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Opinion

Actively making friends can affect graduating on time

Lauren A. Simenson

December 13, 2017

The fall semester of my last year in college is almost over, and for the first time, I am feeling nostalgic about saying goodbye to my seat neighbors in my classes and even to some of my small group members. I have now reached a point in my collegiate career where everyone I know is starting to graduate, which means that the chance to see them for a couple hours each week is disappearing.

This is one of the first times in college I have ever been remotely sad or sentimental for the changing of the semester. This past semester, for one of the first times in college, I have been fortunate to be a member in some incredible small groups and to find myself sitting next to people I have instantly found a connection with.

I did not realize how much I was lacking small-talk and just a friendly face to sit next to in class until I managed to make friends that I actually want to call my “friends” and not just “class friends.” It made a difference to me to be able to look forward to seeing them when I came to campus. I’m not, however, the only one who thinks making friends in college is important.

In a National Public Radio article published in November of last year, a researcher at Dartmouth College studied how making friends in college can affect your experience as a student at college. Janice McCabe, the researcher who was interviewed by NPR, found that building a network of friends at college has many positive impacts on a student’s academic and social life.

McCabe mapped out these friendship connections between students and found that in relationships between friends that “provided academic motivation and support, every one of them graduated.” She also found the reverse in cases where friends distracted each other from schoolwork, where “only half managed to graduate within six years.”

To me, the results of this study are nothing too unexpected. I have always known that friendships are important for your social health. What I was surprised about, however, is how important she found friendships to be in getting students to graduate and to graduate on time.

I looked forward to going to class this semester because I knew I had people to talk to who were excited to talk to me. This feeling really made me realize how difficult it is to make friends as an adult, and that I am actually not so great at it.

In college, making friends and then maintaining them takes much more of a conscious effort than in high school. In high school, you are trapped with people you grew up with for five days a week, eight or so hours a day, for four years. Being with people that much guarantees a friendship to blossom.

In line with McCabe’s findings, I suspect that making close friends in high school is a necessary coping mechanism which makes those four years bearable.  College, on the other hand, is much less consistent and you cannot rely on being in the same place at the same time to begin and continue a friendship.

Next semester I am going to actively try and make friends – a new thing for me. That does not mean that I will forget about the relationships from this semester, however. It took nearly four years for chance to sit me next to people I’d like to sit next to outside of class, and I do not intend for all of that fate to be wasted.

Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.

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