By JILL BARSHAY
“Choose your friends wisely” may not only be good parental advice but also a way to do better in college, a research study finds.
A trio of researchers put that advice to the test at Berea College, a small liberal arts school in Kentucky, by looking at how much friends actually influence study habits and grades. They found that students who befriended studious peers spent more hours studying themselves and posted higher grades during their freshman year.
“It’s no fun to study by yourself,” said Nirav Mehta, an economist at the University of Western Ontario and one of the study’s authors, explaining the intuition behind the study. “If you want to goof off, and your friends are at the library, then you’re going to go to the library, too.”
Of course, it’s possible that studious people gravitate toward other studious people. They might have hit the books and racked up as many A’s no matter who their friends were. So the researchers checked to see if randomly assigned roommates also have a positive influence on study habits and grades. They found almost identical results: students who were assigned a studious roommate freshman year also studied more each day and had higher grade-point averages.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true, the researchers found. If you have friends and roommates who don’t study a lot, you’re likely to get dragged down by their poor habits, studying less and earning lower grades. It’s important to clarify that having smart friends isn’t as important as having studious friends in this study. The researchers didn’t find that friends’ grades mattered. What influenced a student’s college grades was his or her friends’ high school study habits. To be sure, students with higher grades tend to have better study habits, so studious friends are also likely to be smart ones.
The study, “Time-use and Academic Peer Effects in College,” is a working paper, meaning it hasn’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but it was circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research in October 2018.
So should we encourage parents to meddle and pick their kids friends in college?
“This is one outcome — GPA. There are other things in life,” said Mehta, who nostalgically admits to selecting studious friends when he was in college. “We were a crew of dorks,” he said. “It was great.”
— Excerpted from The Hechinger Report