College freshmen who are more outgoing and agreeable — and less moody — are more likely to feel a sense of belonging at their new school, new research has found.

Those personality traits could result in better academic performance and better mental health during college, the study authors concluded.

However, two other important personality traits — conscientiousness and openness to new experiences — played no role in how well students felt they fit in at college.

“Students who were more agreeable and more extroverted tended to have higher belonging in college, especially in big schools, and students who were more neurotic [that is, nervous and/or handle stress poorly] tended to have lower belonging in college,” concluded the research team, led by Alexandria Stubblebine, an independent researcher in Ocala, Fla.

“Additionally, and contrary to what many people might think, openness to new ideas and conscientiousness were unrelated to students’ feelings of belonging,” the researchers added.

For the study, Stubblebine’s team analyzed survey data from more than 4,700 freshman college students at 12 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.

The surveys analyzed a collection of widely studied personality traits collectively called the “Big Five” — extroversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism.

Students also were asked questions aimed at assessing how well they were fitting in at school.

Responses showed that students with higher levels of extroversion or agreeableness tended to have a greater sense of belonging after their freshman year.

On the other hand, neurotic students had less success making themselves at home in their college.

College size played a factor — students who were less neurotic, less open and more extroverted had a higher likelihood of being enrolled in a large college, results show.

In fact, students at large colleges tended to benefit more from extroversion than those at small schools, researchers noted.

The new study was published Jan. 17 in the journal PLOS One.

More information

Harvard University has more about the “Big Five” personality traits.

SOURCE: PLOS One, news release, Jan. 17, 2024