Robert D. Brehm, M.A.

Green River Community College

Auburn, Washington

Abstract. This investigator reports, in a quasi-experimental design, the personality profile of the "College Experience 101 " college students. The t- test measured the differences between an experimental and control group. Some startling results raise questions for continued research. What are the personality characteristics of college students? How much of academic success is related to the personality characteristics? How much of the college students' evaluations of the college experience is itself related to their own personality characteristics'?

The late Carl Rogers ( Rogers, 1961 ) inspires the author's investigation of college students as "whole persons." This investigators rationale is that college students should be studied as "whole persons"; therefore, personality inventories are a most appropriate research instrument. This author notes a paucity of research on the study of the personality characteristics of college students and finds no study comparing their personality characteristics with those of the students enrolled in " College Experience 101." The small number of students participating in this study contraindicates hypotheses about college students. This study, however, examines the hypothesis that the "College Experience 101 students are "self-selected"; therefore they are different from typical college students.


The investigator defines "College Experience 101 " students as freshman students who are enrolled in a three-quarter-hour orientation class which is designed to assist them in succeeding in their college experience. The instructor modeled the course after the course's premise as based in the book titled , "Your College Experience," (Gardner, & Jewler, 1992). A t-test compared the probability of differences between the means of the experimental and control groups.


This study investigated the personality characteristics of a Pacific Northwest community college population, over 4000 of whom were registered as full time students, during the fall quarter of 1994. The investigator administered a test to a control group ( n =25) and to an experimental group (n= 33). Eighty two percent of the students selected from the experimental group, and twenty five percent of' the control group, participated in the study.

Research Instrument

Over 45 years ago, Raymond Cattell derived 16 primary personality factors from a factor analysis of Allport and Odbert's 18,000 human adjectival descriptors (Russell & Karol 1994 ). Consequently, this researcher selected the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire as best suited to measure the array of possibilities of the common characteristics of students as "whole persons."


The investigator selected 100 students randomly from the freshman students registered in the fall quarter of 1994. The investigator manipulated some control variables by omitting the part-time and evening students. The investigator sent a letter to the students inviting their participation in the "College Experience" research program. The investigator tested all the "College Experience" students, who remained enrolled, at the end of the fall quarter. As an incentive to take the test, the investigator offered the participants a discount coupon redeemable on books purchased in the college bookstore. The participants signed a waiver indicating that their personality test results could be used for research and educational purposes. The psychometrist administered the test according to the administrator's manual for standardized testing procedures.


The data affirm the null hypothesis. Table 1 shows the statistical difference between the means of the self-selected "College Experience" students and those of the general freshman college population. A t- test value compares the statistical difference between the means of the groups. The column with an * indicates the probability that a similarity exists between the means of both groups. Although the t- test's confidence level is >.05 and >.01, between the means of the control and experimental groups, the profiles reveal some interesting information about the community college students ( IPAI', 1986). The control and experimental group's average and above- average scores are reported in Table 2. The 16PF Factor's scores are noted as control (C) and experimental (E). The 16PF uses a sten standardized ten scoring scale. Sten scores 1 -10 have a mean of 5.5 with a standard deviation of 2 ( Cattell, Heather, 1989). Dr. Cattell uses bipolar scales so that both, high, and low, sten scores have meaning. The more extreme the score falls from the mean, in either direction, the more meaningful the information. Neither the control nor the experimental group sten scores ranked below the mean.


The results of the testing of the experimental and control group provide support for further personality testing of college students. This study, which describes the college students and the "College Experience 101 " students as, insightful, skeptical, assertive, and socially aware, raises some questions for further research. Are students' high grade point averages, for example, negatively correlated with dominance or assertiveness? (Cattell Raymond, Eber & Tatsuoka, 1970 ) Are students' lowered test scores and high attrition rates positively correlated with their social awareness and "cutting corners"? Are their attitudes about the evaluation of instructors, of classes, of college experience, and the value of education itself, positively correlated with their skepticism?

Table I
Differences between the means of the control and experimental groups.


Control ( N = 25 )Experimental ( N= 33)

FactorsMean SDMeanSD t-valueprobability
A4.882.20 4.88 1.700.00 0.99
B5.562.30 4.942.101.07 0.29
C5.682.00 5.272.00 0.76 0.45
E6.72 1.80 6.12 1.80 1.22 0.23
F5.562.00 6.122.00 -1.08 0.29
G 5.401.80 5.00 1.80 0.98 0.41
H6.441.70 6.00 2.200.84 0.40
I5.321 .70 6.03 2.00 -1.42 0.16
L7.001.80 6.42 1.70 1.23 0.22
M4.80 2.20 5.031.50 -0.47 0.64
N6.722.20 6.122.301.01 0.32
O 5.441.90 6.061.90 -11.2 0.22
Q16.202.00 6.21 1.60-0.03 0.98
Q26.24 1.60 5.67 1.80 1.26 0.21
Q35.922.10 5.03 1.801.74 0.09
Q45.881.90 5.21 1.60 1.46 0.15
bulleta probability < .05, or < .01, is statistically significant that the two groups are from a different college student population. None of the 16 variables test < .05, or < .0 1, of the confidence level. ** Dr. Steve Conn of ( IPAT) provided the calculations. " 16PF™ " is a trademark of I PAT. Inc. P.O. Box 1188, Champaign, IL. 61824-1188

Table 2
The average to above-average sten scores are provided for the (C) Control and (E) Experimental groups.

16 PF
FactorsDescription Groups
( C )( E )
A+Warm, easygoing 55
B+Insightful, fast learning 65
E+Dominance, assertiveness 76
N+Polished, socially aware 76
Q4+Anxiety 65


Cattell, Heather, Birkett, (1989). The16PF: Personality in Depth, Champaign, Illinois:Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, Inc.

Cattell, Raymond B., & Eber, Herbert, &'Tatsuoka, Maurice. (1970). Handbook for the Sixteen Personality Questionnaire, Champaign, Illinois: Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, Inc.

Barfoot, Betsy, O, & Fidler, Paul, P. ( 1992). National Survey of Freshman Seminar Programming, Columbia, South Carolina: National Resource Center for the Freshman Year Experience.

Gardner, John, N. & Jewler, Jerome, A. ( 1992 ). Your College Experience, Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Goldman, Leo.(l994). The Marriage Between Tests and Counseling Redaux: Summary of the 1972 Article, Measurement and Evaluation Counseling and Development, 26 (4), 214-216.

Herrnstein, Richard J., & Murray, Charles. ( 1994 ) The Bell Curve, New York: The Free Press.

IPAT, (1996) Champaign, Illinois The Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, Inc.

Rogers, Carl, R. ( 1961 ). On Becoming a Person, Boston Houghton Mifflin Company.

Russell, Mary T., & Karol, Darcie, I,. ( 1994 ). 16PF Fifth Edition Administrator's Manual, Champaign, Illinois: Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, Inc.

Tuckman, Bruce, W. ( 1978 ). Conducting Educational Research New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.