Who Are You and Where Are You Going in Life?
What kind of person are you? Do you study like a solitary monk but then go crazy in social settings, introducing yourself to every person you meet? Or do you slide by on a C average because music is the only thing that makes any real sense? When you have a panic attack, do you crawl under your bed or broadcast it all over Facebook and Twitter?
It seems like there are endless personality types, but according to many psychologists, the “Big Five Personality Traits” detail our most essential ones. These are the traits that describe who you are and influence where you end up in life.
Which brings us to college—one of those things that's always in the back of your head. Do you want a large university or small university—bustling campus or close-knit community? A better question, though, is what kind of person are you really, and what kind of college best fits your idiosyncratic persona?
So take a look at the Big Five Personality Traits and see how they might affect what school is best for you.
Openness: (according to psychologists) Your appreciation of art, unusual ideas and variety of experiences, as opposed to preferring familiarity and tradition.
Are you an open-minded person? Well, chances are if you’re off to college the answer is a resounding "YES." College is almost as much about the experience as the education... don’t tell your parents though!
If you hunger for new experiences you might say a huge campus is the best bet—more ideas and more unusual people, right? Well, that may be true, but think about what you want with art/science/unusual people.
For example, a small campus might only have one cool radio station, but if music and technology is your thing, you have a better chance of running that sweet radio station than if you go to a huge school. The point being, would you prefer to be one of many cool fish in a huge pond, or the coolest fish in a smaller pond?
Conscientiousness: You plan your behaviors and aim for achievement, as opposed to spontaneous decisions.
Do you study for a test a week in advance or do you cram the night before and hope for the best? Obviously, every college wants you to be the first person, but a lot of us find ourselves doing the latter.
How does this relate to small vs. large school? Well, at a smaller school it’s somewhat easier to get away with procrastination—the professors know you personally and it’s more likely you will get an extension.
On the other hand, a large school provides for more people with similar interests. You have a better chance of finding specialty study groups at large universities that could keep you on track when you start slipping.
Extraversion: The tendency to seek others, as opposed to the need for solitude.
Most people fall somewhere in between—most are not as incessantly friendly as a game show host, but few people are hermit loners.
So the real question is, what kind of social interaction do you enjoy? Do you love walking around and knowing the faces of everyone you see, or do you prefer social interaction on your own terms and time? If you go to a smaller school, chances are you will know everyone by the time you’re a sophomore. So if the village sense of community excites you, a small school might be your best bet.
But if you prefer hanging out exclusively with those who share your interests, you might want a larger campus. It’s more likely to find a group of 6-7 people obsessed with water polo/modern sculpture/Swedish metal at a school of 20,000 than a school of 1,000.
And if you’re the kind of person who goes through girlfriends/boyfriends like you're flipping through channels, you might want to go to a big school or you’ll get a heartbreaker reputation.
Agreeableness: Your devotion to compassion and cooperation, versus selfish suspicion.
Truthfully, this doesn’t have much to do with what kind of school you attend. You can find Sesame Street-like compassion at any school, and you can be selfish at any school. If you think that’s not true (maybe unfriendly people would prefer antagonizing more people at a big school?) then say so below!
Neuroticism: You find anxiety or anger or depression comes on suddenly, as opposed to being emotionally stable.
Yeah, we all want to be stable, but most of us—especially in high school and college—find mental freak-outs are as sudden and inopportune as pimples.
So what do you do when you get the blues or become über-angry? Do you deal with it alone, or do you want a group of people to help you through it?
If you need that solitude, a big school is definitely the way to go: You can freely have a panic attack on the way to class and probably won’t pass anyone you know.
However, if you’d rather run into a good friend on the way and have them talk you through your panic attack, you might be better off in a small campus. Honestly, though, these days you can call or text or send smoke signals to a friend no matter how big your school is, so if you need to share your troubles you could probably go either way.
Whew! Have you figured out what kind of person you are yet? What factors are most important for the college you choose? Do you think psychologists got it right with this Big Five list?