Vanessa, MBTIonline Contributing Writer
You know that puzzled feeling you get when you enter a room and completely forget why you walked in? Let’s take that example a few steps further. Imagine you’re a student in a college classroom.
Suddenly, you’re not sure why you’re there or what you should be working toward.
You know you’re there to learn, but why? What are your goals? And are they your goals – or someone else’s?
While these kinds of realizations or doubts don’t happen to every college student (or that suddenly), they do happen to some. And that’s usually when students leave.
Students who know why they’re in college are more likely to stay in college. The same can be said for employees who stay loyal to a company. When you understand why you’re in a particular role or studying a certain field, it’s easier to stay committed – even if you don’t have all the answers. That persistence – especially as it relates to college students – is widely studied. In fact, research from both Alexander Astin and Vincent Tinto says that student persistence boils down to three factors:
- A sense of purpose or a clear (to the student) reason to be there.
- Differentiated instruction to address different learning styles.
- Active involvement in the campus community (in a way that appeals to personal preferences).
Why do students leave college? Here’s the heart of the issue.
While the research doesn’t link these three factors to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, MBTI personality type provides a practical framework to understand them. Here’s a quick refresher on what the MBTI “preference pairs” explain about someone’s personality:
- How they get energized (Extraversion or Introversion)
- How they learn new information (Sensing or Intuition)
- How they make decisions (Thinking or Feeling)
- How they organize their life (Judging or Perceiving)
From those “preference pairs,” 16 possible MBTI personality types emerge. Here’s a linked list so you can get more information about each of these types: ENFJ, ENFP, ENTJ, ENTP, ESFJ, ESFP, ESTJ, ESTP, INFJ, INFP, INTJ, INTP, ISFJ, ISFP, ISTJ, ISTP.
Depending on your MBTI type, you absorb and filter information through either Sensing (S) or Intuition (N). Then you focus on that information in a way that helps you come to conclusions or make decisions. That’s where the Thinking (T) or Feeling (F) preferences come in.
Together, those middle two letters of your personality type (ST, SF, NT, or NF) form the core of your identity – or the “heart” of who you are. Those middle two letters also help determine whether you prefer to organize your life in a structured way (J for Judging) or in a more flexible way (P for Perceiving).
When you’re a young adult or starting a job, you learn new information all the time. To persist and feel fulfilled, your experience must align with the heart of your personality. This is especially true for the college years. In fact, we’ve learned there are four MBTI types that tend not to graduate college – or enroll in the first place.
This isn’t to say that college is a necessity for everyone. There are many wonderful, fulfilling careers out there that don’t require a degree. For the purpose of this blog post, we’re talking about students who need to stay in school based on their eventual career.
Personality types least likely to finish college
In general, ESTP and ESFP personality types are the least likely to go to a four-year college after high school. And when they do, they’re the least likely to persist after the first year. It has nothing to do with ability or intelligence.
For both of these types, Extraversion (E), Sensing (S), and Perceiving (P) are dominant. This means they’re easily distracted by their external environment. However, they know how to fully experience the present moment. It’s what makes them gifted firefighters or emergency room physicians.
Another potential challenge for young ESTPs and ESFPs in college is that the part of their personality that’s supposed to focus their Sensing (S) preference into a purposeful outcome isn’t fully developed. Many of the general education courses they have to take during their first couple of years don’t match their learning style.
As most professors who teach general education classes are Introverted Intuition (IN) types (the opposite of Extraverted Sensing (ES)), listening to an IN’s lectures is like taking a class in a foreign language – especially when they’re expected to sit still and be quiet. Pretty daunting for a distracted student bursting with potential.
ENTP and ENFP personality types are also less likely to graduate. They’re the ones who usually stay in college the longest, either collecting degrees or never earning one.
For both of these types, Extraversion (E), Intuition (N), and Perceiving (P) are dominant. Their gift – and potential downfall – is infinite curiosity. Because their favorite process is Extraverted Intuition, young ENFPs and ENTPs tend to under-rely on the Thinking or Feeling (T or F) functions. This makes it difficult to corral their curiosity and transform it into productivity. Their interests often evolve faster than the typical academic environment allows. So, they lose patience, switch majors, or fixate on their next interest. Unfortunately, without a college degree they may not qualify for career positions at their level of potential.
What makes each MBTI personality type feel a sense of purpose?
When students know their MBTI type, it’s easier for them to understand why they enrolled in college – and why they should stay. If their advisors or career counselors also understand the MBTI, even better.
Let’s revisit the first and arguably most important factor needed for student persistence: a sense of purpose. When we look at the middle two letters (a.k.a. the heart) of their personality type, each type feels a sense of purpose when they . . .
- ST: Get things right in a practical, matter-of-fact way
- SF: Provide service in a sympathetic, friendly way
- NF: Empower others in an enthusiastic, insightful way
- NT: Understand things in a logical, ingenious way
The journey of discovering a sense of purpose is as much internal as it is external. Colleges or workplaces can certainly provide some needed structure. But advisors, professors, leaders, and counselors can also help students and employees figure out how to access the parts of their personality that make life more meaningful. And for the four MBTI types that are least likely to graduate, this can feel revolutionary. In the next post, we’ll explore learning styles and needs of those types. Until then, feel free to explore our options for self-guided, virtual personality exploration.
Want to learn more about MBTI personality type and career options? Download Pinpoint a career that’s really you to start the finding a job that’s most meaningful to you. And get a 3-step process for creating your career mission statement to better understand who you are, what matters to you, and what satisfies you.