Being social: An academic survival strategy

Connecting with peers may offer more rewards than you think

Whether you are naturally introverted or extroverted, being social at our university is an asset. Acts of socialization can range from flashing a smile when walking by someone you’ve only met a few times to initiating conversation with classmates before the lecture begins. It may be genuinely asking how someone’s day is going, or heading down for a spontaneous Waterfowl walk with someone new. Either way, social interactions typically result in a positive exchange of energy between two or more individuals, which may provide psychological benefits as well as academic advantages.

Although many high-achieving students thrive when working independently, being social may offer an alternative academic strategy. For example: you slept through your alarm for your 8:30 class and missed important notes for the upcoming midterm. If there is no one in that class who you can comfortably ask for notes, you will likely not get them, and do poorly on your midterm as a result. By making friends within your classes, you can create a system where you share notes if one of you sleeps through your alarm.

The “swap and edit” tactic is another beneficial system for courses that require lab reports or papers. By socializing with classmates, you may find someone who is willing to review and edit your writing while you do the same for them. This is beneficial for both parties, as editing develops your ability to think critically about the project and allows you to bounce ideas off of someone and clarify the professor’s expectations, while you receive feedback on your work before passing it in.

For courses that require an abundant amount of memorization (e.g. psychology), having a study buddy or small group to verbally explain the material may activate auditory pathways of learning. Planning study sessions with others may also provide crucial motivation to get work done when we would otherwise stay in bed watching Netflix.

Clearly, being social has the potential to enrich your academic success. In addition, attending classes, labs and tutorials becomes more enjoyable when you can look forward to seeing familiar faces. Psychologically, having positive social connections with a wide range of individuals has a great effect on mental health. Developing strong ties to others diminishes the sense of loneliness we may feel, and expands the social support network that we can reach out to. Social connections made within this university may also open the doors for endless opportunities in the future. You may end up having lunch in a foreign country with an old classmate someday. You may be offered a job down the road because you established a friendly connection with someone in your biology lab this semester. By putting yourself out there in a genuine and kind way, others are more likely to respond to you in the same way. So, regardless of whether you categorize yourself as a shy or timid person, consider the potential benefits you may gain from pushing yourself to make connections wherever you go.

Alanna Stewart