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About your strengths

This is

a first look at your strengths, what they mean, and how to explore them further.

Do this because

you’ll be using your strengths over and again as you create your college essay. The more you work with them, the better you’ll understand them and the stronger your essay will be.

You may wonder why some strengths fall where they do on the list or get a little sad about a strength you think should be higher. That’s ok! This will help make sense of them.

VIA is a powerful research-proven tool. We want you to put it to work for you, both in the essay, and in your life. 

Now, do this


Read your strengths.

Read your strengths—and their descriptions—from top-to-bottom. 

These are the 24 strengths everyone has. You have a lot of some, and not much of others.

Go to the VIA website if you don’t have the downloaded copy in front of you. Don’t just look at the top five signature strengths—look at all of your strengths.


    Make sure your strengths make sense to you.

    Do your strengths, and where they fall on the list, make sense to you? If anything seems off, read the description and think about how it relates to your life. The name of the strength doesn’t always mean what you think it means.

    Self-knowledge is power. Take time to explore your strengths—think of it as gathering power for your essay.

    What to do if you're concerned about a strength that's low on your list

    If a strength is low on your list, it doesn’t mean that you have a negative trait.

    Sometime people get concerned if these traits are low on their list:

    • Honesty. If this is low, it doesn’t mean you’re a liar. It simply means that representing your internal states, intentions, and commitments, both publicly and privately, isn’t a strength.
    • Perseverance. If this is low, it doesn’t mean you don’t get things done. You may use other skills—like leadership, teamwork, creativity, curiosity, or zest—to get things done.
    • Humility. If this is low, it doesn’t mean you’re arrogant or that you brag. You may need to be responsible for how you talk about yourself and your accomplishments.
    How to learn more about strengths on the website

    There are three ways to explore strengths.

    1. On your own strengths list, click the + sign next to the name of the strength to see the description.


    2. On the Character Strengths menu, click What Are Character Strengths?


    Get to know your strengths.

    You’ll continue exploring these as you write your essay. If you’re still puzzled about something—that’s ok. Just keep looking at how it plays out in your life.

    Remember, not having a particular strength at the top of your list doesn’t mean anything negative about you. For example, if honesty falls near the bottom, it doesn’t mean that you’re dishonest. It just means that honesty isn’t a strength you rely on most.

    Your top strengths are what you naturally bring to the party.

    The more you own them, the more you can increase your happiness, productivity, effectiveness, relationships, resilience, and possibly even your physical health.

    VIA has fantastic resources. You can learn more about your strengths, find activities to expand on them, and ways to understand them more fully. You can even have your whole family take the assessment and learn about each other.

    Learn more about VIA

    You're ready to move on when

    • You’ve read the brief descriptions for all your strengths.
    • The order of the strengths makes sense to you, and if something doesn’t, you’ve read the longer description on the VIA website.