When the time comes for a freshman to move on to sophomore year, the odds that the college retains him might hinge on whether it retained his friends. Relationships are more important than a student’s academic ability, financial aid, ethnicity or socioeconomic status in determining whether he will complete the transition to a second year, according to a new study published in Social Psychology of Education. Researchers at Rhodes College, a small liberal arts institution in Tennessee, and Welch Consulting in Washington analyzed the social networks of the institution’s entire class of 2012, examining the social and academic connections between things such as course registrations, team and club rosters, and residence hall records. Unsurprisingly, James Eckles and Eric Stradley found that students “on the outside of the social network” are more at risk for attrition. But they also found that whether a student’s friends stick around makes a difference -- every friend who left made a student five times more likely to leave, and every friend who stayed made a student 2.25 times more likely to stay.
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