Social Networks Determine GPA
February 15, 2013

GPA Influenced By Friends And Peers

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

For hundreds of thousands of years, parents and their teens have had an ongoing battle over what kind of people the teen surrounds themselves with. The parents, in their many years of experience, have likely seen first-hand the effects a group of friends can have on a person. Now, in yet another case of science being applied to prove notions accepted as common fact, studies have shown this to be true.

According to a new study published this week in the journal PLoS ONE, a student´s GPA is clearly affected by who they choose to hang out with. A social network of students with higher GPAs will influence other students to raise their GPA as well. According to Hiroki Sayama from Binghamton University, lead author of this study, the converse is also true.

This conclusion isn´t necessarily ground breaking, of course. Previous research has shown that other aspects of a student´s life – such as their behavior, eating habits and emotional state – are easily influenced by whom they surround themselves with. For instance, if a student has a social network comprised of sad, unhealthy gamers, that student will likely begin to become the same way.

Though these behaviors have been identified, Sayama´s study is the first to observe this influence when it comes to academics, as well as study these effects over time.

To complete the research, Sayama, along with 4 high school students from New York, surveyed some eleventh-grade students to label their peers as either best friends, friends, acquaintances, relatives, or strangers. With this map of the students´ social networks, the researchers then set about determining these students´ GPAs and overall performance in school.

What they found was unsurprising: Those students who surrounded themselves with better-performing students were more likely to improve their own scores over time. Alternatively, those who surrounded themselves with under-performers saw their grades slip as a result.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that those listed simply as friends had the most influences on the students.

Those who were listed as best friends or acquaintances did not have the same influence on a student´s academics.

The team also concludes that, in the future, this effect could be much more easily tested. Rather than map out the entire social network as they´ve done in this research, students could be asked about their GPA, then ask them to list their friends. Once they know the GPAs of the friends, future researchers will be able to prove the influence friends have on one another.

“If our finding is validated through more extensive studies, this test might serve as a simple, handy predictor of the student´s future performance in various educational settings,” explain the research team in their published paper.

The team has said they´d like to see a larger study done in order to get to the point where smaller studies become just as accurate. For instance, the team claims they only looked mostly at one type of socio-economic demographic in this study. Were they to get results from multiple demographics, they might see some variations. For now it´s likely this study will suffice to any parent who wants to further bolster their complaints against one of their child´s friends.