The Company You Keep: The Good, The Bad, You Know the Rest
My husband and I are currently living on campus as part of a university faculty-in-residence program. We really enjoy being on campus because we get to spend more time informally with students. I have weekly office hours to meet with residents, and we also host special events about once a month. During discussions with students, we often reflect on our own experiences as undergraduates. A theme that I have noticed that continues to emerge is the importance of keeping good company in college. While it is really no secret that peers (or friends) can influence the behaviors and choices of kids and teenagers (think "peer pressure"), people don't always consider how peers influence their lives as adults. There is research related to this, but I am actually going to simply focus on personal experiences.
I was fortunate to meet my college roommate for all four years of college during freshman orientation. We clicked right away, and we had our room assignments changed so that we could room together. We are still friends to this day. I am the godmother to one of her daughters, and both of her daughters were flower girls in my wedding. Her family was like a second family to me. I was super thankful because I had quite literally prayed for a good roommate since I was going out of state for college and didn't know a single soul in the area. This is not typical, and many people do not room with the same person for all four years, but it worked for us. Even if we had NOT been roommates, though, I still believe we would have been a good influence on each other as friends.
We encouraged each other to wake up to class and go to class because that is really half of the battle in college. When one of us found out about SGA Senate elections, we both decided to run, helped each other with our campaigns, and both won seats. When one of us learned about study abroad, we helped each other through the application process and both ended up going. If we went out to a club, we watched each other's backs. We took turns driving so that we never had to stay anywhere where we didn't feel safe because we knew we would be on the same page if one person decided it was time to leave. On rare occasion, we might decide to skip class--everyone needs a break sometimes, I guess--but we generally kept each other on track. We had other friends who we trusted as well, but even just one good connection that you can count on is extremely valuable in college. That is the good side of college friendships.
The not-so-good side presents itself when you look around and realize that the person or people who you are spending a considerable amount of time with are not on a similar path as you. You want to do well in school, but they consistently miss class or they are not really focused when they do show up. They might sit right next to you and distract you throughout the class period. They go out partying when they have a big assignment due or need to be studying for an exam. My husband has often reflected on one guy that he used to hang out with until he realized that they guy had been an undergraduate for MANY years. He then questioned why he was partying with someone who clearly didn't have the same long-term priorities. This issue was heightened when he looked around and realized some of his other friends had started taking internships and were not nearly as active in the party scene. They still had a good time, but they know how to balance fun with getting their work done and protecting their time and financial investment (which college is). He promptly redirected the time he was spending partying and generally hanging out and became more active on campus and joined a research lab to begin getting experience. He had to makeup for some lost time, but he was much better off than he would have been because he changed his associations.
This is just food for thought. It is good to have a broad social network, but you want to be aware of how the actions of others might influence you both positively and negatively. I hope to write more frequently soon! Until then, be sure to check out the Bare Necessities!