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"Doing What Interests You." - The Research

College Success and Satisfaction. Studies over the past ten years show that the degree of match between students’ interests (Holland personality type) and college major predicts their college success. Here are two examples by scientists associated with ACT®:

  • A study of 80,000+ students in 87 colleges and universities found that the more students’ majors matched their interests (personality) the better grades they got. And for many, this match predicted whether or not the students continued in college and graduated.1

  • Results for a 2010 study of students in 15 4-year and 13 2-year colleges found that the closer the match, the more likely students continued in their major and graduated on time.2


It stands to reason: the more interested you are in your major or training program the,

  • More time and effort you put into your courses;
  • More confidence you feel;  
  • Better grades you get; and
  • Better recommendations you receive from your instructors.  

It is also true, that when you choose a major, you are also choosing a particular “college major environment” – one that is made up of professors and students sharing similar abilities, temperaments, and values. Together, they create an atmosphere and opportunities that support and strengthen people having a similar personality.4

When you choose a “college major environment” that fits your interests, you are more likely to succeed and be happy with your choice.

To learn more, read our white paper, Choosing a College Major Based on Your Personality, What does the research say? You can download it from our home page, where you will also find self-help articles on the topic.

Job Success and Satisfaction. Choosing a job or career that matches your interests has a similar impact. Three scientists in 2005 analyzed the many studies investigating personality-occupation match. They found that the degree of match predicted job satisfaction and success.3

Of course, there are other factors that affect your satisfaction and success in school or at work, but there is no doubt about it -- this matching strategy is a good one.

A cautionary note: To take advantage of these findings, you must use a valid measure of Holland’s personality types -- one that scientific studies show it truly measures what is claimed. Invalid measures can misinform and mislead you.

Which ones are valid? There are only a few on the Internet. Besides The Career Key, there are the Self-Directed Search, Strong Interest Inventory, Campbell Interest and Skills Survey, and ACT's UNIACT.

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  1. Tracey & Robbins: The interest-major congruence and college success relation: A Longitudinal study; Journal of Vocational Behavior, 69 (2006), 64-89.
  2. Allen & Robbins: Effects of Interest-Major Congruence, Motivation and Performance on Timely Degree Attainment; Journal of Counseling Psychology, 57, (2010), 23-35.
  3. Kristof-Brown, Zimmerman, & Johnson: Consequences of individuals' Fit at work: A Meta-Analysis of Person-Job, Person-Organization, Person-Group, and Person-Supervisor, Personnel Psychology, 51 (2005), 281-342.
  4. Smart, Feldman, & Ethington: (2000). Academic disciplines: Holland's theory and the study of college students and faculty. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

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