More Type Links in Student Success

I’ve got a problem. There are aspects of my personality that I can’t control. ~Bruce Banner

Much as student development theory helps us to understand differences in students served in higher education, understanding differences of psychological type in students may also enhance student success. The assessment of psychological type is based upon Carl Jung’s theory that human behavior is not random and that patterns of mental functions exist in the population. Following this conceptual foundation, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, MBTI™, has become the most widely used instrument for determining type preferences in business, personal coaching and on college campuses. It was developed by the mother-daughter team of Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers with the foundations of orientation and organization to the outer world as a framework to guide individuals through the constructive use of differences. The MBTI instrument asks a series of self-report forced-choice questions to define individual preference opposites for personal energy, taking in information, making decisions, and organizing one’s world. Based upon responses to these questions, an individual is assigned a type preference for each pair of opposites which when combined; create sixteen individual four-letter type codes.

There are four MBTI type dichotomies or opposite preferences and each has a different influence on learning. The word preference is used to refer to the innate tendency one has in each of the psychological dichotomies. The principle of preference is frequently illustrated in type facilitations by asking participants to write their signature with their non-dominant hand. Generally, participants will describe this exercise as awkward, uncomfortable or not a preferred activity, but one they are able to complete.  Each individual has a preference for daily functions, but is able to operate out of preference, as needed. The preference pairs include where a person gets their energy, categorized as Extraversion and Introversion; how an individual takes in information or Sensing and Intuiting; the decision-making process of Thinking and Feeling; and the orientation to and organization in the outer world of Judging and Perceiving. Individuals use each aspect of the personality pairs daily, but have a preference for one that is more comfortable or useful to the self.

Extraversion and Introversion. Extraversion and Introversion are expressions of where an individual gathers personal energy. Extraversion (E) is the energy that develops from engaging with people, objects and events. Externally expressing interests and interacting with others is invigorating for extraverts.  They learn best in situations that include movement, action and conversation and prefer to connect theories and facts with personal experience. Introversion (I) is a reflective, inward coordination with thoughts and ideas.  Introverts look internally for thoughts and energy. They think best in solitude and prefer advance notice before sharing or acting in a learning situation.

Sensing and Intuition. Sensing and Intuition are the functions for absorbing information. The Sensing (S) perception is the process of awareness and accumulating information through the physical senses. Sensing is a pragmatic function relying on details, sequenced lists, and consistency. Sensors learn best with sequential learning from concrete to abstract and tend to excel at memorization. The Intuitive (N) perception is future oriented and uses hunches and sees possibilities to provide explanations. Intuitive preference persons value patterns and abstract ideas and learn through imaginative tasks and theoretical topics with ease.

Thinking and Feeling. Thinking and Feeling are the decision-making or judgment processes of type. Thinking (T) is the objective decision-making process using standards and criteria to analyze information or situations to improve situations or performance. Thinking preference individuals are motivated in learning by logic and respect for their competence. The Feeling (F) decision-making preference is subjective and based upon personal values for accommodating harmony and the improvement of personal conditions for others. Individuals with Feeling preference are motivated in learning by personal encouragement, values and the human dimension of a topic or lesson.

Judging and Perceiving. Judging (J) is the process of engaging with the outer world preferring organization, structure, and a planned life. Those preferring Judgment tend to experience time in specific segments. They are driven to seek closure or finish tasks in those specific time periods. Judging preference learning thrives on task completion, structured learning and specific goals. The Perceiving (P) preference values autonomy, flexibility and spontaneity. They experience time as an uninterrupted flow and are open to new information as they experience and process. They prefer open learning environments that rely less on deadlines and structure.

Psychological type assessment can been helpful in allowing detection of interpersonal roadblocks and miscommunication related to type preferences, particularly for students in the transition from high school to college. Through intentional examination of type and how it relates to learning preferences, opportunities emerge for enabling students to understand more about themselves in this transition. Although the MBTI is not designed to be a predictor, examining type preference anomalies to enhance student services and resources may lead to increased student success and retention.

What is your type? Do you use the MBTI in your student success initiatives?

Do what you believe is great work

Welcome to the third anniversary of eighteen and life! Over the last three years, the pages of this blog have been filled with ideas and thoughts on my career in student affairs. It is special work that we do in guiding, shaping, and celebrating students. And it is new every day.

Steve Jobs described it best in his 2005 Stanford commencement address.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. 

It’s not only a national debt crisis

Helping students understand how to effectively manage student loan debt is a bit of a project for me. I spend much of my professional work counseling first-generation college students, most of whom have high financial need. I have shared my views on the student debt crisis here, here, and here.

Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus present some excellent alternative plans for lowering student costs in higher education by encouraging students to choose community colleges and state institutions.  And although I disagree with their portrayal of unscrupulous financial aid officers when describing the individuals at my own institution, I do not doubt that they are out there.

The next subprime crisis will come from defaults on student debts, starting with for-profit colleges and rising to the Ivy League. The parallels with housing are striking. In both, the written warnings aren’t understood, especially on penalties and interest rates. And in both, it’s assumed that what’s being bought will rise in value, in one case the real estate, in the other the salaries which will accrue with a degree. One bubble has burst; the second is already losing air.

Success tips for First-Year Students

Contributing writer Erin Leitner with the News Record of the University of Cincinnati came up with 7 Tips for First-year Students to Succeed.  She included wisdom on not stressing over choosing a major.

Don’t stress about picking a major your first year or two. Just because some people know exactly what they want to do from the start doesn’t mean you have to narrow your frame of mind, too.

In your first year or so, take your time and search for your niche. My advice is take classes that you think you may like or think you are good at. If you find that you enjoy them and do well in them naturally then you may be on to something.

Also, try to ask people you admire about their careers and emulate their advice into your life. Don’t limit yourself to just local acquaintances or professors, but don’t ignore them either. Try to contact those unreachable-possible-celebrities whose work might inspire you. They may not answer you, but if they do you will have some golden inspiration.

You could also try to reach the people who directly surround your idol. They are likely the backbone of the individual you are seeking advice from and are usually equally talented and knowledgeable about the career path you are exploring.

I recall switching my undergraduate major during the first and second college year, staying within the same academic department, but choosing a different direction. With the exception of pre-professional programs in architecture and perhaps engineering on my campus, students have the flexibility to give courses a test-drive before committing to a program of study. I counsel students and families that not every 18-year old is ready to declare what they will be doing for the next forty years. Being undecided about a major is not a negative, it’s the active process of making a decision.

Choose another street

I enjoy finding forgotten resources while organizing my computer files on a rainy Friday afternoon.


From There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk
By Portia Nelson

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

Student Debt continued: Still no caviar

I have frequently referenced a paper for a higher ed finance class this semester that was featured today in a Los Angeles Times article on the big picture of student debt.

The Institute for Higher Education Policy study of federal student loans, Delinquency: The Untold Story of Student Loan Borrowing, suggests that a majority of students struggle to repay their loans.  As the cost of a higher education has increased exponentially over the last couple of decades, policymakers have relied solely on default rates as a measurement tool.  An institution’s default rates can impact their ability to provide loan borrowing to students.  This study suggests that default rates alone provide an incomplete analysis, as they exclude borrowers who have difficulty repaying their loans but who avoid default.

This study consists of a review of federal student loans only, not private lending.  It focuses on the nearly 1.8 million borrowers who entered into repayment on loans obtained through the Federal Family Education Loan Program in 2005 during their first five years of repayment.  It details the rates at which borrowers entered into default; into deferment, a temporary suspension of loan payments for re-enrollment in school, unemployment, or economic hardship; forbearance, temporary suspensions of a borrower’s payments because of financial difficulty; and delinquency, or late payment on a loan.

Overall, only 37 percent of the borrowers in the study managed to repay their student loans throughout the study period without postponing payments or becoming delinquent. Another seven percent entered into deferment because they re-enrolled in school.  A majority, 56 percent of borrowers, had difficulty making timely payments on their loans.

Of the 56 percent with repayment difficulty, 15 percent of borrowers used deferment and forbearance to postpone their payments and avoid delinquency.  Overall, 41 percent of the student loan borrowers became delinquent or defaulted.  Twenty-six percent of borrowers became delinquent, but did not default.  Approximately 15 percent of borrowers became delinquent and defaulted.

Delinquency and default have serious consequences for student loan borrowers and can affect credit scores and the ability to obtain mortgages and auto loans, and the terms upon which those loans are offered.  Borrowers who default face even more severe consequences, including wage garnishment, withholding of income tax refunds or Social Security benefits, the turning over of the defaulted loans to collection agencies, and liability for collection and court costs.

There were important distinctions made between borrowers.  Undergraduate and graduate borrowers who left school without graduating were far more likely to become delinquent or default than those who graduated.  Graduate students were far more likely to make timely payments without using deferment or forbearance and less likely to become delinquent or to default than undergraduates.  Students at public four-year and private, nonprofit four-year institutions were more likely to repay their loans on time without resorting to deferment or forbearance and less likely to default on loans.  Students at public and for-profit two-year institutions and for-profit four-year institutions were the most likely to experience repayment difficulty.

Student Debt: No new car, caviar, four star daydream

I have been reading a lot on student debt recently, a topic that is of great interest for me as I counsel first-generation college students. My state and institution have among the highest debt rates in the country, not a statistic to celebrate.

Student Debt and the Class of 2009 is the fifth annual report from the Project on Student Debt.  It includes cumulative loan debt of students from public and private nonprofit colleges and shows that the debt level of students who graduate with student loans continues to rise with averages from $13,000 to $61,500. Low debt states are typically in the West or Southern states. High student debt rates are concentrated in the Northeast with Iowa, Minnesota, and Alaska in the top tier as exceptions. Iowa is fourth in the nation for average debt of $28,883 and second in percentage of graduates with debt, at 74%.

A variety of factors contribute to varying debt levels including cost of tuition and fees and financial aid policies of the individual institution. Generally, higher tuition is found at private colleges, but some privates, such as Cal Tech and Princeton, are also the first to institute policies of no-loan or reduced-loan for low- and middle-income students. Student debt figures are not inclusive in that not all colleges reported figures for average debt and percent with debt. In actuality, the debt figures could be and are likely much higher.

Several issues influence the accurate collection of student debt data and are recommended for improving the scope this information. These include a lack of a comprehensive annuals source of data, data on private loans, and lack of reporting on repayment terms and debt-to-income ratios for graduates in repayment.

Student Debt and the Class of 2009 reports only federal loan data. When you consider that debt attributed to private and federal student loans has surpassed $884 billion dollars in the United States and contributes to the ballooning national debt, the effectiveness and equity of relying on student loans to finance the cost of a higher education becomes paramount to all. Lawmakers and institution officials must carefully consider the impact of their tuition decisions and educate the student population as to their debt responsibility.

Type links in student success

I am currently exploring research directed toward identifying if Psychological Type preferences affect student success at a research university. My interest is in determining if there is correlation of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) preferences as a gauge of academic success in college. This idea originates from my work as a type practitioner and instructor of a first-year seminar course. Through my annual lectures introducing the MBTI to link personal preferences and learning styles, I quickly detected that my student population was overrepresented in some type preferences in comparison to national samples. Additionally, I found a higher number of students with specific type preferences demonstrating academic difficulty in the first college year.

My personal experience with type is that early in my career, I began to detect interpersonal roadblocks and miscommunication, particularly in the workplace, related to what I later learned were my type preferences. As I further researched type and my own preferences, I began to see opportunities for enabling students to understand more about themselves in the transition to college. As I was already an experienced first-year seminar instructor, I sought academic training to become a type facilitator to add type education in my course. I began administering the introduction to MBTI in my first-year seminar class and to date have assessed the type preferences of more than 700 students in the seminar course during their first semester of college. My goal is to complete a longitudinal study of the academic success and graduation completion of students administered the MBTI in their first year to determine if students with specific type preferences have more academic difficulty in their path to a degree. Ideally, this information will provide early identification for students who may require enhanced programming to meet their academic needs.

Related to this research, I have found type awareness to be extremely helpful in my own relationships, work, and communications. Type has become a touchstone for me, a frame of reference that allows me to dissect and review difficult relationships, expectations, and communications that may occur with others. My knowledge and use of type has been therapeutic in allowing me to recognize that we don’t all interact, process information or produce decisions in similar manners. And our differences make us stronger.

New socks. Two socks. Whose socks?

There are some days that throw us off balance. How we react to those days is how we define ourselves.

We are in the midst of a One Week of Twitter assignment in our first-year seminar class. This is my favorite tweet of the week (so far).

May you wear no socks in the shower today.

Laws of Physics and College Transition

There is an amusement park near my home that has one of those lose your lunch inducing rides that spin faster and faster until the floor drops out. It leaves you stuck to the wall until the ride slows and you gradually resume your footing on solid ground. The science of this phenomenon is centrifugal inertial force.

My university is welcoming 4,356 new students to campus as we begin the fall semester; colleges across the country are welcoming thousands more over the next few weeks. Imagine the inertial force as these students navigate classes, new roommates, and campus cultures that are frequently in contrast to their personal experiences.

Now, imagine your campus as a giant spinning disk with a student planted firmly in place by centripetal force, moving along the curved path of the disk, going with the flow. All is fine as the student survives residence move-in, deciphers a schedule, and maneuvers the dining center. But soon the campus disk is spinning faster and the centrifugal inertial force can become greater than the centripetal friction force holding the student in place. A failing quiz grade, roommate argument, financial difficulties or homesickness can all be triggers to send our students flying right off the college ride.

As we in student affairs greet our new students and those who are returning, it is important that we keep these laws of physics in mind. Know what resources you have available to address student concerns. Advocate for your students when university networks are difficult to follow. Listen carefully for clues that a student may be struggling.

Understanding F = mv2/r may just save a student.