me.


I prefer to make decisions based on my feelings and how decisions will affect people.


I prefer to plan activities ahead of time; I am decisive and I like to finish projects that I start.


I prefer to be spontaneous; I am flexible and don’t always finish tasks but I like to start many projects.



Area of Assessment: Academic History Agree Unsure Disagree

I am an above-average student.


I am an average student.


I am a below-average student.


My grades are consistent.


I have challenged myself with honors, Advanced Placement (AP), or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses.


I am an active participant in the classroom.


I have worked hard and tried to improve my grades.



Area of Assessment: Extracurricular Activities Agree Unsure Disagree

I am very involved in school clubs and out-of-school activities.


I perform community service.


I have held a part-time or full-time job.


I have had an unpaid or paid internship.


I have had challenging summer experiences.



Area of Assessment: Talents/Abilities Agree  Unsure Disagree

I have a special talent (art, music, singing, and writing).


I play a sport.


I would like to play a sport competitively.


I have a learning disability and require support services.


I have good writing skills.


I can communicate well verbally.



Area of Assessment: College Preferences Agree Unsure Disagree

I would like to commute to college.


I would like to live in a dorm room at college.


I would like to attend a college within a 2-hour drive from home.


I would like to attend a college within a 4-hour drive from home.


I would like to attend a college more than 4 hours away from home.


I am not opposed to taking a plane ride to and from college.


I prefer a city environment.


I prefer a suburban campus environment.


I prefer a rural campus environment.


I want to attend a same-sex college.


I want to attend a parochial college.


I want to attend a diverse campus.


I want to attend a Historically Black college.


The cost of my college education is a major concern.


I want to attend a small university (2,500 students or less).


I want to attend a medium university (8,000 students or less).


I want to attend a large university (20,000 students or less).


I want to attend a super-sized university (more than 20,000 students).


What Are My Family's Values and Desires?

What your parents and other family members think can greatly influence your choice of college. Some parents prefer that their children follow in their path and attend the college where they went. This option is referred to in admissions jargon as a legacy admission, and in some selective institutions legacy admits are given preference in the admissions process, especially if their parents have given substantial amounts of money. Other parents want their children to follow their own path and have opportunities that they didn’t have. Parents who attended a commuter college may want their child to have the “full college experience” as an on-campus student.

There may also be financial and family constraints, which will dictate where you will go to college. It is important to discuss financial, geographical, and family-related (divorce, illness) issues up front so you know what your options are during the college search process. I know of students who applied to and were accepted to the college of their dreams, only to be told later that they couldn’t attend that college because their parents couldn’t afford it or because they needed to be closer to home for family reasons. It’s important to have an honest and open discussion early on about factors which could take certain colleges out of the picture to avoid miscommunication and disappointment. Taking into account the wishes and desires of families is a key element of the college search process.

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