How do INTJs perform in school? Do INTJs have trouble in school? Do they find it boring? Which school subjects do most INTJs enjoy (or hate)? In this article (and video), I’ll explore some of these questions.
INTJ School Experience
First, let’s start with how INTJs tend to perform in school. According to the MBTI Manual, INTJs scored higher grades than any other type (76). That’s probably not too surprising for some people, for INTJs are often considered “intellectuals.” Some INTJs have reported that they were the “teacher’s pet,” though some prefer to keep a lower profile.
INTJs know how to follow directions, and this assists them in the academic setting. I read a funny article that detailed a story about how personality types responded to an email. The author was preparing a newsletter for different personality types, and she requested that each type write 10 brief paragraphs explaining good and bad traits of their type. The INTJ was the only one who actually did as she requested! All the other types messed it up in some way.
I would also notice that many of my peers in school would have trouble following the simple directions of an assignment. I’d think to myself, “The assignment clearly said that we have to cite five sources to pass, yet this person cited three. What are they thinking? Did they even bother reading the instructions?”
INTJs also do well because they are “judging types,” which means that they extrovert their first judging function, Extroverted Thinking (Te). People who use Extroverted Thinking (Te) prominently in their functional stack tend to set goals, think in terms of objective logic, schedule tasks, make lists, and work as efficiently as possible. They place great emphasis on accomplishment. Therefore, you can see how a deep desire to learn, combined with a desire to accomplish and structure things in their life, can lead the INTJ to perform well in an academic setting (if they make that a goal).
Does that mean that you’re not an INTJ if you’re earning poor grades? Nope. Some INTJs become frustrated with a school’s inefficiency. They can also become bored with certain subjects, struggle with social anxiety, or have a learning disability that overlaps their personality type. Nevertheless, most INTJs can excel in academic life with little effort.
INTJs Love Learning
One trait that most INTJs share is that they enjoy learning on their own–a trait that is common among all NT types. INTJs are true autodidacts. You’ll never have to coerce INTJs into learning information–it’s in their blood to seek and understand whatever takes their interest. If an INTJ becomes fascinated with a subject, watch out! The INTJ will read every book or article available on the topic until he or she has mastered it. In fact, “Taking Classes” was a more popular leisure activity for INTJs than any other type, according to a study in the MBTI Manual.
Although INTJs are natural learners, they often become frustrated with the inefficiencies of the typical school experience. INTJs tend to hate meaningless “busy work” that serves no real purpose (or has too many trivial details). It wastes time and kills their creativity. They hate taking so many years to study a program that should take a fraction of the time. They want to learn things that have a practical application, and they like picking apart ideas and thinking of how things can be improved.
INTJs also struggle with rote memorization, which is probably because Introverted Sensing (Si), a function often associated with memorizing concrete details, is their 8th function! They are an Introverted Intuition (Ni) dominant type, which means they like to conceptualize and seek patterns and possibilities. In fact, INTJs will probably learn best by linking concepts and incorporating their newly acquired knowledge into their existing mental models.
INTJ School Social Struggles
INTJs may struggle socially, often feeling as if they don’t “fit in” with the other students. Other students may spend time talking about gossip, social status, dating, and so forth. High school is especially filled with people with shallow views of life (beauty, status, athleticism, etc.), which most INTJs disdain.
INTJs prefer to talk about concepts, theories, and future plans. This causes a disconnect with most people. Furthermore, INTJs struggle with “small talk,” which makes meeting new people difficult. When you consider that INTJs are one of the rarest personality types (and most people are sensing types), it’s easy to understand the lack of connection they have with others.
INTJs often complain about the silly social structure in school, and things like group projects, giving speeches, and so on will be an annoyance at best, and a dreadful experience at worst. I can still remember having to engage in pointless things like selling candy bars for a fundraising drive. Can you imagine me knocking on a door and awkwardly asking, “Would you like to buy a candy bar?” Ugh, I hated it, and I rarely sold more than a couple.
INTJs often report that the other students (or teachers) are stupid or immature, and INTJs do seem to mature faster than other types. In fact, INTJs often feel as if they were never children in the first place, and they often display a high level of independence and a desire for autonomy from an early age. They might even complain about incompetent or disorganized teachers. (Bobby Fisher, often thought to be an INTJ, once said in an interview that he disliked school and even dropped out due to stupid teachers and students).
If an INTJ senses that a teacher is incompetent (or that the INTJ has more knowledge of a topic than the teacher does), he or she can become frustrated, bored, or seek to study the material independently. Immature INTJs might even debate their teachers or correct them during a lecture, which probably isn’t a good idea, my young INTJ friends!
Dating and friendships can also be a struggle for INTJs, especially since expressing feelings is a difficult undertaking. They not only find it difficult to relate to most students, but they also have a long list of traits that they are looking for in a friend or romantic partner. If an INTJ doesn’t find those traits in a person, he or she would probably avoid any such relationship. Nevertheless, INTJs tend to be polite to other students, and tend to keep their thoughts (and sharp criticisms of their peers’ stupidity or immaturity) to themselves.
Sadly, some INTJs suffer from bullying. Elon Musk (INTJ or ENTJ) has talked about how he was bullied relentlessly in school. I personally wasn’t bullied too much, although people would occasionally make fun of me, but it happened to everyone. I learned how to pick out other people’s flaws so that I could have a good comeback in mind when they’d do that to me.
Finally, INTJs will probably shy away from any social “clubs,” viewing them as silly or irrelevant, unless they see some logical reason to join it (i.e., it’s required to land some job). Do you have a cool fraternity or club to join? I don’t care, nor do most INTJs! Our type doesn’t care about social status or how people view us.
INTJ College Majors
MBTI type doesn’t dictate your career field. If you have a goal or desire to follow some particular career, go for it. Don’t let typology stop you from pursuing it. Nevertheless, MBTI can be useful in helping you identify areas you might find interesting, based on studies of type.
If you have no idea of what you want to do with your life, consider the following majors:
- Technology such as programming, computer science, etc.
- Engineering (75% of engineering students were NT types)
- Science (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, etc.)
- Economics, General Business
- Pre-Med/Medical school
- Architecture, development
That’s not an exhaustive list, but those are popular majors among INTJs. Some INTJs pursue fields like art, music, etc. It’s not always a black and white thing, so go with what you feel called to do.
My School Experience as an INTJ
I hate how school forces you to focus on grades more than learning. I also hate how school robs you of creativity and forces you to do things “by the book” (as one person once pointed out, it’s mainly an SJ thing). I love this quote by Mark Twain:
“I have never let school interfere with my education.”
Although I understand the need to measure learning progress, grades are a horrible way to do it, especially since your ability to maintain scholarships or enrollment are often dependent upon maintaining a certain GPA score. I would often find myself wanting to learn a certain subject, but I’d succumb to the temptation to cram, memorize, and spit it back on a test so that I could obtain the almighty “A.” Therefore, I’d often put learning on the back burner for some classes, especially when I was working and going to school.
That’s one reason why I respect Elon Musk (INTJ or ENTJ) and Peter Thiel (INTJ or ISTJ). Elon Musk created his own school and essentially abolished the grade level system, and pushes a much more practical way of learning. Peter Thiel paid students $100,000 to drop out of school and start a business, and it seems to be working.
As far as how I approached school, I wasn’t great at rote memorization, but I could cram information and create mnemonics to help me remember certain details that I could piece together just long enough to pass the test. I’d then do a brain dump and forget much of what I had learned. I’d set my clock early and cram for about 2-3 hours for a test.
Oh, and I also hate how school forces you to take “core” classes…aka…classes that don’t interest you at all. For example, I hate taking history classes. If I want to know the year of some war, I’ll Google it. I don’t want to memorize that information. It provides no utility in my life. Therefore, why should I have to learn something I’m certain to forget?
My best subjects in school were science, writing/English, math, and spelling. My least favorite subjects were history, geography, music, government, and any foreign language. I did well in school, but I didn’t put too much effort into it until I got to college. I made mostly A’s and B’s in middle school and high school, though I did get some lower grades when I felt lazy or unmotivated. I finally earned straight A’s for several semesters in college, and I often earned higher exam grades than anyone in the class.
Since I was an undeclared major, many teachers tried to recruit me to their major. I eventually settled on “accounting” as a major, which was a big mistake. Some INTJs like accounting, but it’s probably best suited for ISTJ types. I found it to be boring and riddled with complex rules that change yearly.
Oh, and I would hate being called on in class, especially if I hadn’t read the assignment or completed the homework. I felt dumb, because I’d usually be in deep thought. Then, I’d be called on, and I struggled to think on my feet, especially with everyone watching me. I have to think about things before I understand them. However, if I had mastered a subject, I wouldn’t mind calling out an answer in class.
Finally, I found school to be very draining. I’d come home from school, crash on my bed, and watch reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Saved by the Bell. I also recharged by listening to music or playing video games.
In Middle School, High School, and College…
- In middle school, I was very quiet. I didn’t make many friends. I finally came out of my shell in the 7th and 8th grade, and I knew most of my classmates. I was still quiet, but I could crack jokes or play pranks on people.
- In high school, I didn’t have any classes with my middle school friends. High school was very awkward for me for the first two years, and I kept to myself. I finally made some friends in my 3rd year of high school, and I again came out of my shell and spent time with friends. I could also be a bit of prankster in school, but I was very awkward with people I didn’t know well, especially in one-on-one conversations.
- In college, I didn’t join any clubs or fraternities. I made no friends whatsoever. I simply went to class, took notes, and left. I actually dropped out a couple of times due to a rare hives condition I developed. I had no career direction, and I was frustrated by the system (and bored with it). I eventually finished my bachelor’s degree.
Tips for INTJs in School
- Pay attention in any writing classes. Writing is a skill you’ll use often in most any career that you choose. I didn’t pay too much attention in writing classes because I hated writing in school. The assignments were boring: “Write a paper on this and that, cite 30 sources, do it this way, make it this long, etc.” In hindsight, I wish I had paid more attention.
- Try to decide on your career early, and take classes to help you master it. My biggest mistake was that I didn’t explore my natural interests, and I had no clear focus or desire. You have to follow your passions, find a career, and stick with it.
- Avoid drugs and friends who are bad influences. They’ll only waste your time and hold you back.
- If you plan to go to college, try to take advantage of scholarships, CLEP exams, advance placement classes that earn college credits, etc. Strategically plan your schedule, and use websites like RateMyProfessors.com to avoid the bad teachers.
Finally, don’t feel too bad if you don’t fit in during high school or middle school. You can try to sharpen your social skills, but remember that you’ll probably find many more like-minded people in college, especially if you choose a major that is heavily populated by NT types, such as engineering, science, technology, etc.
What was your school experience like as an INTJ personality type? Feel free to comment on the video above to share your insights and story. Thanks for reading / watching.
-Myers, Isabel Briggs. MBTI Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, 3rd Edition. Palo Alto, CA, 1998.