Higher Education Ph.D. Dissertations


Campus Friends, Gender, and College Student Success

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Nicholas A. Bowman

Second Advisor

Mary Natvig

Third Advisor

Maureen Wilson (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Ellen Broido (Committee Member)


Peer interactions are among the most powerful catalysts for college student learning and persistence (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991, 2005). In general, these studies have examined students' informal interactions as well as settings that often promote interpersonal engagement (e.g., living on campus, participation in co-curricular activities). However, few researchers have evaluated students' campus friendships or whether those friendships predict academic outcomes like GPA or graduation. It appears that gender may play an important role in shaping the quality and quantity of the friendships among college students and other adults. Therefore, this study explored the relationships between campus friendships, gender, and student success outcomes (i.e., achievement and graduation).

First, the emotional connection between participants and their campus friends were evaluated to determine potential gender differences. Men reported lower overall levels of emotional connection with their campus friends than did women. Men also reported higher levels of emotional connection with their female campus friends than they did with their male friends, whereas no such differences were found for female students' friends. These patterns persisted even within hierarchical linear modeling analyses that controlled for a variety of demographics, psychological attributes, and other college experiences. Moreover, emotional connection with campus friends had a positive relationship with a student's likelihood to graduate in four years and in six years, but it was unrelated to cumulative college GPA. Students who reported having at least one campus friend had higher levels of mean emotional connection with campus friends, higher cumulative GPAs, and a higher likelihood of graduating in four and years than those who had no close campus friends. Having a greater proportion of campus friends also had a positive relationship with GPA, four-year graduation, and six-year graduation.

These findings have implications for college activities and programming that improves the likelihood of making campus friendships. The apparent benefits of close campus friendships warrants further focus in student affairs dialogue and practice. In addition, exposing college men to more opportunities to enhance the likelihood of their making friendships with college women may lead to better outcomes (via increased levels of emotional connection with those female friends).