College graduates the world over are less apt to fondly remember their days seated in a lecture hall or at a desk, than all the times they spent with friends outside of the classroom. Having a social life in college is vitally important to a positive college experience. But it may also be a bellwether of things to come after graduation in a student’s personal and professional life.
The Benefit of Play
Balancing the demands of a full course load, extra curricular activities and part-time jobs can become overwhelming to students. Kicking back with friends and taking some quality “me” time is great at reducing stress. Dartmouth College advises its students that “taking time to yourself for rejuvenation and relaxation is just as important as giving time to other activities.”
Structured social activities help a student develop a sense of community. Whether serving as a member of the soccer team or a volunteering on a Habitat for Humanity project, students gain much from connecting to something bigger than themselves. They learn about teamwork and selflessness but may also discover innate leadership qualities they didn’t even know they possessed.
Exposure to Diversity
An active social life gives students the opportunity to reach out to those beyond their typical social circle. Developing relationships with people of different cultures teaches students to be less judgmental and exposes them to a wider world. According to national population projections, the U.S. is becoming more diverse. The population of non-Hispanic whites is decreasing while minority population is increasing. By 2050, the Asian and Pacific islander population will be more than five times its current size. Particularly in a global economy where students may one day be working with peers far from home, these early lessons in acceptance can prove invaluable.
The college years afford students a great opportunity to put themselves in a variety of social situations. As they approach the boarders of their own comfort levels, they have the chance to hone their skills of communication, build self-confidence and learn resilience. College professors Lynn Jacobs and Jeremy Hyman advise students to turn off the voice that tells them they're not good enough and to practice their skills of communication on a smaller scale, at first. Voicing an opinion and speaking in front of small groups is good practice for larger groups and bigger debates.
Many students find future spouses in college. Some find lifelong friends. But all students with active social lives learn a lot about getting along with others and building relationships. The development of such interpersonal skills is fully transferable to the real world. Negotiating through roommate squabbles may lay the groundwork on how to handle future living arrangements or marital spats. The support systems upon which students rely in college may follow them into the working world; even if the actual members change, socially active students learn how to build and keep relationships alive.
Peers in college soon become peers in the workforce, so having many social relationships can be beneficial to a student’s long-term networking systems. Students who are socially active in college also fare better in their careers. According to a longitudinal Finish study published in the journal "Developmental Psychology," students who are socially active in college become workers who are engaged, enthusiastic, motivated and dedicated to their careers.
- The Guardian: Social Life More Important than Study, Say Students
- College Parents: Helping Your College Student Supersize His College Experience
- Help Guide: Play, Creativity, and Lifelong Learning
- Dartmouth College: Suggestions for Reducing Stress
- University of Georgia Health Center: Managing Stress: A Guide for College Students
- Psych Central: Learning Social Skills in College Helps Predict Work Career Success
- Developmental Psychology; Trajectories of Educational Expectations from Adolescence to Young Adulthood in Finland; L Tynkkynen et al.
- Minnesota Population Center: National Population Projections
- U.S. News College Compass: 15 Ways to Boost Your Confidence at College
- Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images