Syracuse University study links student social comfort to timely graduation success

Conversely, at the graduate level, the emphasis shifts toward the relationship with academic advisors and the availability of support for academic queries.

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A recent study conducted by researchers at Syracuse University in New York has found a significant correlation between students’ social comfort at university and their likelihood of graduating on time. This groundbreaking research highlights the impact of social integration on academic success.

In an insightful discussion, Dr. Debbie Freund, a distinguished professor at Claremont Graduate University and former provost at Syracuse University, New York, revealed this to MSM Reporter. She said the crucial role of social comfort in academic success and timely graduation from universities cannot be overemphasized.

Dr. Freund, drawing from her extensive experience and a pivotal study conducted at Syracuse University, emphasized the direct correlation between a student’s social comfort and their likelihood of graduating on time. The study, conducted during her tenure as provost, revealed a significant link between a student’s sense of belonging and their academic journey, particularly concerning on-time graduation.

“Social comfort at a university doesn’t just mean making friends. It encompasses a broader sense of community involvement and feeling that the university environment is conducive to one’s personal and academic growth,” Dr. Freund explained. 

“The study at Syracuse showed that students who feel a sense of belonging and engagement with their university community are more likely to complete their degrees within the expected timeframe.”

The concept of ‘social comfort’ that Dr. Freund refers to encompasses several aspects of a student’s university experience. This includes the ease with which they can make friends, and engage in activities, and the overall sense that the university environment is a good fit for them. 

Prof. Freund also highlighted the differences in social comfort considerations between undergraduate and graduate levels. For undergraduates, the focus is often on the general campus environment and the ability to form meaningful connections and engage in various activities. In the United States, undergraduate graduation rates are typically measured by the percentage of students who complete their degrees in four or six years, making social comfort a critical factor in ensuring timely progression.

Conversely, at the graduate level, the emphasis shifts toward the relationship with academic advisors and the availability of support for academic queries. “For graduate students pursuing masters or PhDs, the presence of an accessible advisor and the availability of teaching assistants for additional academic support play a pivotal role in their educational journey,” said Dr. Freund.

She said, “As an undergraduate, the marks I made about feeling socially comfortable are particularly applicable to the undergraduate experience, where in the United States, we measure graduation rates by the fraction of people who graduate in four years and in six years.”  

He continued, “And at graduate institutions, there are often teaching assistants who can help you with concepts that you may not have understood the first time that they were taught in class, and can meet with you individually to talk about those things.”

Dr. Freund’s observations underscore the importance of universities recognizing and addressing the diverse needs of their student populations. Ensuring that students feel socially comfortable and supported is not just a matter of enhancing their university experience but is directly linked to their academic success and timely graduation.

The implications of this research are far-reaching for higher education institutions. Universities are encouraged to foster environments where students feel genuinely connected and supported, both socially and academically. This includes creating more inclusive community spaces, offering diverse social and extracurricular activities, and ensuring accessible academic support systems.

Furthermore, Dr. Freund’s insights suggest that universities should consider the unique needs of their undergraduate and graduate populations. While undergraduates may benefit more from vibrant campus life and opportunities for social engagement, graduate students may require more focused academic support and accessible mentoring.

The research spearheaded by Dr. Freund at Syracuse University provides valuable insights into the factors influencing student graduation rates. It highlights the necessity for universities to create environments that not only challenge students academically but also support their social and emotional well-being. 

As universities continue to evolve, integrating these findings into their student support systems and campus cultures could play a crucial role in enhancing student success and ensuring more students graduate on time.

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