Using Your Strengths in the College Search

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Believing there is one perfect college out there for you can increase your feelings of anxiety about the college search. A more productive approach is to focus on finding an institution that fits your strengths and values to allow you to be successful and build resilience.

You may be wondering how you are supposed to pinpoint and understand your strengths and values. This comes through self-awareness, which can be discovered through personal reflection. Whether you are on a walk, at the gym, journaling, or having coffee with a friend, you can be thinking or talking with others about what makes you who you are. The following are questions you can write, think, or talk about to discover the institution(s) that are the best fit.

Ask yourself…

What are your strengths?

Strengths are your natural talents, abilities, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Your strengths are what you are innately good at, and help you succeed or motivate you to succeed. There are five ways to help you identify and define your natural talents (Gallup blog, 2012):

  • Yearning: If you had all the time in the world, what would you spend your time doing?
  • Satisfaction: What have you done that you can’t wait to do again because it was so satisfying?
  • Rapid Learning: What are you good at doing that requires little to no explanation to complete?
  • Glimpses of Excellence: In your life, what are you known for doing well? What have other people told you you’re good at doing?
  • Total Performance Excellence: When time seems to disappear, what are you usually doing?

What is important to you? What do you value?

Use this list of values to help you understand what values are most important to you. You can print and cut them out to sort into a pile of “valued” and “not valued.” You can also print the list and circle the ones you value the most. Give yourself 7-10 minutes to do this first step; then narrow your “valued” down to five values. This will be hard, and doesn’t mean you don’t value the others, just that you value these five the most. Reflect on this process by journaling or talking with someone who knows you well.

How do you know if a school matches your strengths and values?

Now that you have reflected on your strengths and values, let’s apply them to the college search process. Where can you find the information you need to see if an institution has what you are looking for? Your best approach is a visit to the campus. Speak with your admission counselor  – she can answer your questions and also facilitate conversations with others about the environment at a particular campus in regard to academics, experiences, career development, and more. Faculty and staff are great people to ask questions, but don’t forget about current students. A conversation with a current student will help you get the perspective of someone whose shoes you may be in for the next four years!

In addition to conversations with people at the college, you want to explore the website and see what message they are sharing with the world. What is the institution’s mission and does it align with your values? Can you find ways to get involved that play to your strengths? Where are students landing after graduation?

How does Meredith help students identify their strengths?

Meredith College’s unique advising and coaching model, StrongPointsⓇ, puts the focus on strengths front and center by helping students make the most of their college experience and, ultimately, prepare for a successful career and a satisfying life. We are staffed with certified strength coaches who walk students through their top five strengths, as identified through the CliftonStrengths assessment. Students are encouraged to build on their strengths in four specific ways throughout their time at Meredith. These four pillars are academics, experiences, financial literacy, and career development.

Why this work matters to you.

According to Gallup research, those who engage in strengths development are six times as likely to be engaged at work and three times as likely to have an excellent quality of life.

Strengths identification and growth are only the beginning of the journey to becoming your best self. If your next step is to attend college, I hope these tips help you to start to discover your strengths. Doing so may help you find an institution that will allow you to apply your talents and find a lifetime of greater success and satisfaction.

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