The Case for Character Strengths In College Admissions Advising: The Way You Are is a Great Way to Be

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character strengths
signature strengths
college advising
college applications
transition to college
best-fit college
Higher Education
Student Counseling and Personnel Services
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Graduating from high school and moving on to college is one of the most important transitions in a young person’s life. Unfortunately, the process leading up to that milestone—during which a student considers and applies to specific colleges—is often viewed as a pointlessly painful gauntlet rather than anopportunity for growth. It does not have to be that way. Rather than a negative and anxiety-provoking experience, the college search process has the potential to be a period of increasing positivity and openness to possibilities. Evidence has demonstrated that self-knowledge of character strengths can reduce stress, inspire optimism, and increase well-being, as it has been proven to do in relationships and in a variety of settings. This paper introduces the VIA Character Strengths to the college advising process and explores their potential benefit to high school students applying to college, using evidence-based research. A framework and suggestions for character strengths interventions are provided in the context of the college application timeline. Since the potential benefits of character strengths have not been validated with young people undergoing the unique situation of the college admission process, a research study is proposed to test the first of seven interventions. Additionally, a presentation introducing character strengths to college advisors is included. By improving outcomes such as diminishing stress and increasing attributes related to well-being, applying to college becomes an enriched process.

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