Balanced assessment of mental health involves assessing well-being and strengths as well as psychopathology. The character strengths of curiosity, gratitude, hope, optimism and forgiveness are assessed in 214 new undergraduates and their relationships to mental health, subjective well-being and self-esteem explored. Scoring the mental health scale for psychiatric caseness, case and non-case students did not differ in character strengths, positive affect or life satisfaction, supporting a dual-factor model. Hope pathways and gratitude predicted mental health. Gratitude, hope agency and exploratory curiosity predicted positive affect. Gratitude and hope agency predicted life satisfaction. Hope agency, hope pathways, exploratory curiosity and gratitude predicted self-esteem, with absorption curiosity as a negative predictor. The benefits of assessing strengths are discussed and interventions designed to develop them.