The Importance of Social Integration and a Healthy Social Life for First Year College Students

Educators and parents know that everything can impact academics—including a healthy social life. New studies show that academic performance can depend upon good social integration skills—skills which, for many First Years, are put to the test in the new environment of college.

The transition from high school to university is fraught with change: social, structural, and behavioral. These changes can be related to feelings of isolation, which are in turn related to loneliness and can be linked ultimately, to failure.[1] Students who experience depression or anxiety as well as those who learn differently are particularly susceptible to such change-related disruptions. But good social integration and a healthy social life mitigate that disruption. By minimizing opportunities for social isolation and non-productive habits such as gaming and absorption in social media, friends and peer groups keep students accountable and help foster a sense of self-worth and belonging.

It turns out that the friendships we form in college are even more meaningful than many of us imagined. In her 2016 book, Connecting in College, Dartmouth College researcher, Janice McCabe’s study reveals that who we hang out with in college has a significant impact on our success at school and afterward. Our college friends influence how we fit into the community; their support gives us not only a sense of place, but of motivation.

“Among the students who said their close group of friends provided academic motivation and support, every one of them 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.”[2]

At Focus Collegiate, we help new students streamline the work of finding and fitting into a new community. By identifying and helping students get involved in affinity groups and extracurricular activities, we support the development of healthy social life. In the process, students bolster self-advocacy and build community—skills that some of our students need to bolster—especially in a novel environment.



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