This article studies college students, from a sociological perspective, using network theory analysis and qualitative work. The key findings:

Student’s social networks fall into three types: tight knitters, compartmentalizes and samplers.

Tight Knitters: all friends tend to know each other, and together form strong social support.

  • In cases with high social capital / academic ambition, this lead to greater learning and more success.
  • In cases with low social capital, it was distracting, and had the opposite effect.
  • Behavior in group was contagious, for good or bad.

Compartmentalizes: students with two to four separate networks of friends.

  • Often used different networks for different purposes, eg. Friends to go out with, others for sports, and a third for academics.
  • The more different groups, the more effort to maintain them all.
  • More groups also caused stress on identity
  • Also acts as diverse set of support systems.
  • Success followed from high capital in the given cluster

Sampler: not part of any group, but individual friends from many places, unconnected.

  • Gives little social support, either for good or ill; remain isolated.
  • Creates independent types, dependent on themselves for success
    • Question is if more success with either of other style
  • Support often comes from other sources, such as family.
  • Lack breadth and depth of closer knitters and adequate from compartmentalizes.


Her full book can be bought here: great read!



Friends with Academic Benefits

“Sometimes it’s a good thing to be like your friends, and sometimes it isn’t…. If they’re getting all As, of course I want to be like them,” said Valerie, an 18-year-old college student during her first year at “MU,” a large, public, four-year university in the Midwestern United States.

An Ivy League professor says there are only three types of friendships we make

Friendship isn’t always as serendipitous as it might feel; according to new research, there are just three ways people typically structure their social lives. When striking up new connections, people are either “tight-knitters,” “compartmentalizers,” or “samplers,” according to Dartmouth sociology professor Janice McCabe, whose study of the effects of social connections on academic performance was published this month in the journal Contexts.

Tight Knitter Network structure.

 (Image by Janice McCabe/Dartmouth)

(Image by Janice McCabe/Dartmouth)

Compartmentalizer Network structure.


(Image by Janice McCabe/Dartmouth)

Sampler Network structure.

 (Image by Janice McCabe/Dartmouth)

(Image by Janice McCabe/Dartmouth)

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