Sure, your academic achievements go a long way, but standing out among the large pool of other students with similar achievements requires showing why you are the right fit.
Having a firm grasp of your strengths and weaknesses allows you to answer that question convincingly.
Even if you are not pursuing either goal, understanding what you are good or poor at helps you build on existing successes and improve your overall performance.
Below is a list of strengths and weaknesses with examples of applying them in the real world. Before we dive in, I should tell you that none of these are permanent qualities.
If you identify with more qualities in either category, it doesn’t make you perfect or damaged. Each weakness can be worked on, and every strength requires consistency to stay one.
With that said, here are 30 best student strengths and weaknesses with examples.
When writing about your strengths, here are some examples worth mentioning. Review the list to choose what best fits your application.
Ask your peers and teachers if you don’t find one that matches your perceived qualities or are unsure of your strengths.
Consider highlighting your trustworthiness, especially if you are applying for a job. Many business owners are wary of young people due to their unpredictability.
Showing that you can be relied upon to carry out tasks and be trusted to handle critical parts of the business is beneficial.
“One of the first life lessons I learned was the importance of being trustworthy. I understand that people won’t give me responsibilities if they don’t believe I can handle it without worrying about my reliability.”
image source: Alice Dietrich
Today, universities and businesses are looking for students who can use their different and unusual perspectives to develop successful strategies and solutions.
Sharing how your creativity helped you achieve academic success or solve a problem may help you stand out from the pack.
It doesn’t matter if you aren’t visually creative either. You only need to show you can think in a novel direction.
This strength is helpful whatever the job or field you wish to major in, but it is crucial in the arts.
As a student, you learn different things in class. Still, the professional world values those who independently find and master learning resources.
Independent learning is not only an admirable trait to include in college or job applications, but one that helps you throughout your life.
This could be via an online course, unpaid (voluntary) internship, or mastering a specific subject. Don’t hesitate to display your self-learning qualities. It could be the defining difference between you and someone who might need a lot of hands-on training.
image Source: Thao Le Hoang
The ability to stay focused and motivated on a specific goal in unpredictable circumstances is known as self-discipline. To universities and employers, it also means the ability to do the right thing at the right time.
You can communicate this strength by saying something like:
“I study for two hours from 8 to 10 pm every night. There are a hundred other things I’d rather be doing, but I know if I am going to become a [university name] freshman, I have to make sacrifices.”
In the classroom and the outside world, kindness is a strength. Being capable of treating others with respect and being empathetic to their circumstances is important.
You might think this shouldn’t matter to admission officers or HR, but it shows you can connect with the people around you and leave a positive impact.
It also enhances the likelihood of cultural fit. If an organization values kindness among its staff, showing you have a compatible personality will give weight to your application.
image Source: Lou Levit
Professors and managers need to know you can figure out the right solution when presented with a problem. Critical thinking is a valuable skill that proves that and a strength for any student who has it.
Critical thinking involves the systematic analysis of evidence collected via experience, observation, reasoning, and reflection. It also includes considering a variety of outcomes to make a decision.
You could tell a story of when you demonstrated critical thinking to achieve academic success in your application.
Planning involves the consideration of different activities necessary to achieve a goal. It is a skill that requires other skills like communication, multitasking, project management, and problem-solving.
Planning also involves leveraging hindsight and foresight. If you’ve successfully planned a school or class event, feel free to add it to your application.
Even if you weren’t successful, showing how you failed and what you learned from it is a real advantage, whatever your goals might be.
image source: Devin Avery
One of the most critical strengths a person, more so a student, can have is focus. Being focused means the ability to stay on a task without constant supervision.
As a high school student, focus as part of your strength tells admission officers you have what it takes to succeed in college, where there are plenty of distractions.
Much of the evidence of this is in your academic records, but you can also write something like:
“I am a focused person. It’s a quality I’ve developed because it helps me complete my tasks faster, keeps me sharper, and makes it easier to get several things done.”
Strong time management enables you to balance competing interests in your schedule. You can manage all your classes, events, and activities without falling behind on any.
It also shows you can adhere to strict opening and closing schedules as a potential employee.
There are plenty of student strengths to choose from, but adding this strength to your application shows you have what it takes to succeed.
image source: Christopher Gower
Coding is a strength you might exclusively associate with technology and software design. But it goes beyond that.
Aside from the fact technology is embedded in all spheres of our lives today, coding skill embeds other skills. This includes analytical thinking, research, problem-solving, self-learning, etc.
Coding is also a sign of efficient thinking.
If you can code software to solve a specific problem—whatever the role or degree—include it in your application. It can help set you apart from other applicants.
Don’t discount the value of your ability to work well with others. It is a practical and handy quality for students as projects and programs require them to work with others.
Adding your collaborative skills and describing how you’ve used them in your application may benefit you.
“I worked with six classmates to develop an attendance monitoring system for our online classes. It improved the average class attendance by 25%. I’m looking forward to working on new projects with my future classmates.”
image source: Marcus Winkler
Showing you can gracefully accept criticism is one of the qualities college admission offices look for.
Your professors and peers will criticize you for something you will inevitably do poorly. Knowing that when the time comes, you won’t react negatively and instead channel it into improving your results is worth sharing.
Employees, especially those who believe young people are unteachable, also value these qualities.
In your student application or interview, you can share an instance where your openness to criticism helped better your performance.
College is a place with diverse ideas, concepts, and facts. A student needs to be open minded enough to engage with them to thrive. This is a favorable quality for admission officers.
Being open minded also shows curiosity, which is a strength for a student. An open minded student is more likely to learn ideas outside their classroom from books or the internet and apply this knowledge in class discussions.
Employers are also more likely to see open minded students as better fits for their adult environment.
image source: Abdalla M
School comes with its social and academic challenges. Some manifest in the struggle to make friends or study to pass classes you don’t like.
Coming across as a determined person tells admission officers that you’ve got what it takes to succeed as a college student.
A tested and trusted way to do that is to share a story of a time you overcame adversity to achieve your goals. The details don’t have to align with the field you’re applying to. It just needs to show the kind of person you are.
A growth mindset enables you to develop your talents and abilities. College admission offices and business owners appreciate this quality in students.
It is especially a great strength to include in an application if you have a less than stellar academic record. Having a growth mindset tells them you are willing to improve existing capabilities and learn new ones.
Including this in your list of strengths will make up for any deficiencies and reservations the application review personnel might have.
image source: Tony Tran
College admission officers and employers want a full picture of your personality trait. This means they want to learn what makes you great as much as the things you find challenging.
Below are 15 weaknesses to choose from. Pick the most relevant ones to the field or role you’re applying to.
Also, don’t just state the weakness. Provide context on how it has affected your student life and the steps you’re taking to improve.
It’s not uncommon for students to experience the fear of failure, and it is not something to be ashamed of either. Even adults still suffer from it.
The fear of failure keeps students from performing optimally and challenging themselves. It also makes them unable to concentrate on their studies as the anxiety overwhelms them.
If this sounds like you, when listing it among your weaknesses, you could say:
“I’d say my number one weakness is a fear of failure. Even when I had the right answer, I refused to share my thoughts in class and became envious of those who did. I have since recognized that it is not their fault, and I’ve been taking mindfulness exercises to overcome this fear.”
image source: LifeWorks
Self-reflection is a strength. However, when you can’t recognize when you’ve done an excellent job and celebrate yourself, it becomes self criticism and a weakness.
As a student, self criticism can lead to burnout and self punishment that keeps you from performing optimally or enjoying the learning environment.
Here’s how you could share this as a weakness with your student interviewer:
“Even though I receive stellar comments from teachers, I still feel like I’m not performing to the best of my ability. This has caused periods of burnout and angry outbursts. But I’ve adopted a looser schedule and am trying to be fairer to myself.”
Being apathetic as a student means you don’t care about your studies and the consequences. This mindset keeps you from seeing the value of studying and applying yourself accordingly.
It is a typical student weakness, but answering the question truthfully can make you stand out anyway:
“After a bad result, I develop an apathetic response to my studies, which sets me back and forces me to play catchup. I’ve since recognized the pattern and now study harder to avoid bad results. I’m also learning not to let one bad result outweigh the value of other results.”
image source: Ashima Pargal
Impatient students have trouble collaborating with others because they want everything done on their schedule. It can also affect how they respond to someone else’s errors or when they have to wait.
This is also a notable weakness to share with employers. Some might even see it as a strength, especially if you phrase it like one.
“I struggle to work with others because I’m fast and impatient. I can be too eager to complete a group assignment, which often leads to conflict with my peers.”
Lack of focus and a short attention span are common academic weaknesses for modern students. Students with this struggle to concentrate during a lecture or study for long hours.
Of course, this might not be a character trait. Some students have attention deficit disorder and need professional help.
Whatever the case may be, when you list this as a weakness, be specific about how you’re working on it.
“I struggle with paying attention in class and get bored easily when completing a task. To improve my attention span, I meditate, exercise, and take notes by hand to keep myself engaged in class.”
image source: Robert Bye
Disorganization means the inability to prioritize tasks and events. It also represents an inability to plan and allocate effort properly. More importantly, it negatively affects consistency.
These things impact the performance levels of students and a potential candidate as a weakness option to discuss during an application.
Yes, admission officers want to see students who have the organization levels to navigate the various demands of college. But combining this weakness with strengths like self-learning and openness to criticism can help you come across as an ideal candidate.
Disruptiveness doesn’t just affect your academic and career progress, but they also affect the advancement of others.
A disruptive student is more inclined to pursue their own interests, such as being the class clown or class talkative, than focusing on school work.
Being disruptive is not the ideal weakness to share on an application, but it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker:
“I have a playful nature and enjoy being the source of fun to others, but I don’t always know how to pick my moments. This can have a disruptive effect. I’ve sought professional help, and I’m learning to decenter myself.”
image source: Yasin Yusuf
Self doubt also means a lack of confidence, and it is a weakness that puts a lower ceiling on a student’s accomplishments. A student riddled with self doubt is less likely to ask for extra credit or volunteer for extracurricular programs.
They are also less likely to be an active participant in class.
“As an introvert, I am reluctant to put myself out there and discover other activities I might be great at. I’ve been placing myself in interactions outside my comfort zone to fix this, and my confidence is improving. I believe more of this will keep the self doubt away.”
Stubborn students refuse to alter their attitude or viewpoint even in the face of better arguments. They are more likely to trigger conflict and are always determined to do what they want.
Stubbornness also makes it harder to collaborate and participate in group discussions.
Some professors and employers might appreciate this quality in a student or employee. Others resent it.
Hence, it is advisable to research the tolerable weaknesses of the field or role you are applying to.
image source: Rodolfo Clix
Students who are too blunt might struggle to make friends, impacting how they settle into a college environment. Overly blunt students looking for part-time jobs may also struggle to work with others, especially those applying to roles with leadership responsibilities.
When you mention this weakness in your application or during an interview, clearly state you are working on it.
“I’ve been called blunt, even though I don’t always agree. Nevertheless, I’m taking communication skills classes to learn how to give feedback kindly.”
A student who struggles with pleasing people is less likely to have boundaries and cannot say no to requests, even if it affects their studies.
They volunteer for more tasks they can handle and are unable to balance their schedules to do school work productively.
“I find it hard to say no to requests, which has affected my academics in the past. In the last six months, I’ve gotten a daily planner that helps me organize my life and keeps me from overcommitting myself.”
image source: Elaine Casap
An individualist prefers to work alone. Either because they are introverts, not a fan of people, or the arrogant belief that they are better.
Neither is a positive personality trait as a student. It portrays an inability to collaborate, but it is a good weakness to share on an application.
Distractible students find it hard to focus on a task or study for long periods. This sets them behind on schoolwork and negatively affects their academic performance.
Admission officers recognize this is common among students, so it is okay to acknowledge it in your application.
“I am easily distracted, but I know while it didn’t seriously impact me in high school, I have to improve my focus if I want to excel in college. I am using Lumosity and StayFocused to improve my focus, and I’ve noticed changes.”
image source: Sam Balye
At minute levels, an undisciplined student has trouble attending classes and regularly completing assignments. In higher doses, they lack control over their behavior, disobey rules, and are a divisive presence.
It might seem unwise to list this as your weakness as a student, but doing so illustrates self introspection and an ability to hold yourself accountable.
Finally, procrastination. The bane of the education process. Students putting off work until the last moment is a universal behavior. It is a weakness employees and admission officers are familiar with and can help you stand out if you put it subtly.
“Like many students, I prefer to wait until the last moment to do schoolwork. After auditing a few classes, I’ve realized it will deeply affect my academic performance. I’ve also incorporated daily planners into my routine to allocate my time efficiently.”
Sharing your strengths and weaknesses as a student isn’t a meaningless charade. It helps educators and employees assess your potential and how best to nurture and wield your competencies.
Even the research alone can help you identify things you need to better position yourself among your peers.
Lastly, when describing them, be specific and stay as honest as possible.
Cassie Riley has a passion for all things marketing and social media. She is a wife, mother, and entrepreneur. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, language, music, writing, and unicorns. Cassie is a lifetime learner, and loves to spend time attending classes, webinars, and summits.