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Hanging with Smarties Ups GPA

High-school students whose friends get higher marks tend to raise their own grade-point averages over time. Karen Hopkin reports

Schools are well-known reservoirs of contagion where students share all sorts of communicable conditions: coughs, colds, flu, you name it. But germs aren’t the only things kids can catch from their friends. If they’re lucky, they could come down with a 4.0. Because a new study shows that high-schoolers whose friends get higher marks tend to raise their own grade-point averages over time. The findings are in the journal PLOS One. [Deanna Blansky et al., Spread of Academic Success in a High School Social Network]

That our social circles influence us is not news. For example, studies have shown that the fatter your friends, the more likely you’re also overweight.

In the grade-point study, researchers took to the classroom to see whether academic achievement might be as contagious as obesity. They asked 158 eleventh-graders to go down a class roster and point out their pals. Then they checked everyone’s report cards at the time of the survey, and again a year later. 

The researchers found that those students whose friends were outshining them academically tended to improve their grades over the year. Whereas those who were hanging out with academic underachievers let their grades slide. So, go ahead. Befriend a brainiac. You might just learn something.

—Karen Hopkin

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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