Acquaintance at the start of a new study can help to build a network of friends. Friends can offer mental support in difficult times, they can stimulate you in your studies, you can discuss homework with them and you can just spend your free time with them to (re-)charge before the new semester. Friends are not only fun to have, they are a necessity for a social animal species like Homo sapiens. On the the other hand, friends can also lure you into skipping classes, not doing your homework and focus on the 'wrong' things in life such as doing drugs. It goes both ways.
Social networks can impact our health, happiness, wealth, emotions, and even physical well-being. College students spend a lot of time with their friends. One estimate suggests that the average college student spends only 15 hours a week in class but 86 hours a week with his or her friends.
Freshmen no longer have their parents constantly guiding them or checking in. That’s one reason why supportive friends are an important part of one’s social life during this period. These friends actually turn into students’ families during college. During this period, friends are everything; they are often the closest bonds students will ever make and sometimes the entire support system (source: Weisman).
It has been shown that different people generate different kind of networks. McCabe showed, in a relatively small sample of students, that there are roughly three types (McCabe, 2016):
- "Tight-knitters" have a single cluster of close friends.
- "Compartmentalizers" have a bunch of unrelated clusters of friends (e.g. a group of friends at university, the other at a sports club).
- "Samplers" have one-on-one friendships with individuals who didn't necessarily know one another.
Now, why is this important? Every tight-knitter reporting to have friends that provided academic motivation and support eventually graduated. Among the ones who said they lacked this support and their friends distracted them from schoolwork, only half managed to graduate within six years.
Compartmentalizers and samplers both risked to be 'torn' between social contacts groups and could experience social isolation (source: NPR).
- McGabe, Connecting in College. How friendship networks matter for academic and social success. University Chicago Press (2016)