New Research Shows College Friendships Influence Academic Success

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The friendships freshmen form can influence their academic success and emotional well-being, new research suggests.

Janice McCabe, an associate professor of sociology at Dartmouth College (NH), has mapped out three common patterns students follow when choosing friends.

“Tight-knitters” mesh with a close group of friends who become like family. “Compartmentalizers” spend their time with two to four unrelated clusters of friends. And “samplers” develop one-on-one relationships with individuals who don’t necessarily know one another.

 Her research — recently covered by NPR — found that each pattern came with positive, as well as negative, associations.

Samplers, for example, are typically successful in the classroom, but are more likely to report feeling lonely. Compartmentalizers run the risk of being spread too thin socially. And peers seem to play an oversized role in determining the academic success of tight-knitters.

“The sample size is too small to be definitive about cause, but McCabe found that half the tight-knitters seemed to be part of groups that ‘dragged them down’ academically,” NPR reported. “The other half performed above average, seemingly part of groups that ‘dragged each other up.’”

McCabe writes about the findings in her recently released book, Connecting in College: How Friendship Networks Matter for Academics and Social Success.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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