SMU Student Shares College Friendship Research

When SMU senior Page Hurley transferred to SMU in 2015, she didn’t know a soul, but she soon found new friends in her classes.

(ABOVE: Page Hurley fields questions from other SMU students about her prize-winning research on friendship. Courtesy SMU)

Along the way, the psychology major found a topic for her senior research project – college friendship.

Her research won the grand prize at SMU’s Research Day Colloquium, but the crowd of students and faculty members who gathered around Hurley to ask questions made it clear her research was more than academic.

“Friendship is a personal topic,” Hurley said. “People can relate to it and apply the research to their lives.”

With the help of Chrystyna Kouros, SMU associate professor of psychology, and her own research, here are Hurley’s five research-based tips for making and keeping friends in college:

1. Friendship is good for you.

Better quality friendships can increase psychological well-being and decrease negative emotions like anxiety and depression.

2. Students with close friends are more likely to stay in college.

College students who report having close friends in college are more likely to attain their academic goals. One study found a person whose close friend left college within the first two years also was more likely to leave college.

3. Invest in friendships.

Face-to-face interactions do matter. Individuals who engage in frequent online social interactions report being more lonely and unhappy. Those who reported making lifelong friends in college attributed their success to mutual investment in the friendship and similarity between the two friends. So put down the phone and talk to people.

4. Friends with benefits?

Maybe not. Research suggests that being “friends with benefits” – friends who also have casual sex –can be detrimental to psychological well-being, particularly among women. Make sure friends share similar expectations.

5. The key to maintaining good, quality friendships?

A successful relationship – one that is related to better psychological well-being – is one that meets the needs of both people. Check in with your friends to make sure their needs are being met, and speak up to your friends if your own needs are not. That way, your lines of communication are open and you can make sure you are both benefiting from the friendship.

Page Hurley graduated May 18 from SMU with three majors – psychology, chemistry and biology, and a minor, neuroscience. The Reno, Nevada, native planned to put her research into practice soon when she moves to Waco, to continue her studies as a doctoral student in Baylor University’s psychology and neuroscience program.

“I don’t know a single person there,” she said.

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