Friendships Help College Students Succeed, Says New Book


Friendships are often thought to be causes for distraction, especially for a young student's academic life, but a new study proves otherwise: friendships actually help college students perform better and eventually succeed.

Janice McCabe, associate professor of sociology at Dartmouth, studied 67 students studying in a large, unnamed Midwestern university and found that there are three types of friendships, each of which bring various benefits to a student's performance in college, Inside Higher Ed reported. The results of her study are fully explained in a book titled, "Connecting in College: How Friendship Networks Matter for Academic and Social Success."

McCabe gathered data about the students' academic performances and friendships. Although the students were quick to say that they separate their academics from their friendships, McCabe found the opposite. Students helped one another in their studies by: proofreading each other's papers, reminding each other of deadlines, provided emotional support for one another, and many other behaviors.

McCabe also named three categories of friendship groups: tight-knitters, compartmentalizers, and samplers.

Tight-knitters are those who have one set of friends who likely know each other. This group is characterized by a strong sense of belongingness. Tight-knitters can serve as both a help or a hindrance to academic performance. Those with friends who encourage academic excellence will likely do better, but those who have friends who don't do well and lack motivation to succeed in college can be discouraging as well.

Compartmentalizers, like tight-knitters, have close relationships, but not just with one group of people. These students may have multiple groups of friendships, such as friends in an organization, and then friends in the classroom.

McCabe found that compartmentalizers were very successful, largely because of the kinds of support they receive: a group of friends for academic support, another for social support, and so on.

Those in the last category, samplers, don't have close friendships. Although they don't have strong support, samplers actually do well on their own, which according to McCabe, leads to a question:

"[C]ould samplers be even more successful if they allowed their friends to be friends with academic benefits?" she wrote.

Julia McQuillan, a professor of sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, told the Daily Nebraskan that she doesn't fully agree with McCabe's study, but she does believe that students need to have academic-oriented friendships that will help them succeed.

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