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.

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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