Friends with (success-inducing) Benefits: How to Help You and Your Friends Succeed in College

Connecting with others in college has often been viewed as a distraction from the ultimate goals of your education. But recent research is showing the clear benefits of a social network of friends to personal well-being and academic success. Bonus: all parties reap the rewards of friendship!

Here are ways you can help each other succeed:

Support each other’s work.

Even pets can help!

Any of your friends can proofread your papers or remind you of due dates. And you can build friendships from your academic interactions.

  • Talk to your classmates and set up study groups.
  • Create a reading group where you share the reading load and write up summaries for group members.
  • Schedule opportunities to engage with your classmates outside of class.

These types of friendships have been shown to have the most positive academic impact on everyone’s academic success.

Affirm each other.

A high five while jumping in the snow is one of the best affirmations.

Celebrate efforts together. After your friend has been studying non-stop for an exam, go to a soccer game together to celebrate being done studying. As a reminder: focus on the effort rather than the outcome. An A on a test is great, but your friend will feel more supported when you notice the time she put into studying instead of the grade received.

Support healthy behaviors.

Generally doing anything that makes you feel like a kid again counts as health-supportive.

Hang out while moving your body – go for bike rides, walk and talk, play a round of golf – whatever sounds fun. Be body positive and food positive – no body- or food-shaming allowed! Encourage sleep and find ways to help your friends sleep well. Earplugs, white noise machines, and light-blocking window shades or eye masks are helpful gifts to friends or roommates.

Avoid stress competition.

Stress is not a competition.

We know the typical answer to “how are you doing?” is “stressed” or “busy.” But this perpetuates the idea that to be a UNC student means you’re constantly stressed. A better answer? “Life is full right now.” Or telling your friend something fun you recently did and asking them what they’ve been doing to take a break.


Even the walls recognize the importance of listening.

Feeling genuinely heard and accepted is one of our most important needs.  Providing empathy and acceptance is one of the most soothing things one can do for another.

As the listener:

  • Try to give your full attention.
  • Show that you are listening by maintaining eye contact.
  • Use body language to show you’re paying attention. Nodding your head and mirroring your friend’s feelings with your facial expressions can make people feel heard.
  • Listen non-judgmentally – meaning resist the impulse to judge who is right or wrong, good or bad, should or should not have done something.
  • Try not to make assumptions.
  • Reflect back what you hear and ask the person with, “did I get it?”
  • Ask, “What would help?”
  • Don’t be too quick to “fix” the problem or give advice.  Make sure you show you understand what the other person’s needs and feelings are first.

Be like family.

Hugs for the win!

What did your family do to support you that you loved? Some ideas:

  • Cook each other dinner.
  • Ask if your friend needs anything when you head to the store.
  • Invite your friend to join you on outings.
  • Celebrate milestones together.
  • Be authentic with each other.

Ultimately, you have an opportunity at UNC to create the community you need to be successful here. Sometimes that takes a bit of vulnerability to put yourself out there or to be honest with someone about your current challenges, but we guarantee it’s worth the effort.

Having trouble getting connected? If you’re in the residence hall, check in with your RA or Community Director staff. If you’re not living on campus, look into student organizations that fit your interests.

This blog was written by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator. 

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