A new study, co-authored by Ohio State faculty, has found that friendships developed during the first year of college can be life-long and help students become adults who have bridged cultural divides and develop broader worldviews. Researchers believe this important aspect of the first-year experience will help future generations embrace their differences and come together.
One hundred some students of varying races and religions answered questions about how their close friendships with those who had different religious traditions, political ideas, different cultural backgrounds etc. influenced their outlooks on those with different world views than themselves.
Researchers said that previous studies had proven that the most important factor in a successful college career was a positive learning experience with faculty. The second indicator, more important than learning, graduation rates and economic gains, has been a good relationship with peers. Researchers say their new study illuminates the powerful outcomes of these positive peer relationships.
When first-year students arrive at college, they are typically open to making new friends. This is especially true if they are leaving home for the first time and/or don’t know anyone at their college already.
The college experience is unique in that it places people of different beliefs in a situation where they are spending a lot of time together and living closely with one another.
The study found that 64% of students who had no interworldview friendships when they began college—interworldview friendship is what researchers are calling those friendships with people of different beliefs or cultures—made at least one interworldview friend the first year. 20% of this group claimed to have made five or more interworldview friendships by the end of their first year.
Researchers believe these kinds of peer relationships are absolutely essential to the college experience and that the benefits are measurably positive.