The College Adjustment Test (CAT)


Major life events can affect all aspects of one’s functioning, including moods, eating habits, physical health, motivation levels, social behaviors, and even views about oneself. What is un-clear is whether individuals can voluntarily alter their approaches to life events and, thereby, reduce their deleterious effects. The implications of the personality, stage, and inhibition-confrontation models for accelerating the coping processes in relation to college adjustment in freshmen is what the College Adjustment Test (CAT) measures. The 19-item survey achieves this by tapping the degree to which students have experienced various thoughts and feelings about coming to college during the previous week.


On the basis of two samples of 287 and 260 entering college students, the internal consistency of the scale is acceptable, Cronbach alpha = .79. Two-month test-retest with 196 introductory college students was good, r = .65.

Author of Tool:

Pennebaker, J.W

Key references:

Pennebaker, J.W., Colder, M., & Sharp, L.K. (1990). Accelerating the coping process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 528-537.

Primary use / Purpose:

A measure of coping in relation to freshmen’s college adjustment.

The College Adjustment Test (CAT)

Use a 7-point scale to answer each of the following questions, where:

1       2       3       4       5       6       7

not at all                somewhat                 a great deal

Within the LAST WEEK, to what degree have you:

  1. Missed your friends from high school          
  2. Missed your home        
  3. Missed your parents and other family members          
  4. Worried about how you will perform academically at college          
  5. Worried about love or intimate relationships with others       
  6. Worried about the way you look       
  7. Worried about the impression you make on others       
  8. Worried about being in college in general       
  9. Liked your classes      
  10. Liked your roommate(s)        
  11. Liked being away from your parents       
  12. Liked your social life        
  13. Liked college in general        
  14. Felt angry      
  15. Felt lonely       
  16. Felt anxious or nervous       
  17. Felt depressed      
  18. Felt optimistic about your future at college       
  19. Felt good about yourself       

Scoring Key

  • Positive affect= q9+q10+q12+q13+q18+q19
  • Negative affect= q4+q5+q6+q7+q8+q14+q15+q16+q17 Home sickness= q1+q2+q3+q15+q16+(8-q11)
  • Overall adjustment=(64-(q1+q2+q3+q4+q5+q6+q7+q8))+q9+q10+q11+ q12+q13+(32-(q14+q15+q16+q17))+q18+q19