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CliftonStrengths Assessment: Helpful or a Hoax?

If you participated in Villanova’s four-day orientation program, you likely remember the CliftonStrengths assessment. It is a rite of passage at Villanova and students are told to complete it during the summer prior to their freshman year.  In Villanova’s Wildcat Newswire on Monday. Nov. 13, a change to the test’s platform was announced. Previous test-takers will no longer be able to access their results via the old URL and will instead have to visit a new website to access their dashboard. 

This new change, however, has created dialogue on whether the CliftonStrengths assessment is actually useful. Does it truly use a formula based on students’ answers and provide results unique to each student? Or rather, does it arbitrarily assign students adjectives and characterize these words as their “unique talents?”

The test takes about 30 minutes to complete, and unlike other personality tests, this assessment provides specific feedback, supposedly aiding students in finding what they do best. By framing the assessment with the word “strengths” in the title, the test is prompting users to look at the things they do well. This encourages students to develop study plans and structure their schedules around the ways they work best. 

Although the test encourages users to focus on and enhance their strengths, it also prompts students to address their weaknesses. The test gives steps on how to identify weaknesses and then, once identified, how to manage them. 

This examination can be helpful to students navigating a new environment who are looking for new study tips and how to manage their new free time. Following this line of reasoning, it makes sense as to why Villanova would prompt students to complete this assessment before coming to campus. The in-depth descriptions and the “how you can thrive” sections included under each test taker’s top ten strengths provide users with direct intel on how to maximize their assumed potential. 

“CliftonStrengths shows new students that Villanova is the place it is because of the different strengths each person brings to it,” sophomore Orientation Counselor Meredith Depole said..  

“We do it at orientation to give students a better understanding of their own strengths and ways they can use them in their everyday lives.”

Whether the test is truly accurate in pinpointing these strengths though is arguable. For example, the attribute of “focus” will be listed under the weaknesses of a student who had thought that to be a strength, as previously, when given a task, they could concentrate on just that one thing and complete it in a timely manner.

However, they are under the impression that based on the answers they gave, the test may know them better than they do, causing them to second guess themselves. Based on the emphasis Villanova places on this assessment, students may adopt some of these post-test tips into their daily lives, which could throw off the way they have been living. This confusion to the students’ equilibrium combined with the new environment could be overwhelming. 

While the intentions of the CliftonStrengths assessment are admirable and the presented report is in-depth and somewhat helpful, the results listed on said report are questionable. The algorithm used by all personality tests, not just the CliftonStrengths assessment, is unknown, thereby making the results of these tests controversial.

Still the test can be enjoyable, as the notion that answering a few questions can allow an exam to determine who you are is somewhat intriguing. Still, some find the 30 minutes needed to thoughtfully answer these questions tiresome and the overall concept of the test mundane. 

While Villanova can still encourage students to take the test before coming to campus in an effort to help them cultivate their identity,  it should not place as much emphasis on the results, as every student is different and may not respond well to the results they receive. The best approach may be to couple the introduction of this test and its results with the saying, “take it with a grain of salt.” 

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About the Contributor
Kailey Fahy, Co-Opinion Editor
Kailey Fahy is a freshman Co-Opinion editor of The Villanovan studying Communications with a specialization in journalism. As the oldest daughter with four younger siblings, Kailey is often described as a people pleaser who is no stranger to chaos. Kailey has always had a passion for English and writing and has even been published in The America Library of Poetry. She especially enjoys being able to give people a voice to share their opinions through her articles. As a New Jersey native, you can find her spending every sunny day between Memorial Day and school’s start at the Jersey Shore, Playa Bowl in hand.
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