Student friendships at college should not be underestimated, as they can either help or hinder students academically and socially, according to a Dartmouth study "Friends with Academic Benefits," published in the current issue of Contexts. The article by Janice McCabe, associate professor of sociology at Dartmouth, serves as a precursor to her upcoming book, "Connecting in College: How Friendship Networks Matter for Academics and Social Success" (University of Chicago Press, to be released November 11, 2016).
Previous studies on the importance of peers have examined the broader role that peers play in student life, often focusing on their social influence, whereas, this study examines: individual friendships at college, how students benefit academically and socially from such networks, and how such networks reflect a student's race and class. The research analyzes and visually maps the friendship networks of 67 students at a Midwestern university that is predominantly white, by looking at the role that friendship groups play in a student's life and the density of ties that he/she shares with friends. McCabe finds that student friendships can be classified into three types of networks: tight-knitters, samplers and compartmentalizers.
"Contrary to conventional wisdom, students are quite savvy in recognizing that friends can distract them and in strategically using friends to help them improve their academics. The most successful strategies, however, differ by network type," says McCabe.
For the most part, the type of friendship networks that students had during college remained their type after college. Tight-knitters remained tight-knitters and compartmentalizers remained compartmentalizers; however, most samplers became tight-knitters after they graduated and felt more supported.
College friendships that offered both strong academic and social ties proved to be the most enduring. Tight-knitters maintained nearly one-third of their friendships from college while compartmentalizers and samplers retained about a quarter of their friendships from college.
Materials provided by Dartmouth College. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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