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Connecting in College

How Friendship Networks Matter for Academic and Social Success

Connecting in College

How Friendship Networks Matter for Academic and Social Success

We all know that good study habits, supportive parents, and engaged instructors are all keys to getting good grades in college. But as Janice M. McCabe shows in this illuminating study, there is one crucial factor determining a student’s academic success that most of us tend to overlook: who they hang out with. Surveying a range of different kinds of college friendships, Connecting in College details the fascinatingly complex ways students’ social and academic lives intertwine and how students attempt to balance the two in their pursuit of straight As, good times, or both.
As McCabe and the students she talks to show, the friendships we forge in college are deeply meaningful, more meaningful than we often give them credit for. They can also vary widely. Some students have only one tight-knit group, others move between several, and still others seem to meet someone new every day. Some students separate their social and academic lives, while others rely on friendships to help them do better in their coursework. McCabe explores how these dynamics lead to different outcomes and how they both influence and are influenced by larger factors such as social and racial inequality. She then looks toward the future and how college friendships affect early adulthood, ultimately drawing her findings into a set of concrete solutions to improve student experiences and better guarantee success in college and beyond.

216 pages | 15 halftones, 2 line drawings, 11 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2016

Education: Higher Education, Psychology and Learning

Sociology: Race, Ethnic, and Minority Relations, Social Institutions, Social Organization--Stratification, Mobility


“Campuses eager to improve undergraduate persistence and retention as well as reduce racial disparities in degree completion would benefit from Janice M. McCabe’s study of friendship and college success. . . . [Connecting in College] explores the importance and impact of friendship networks both during and after college and finds that friendships can enhance student connections to academic institutions and present opportunities for greater learning and achievement.”

American Journal of Sociology

"This book, based on extensive research, tackles the eminently important topic of how students' networks, formed via friendships during their time at university, impact their academic success while at university, and, moreover, how these networks impact students' social success during the period at university, as well as beyond that. Working through issues of class, race and gender, the book not only explores what types of friendship networks are happening on university campuses, but also looks at who is forming which type of network and, most importantly, the impact that this network--the type of network, and the friendships that comprise it--has on students' social and academic lives. Written in clear prose, the book will be of interest to specialists and non-specialists alike. This clear prose should not be confused for simplicity, as the book covers serious ground in the field."

British Journal of Educational Studies

Connecting in College provides a thoughtful and engaging treatment of college students’ friendships that is long overdue. Students, parents, and anyone concerned with maximizing student success will learn much about how friendship networks matter for students’ lives in college and beyond.”

Claudia Buchmann, Ohio State University

“McCabe has written an interesting and important book on the relationship between networks and academic success. An in-depth look at college students’ interpersonal networks, Connecting in College shows that a student’s success may depend less on the number of supportive friends than on the structure of the student’s network—that is, on the nature of connections among the friends themselves. Painting a rich and thoughtful picture of how students manage the college experience, the book demonstrates clearly the importance of careful, theoretically informed, qualitative research for the study of networks and their consequences.”

Mario Small, Harvard University

“We’ve known for quite some time that peer relationships—friendships—are an important aspect of the collegiate experience. Until now, though, we’ve known relatively little about how college students make friends or what sorts of friendship networks are most common. This study reveals these important details for the first time, identifying three key types of friendship networks—close-knitters, compartmentalizers, and samplers—and detailing the advantages and disadvantages of each for the academic and social lives of students. In addition to these nuts and bolts, important attention is paid to the ways that the structure of students’ friendship networks varies by race and class, and the degree to which collegiate friendships and network styles persist postgraduation. Connecting in College is a thoughtful and engaging study; an important contribution to the higher education, social networks, and mobility literatures, and a must-read for anyone interested in the undergraduate experience.”

Camille Z. Charles, University of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents


ONE Friendship
TWO Balance
THREE Tight-Knitters
FOUR Compartmentalizers
FIVE Samplers
SIX Friendships after College
SEVEN Conclusion

Methodological Appendix: Researching Friendships on One College Campus

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