The Social and Academic Adjustments of Students to College Life
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
MORGANS, K. A. (2002). The Social and Academic Adjustments of Students to College Life . National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 5. Available online at Retrieved April 30, 2017 .

The Social and Academic Adjustments of Students to College Life

Sponsored by: MUKUL BHALLA (
Abstract Both social and academic adjustments are large parts of college life and it is important to understand what influences these factors. The purpose of this study was to determine if the type of high school one attended effected social and academic adjustments to college life. In this study we considered one’s alcohol intake as social adjustment and academic aspects (GPA, expected grades, hours enrolled in etc.) as academic adjustment. The participants involved were 67 college students from Loyola University New Orleans. The independent variable was the type of high school one attended. The dependent variables were the social and academic adjustments of the participants. The hypothesis of the study was that students who attended private high schools would adjust better academically and students who attended public high schools would adjust better socially. A survey was administered and the responses given were used in t-tests and in correlational tests to determine if significant results could be found. The study did not support the hypothesis; However it was found that students who went to private high schools drank more in college than students who went to a public high school. Limitations of this study included sample size, social desirability and how social and academic adjustments were measured. In the future, researchers may want to look into aspects of social and academic adjustment other than just GPA, grades and alcohol consumption.

For most, the first year of college is a big change. Not knowing those around you, attending new classes with unfamiliar teachers, and being in a new environment. Although some may find it hard to adjust, it may come easily to others. It is important to figure out what it is about the past that will influence how one adjusts in the future. There are many things that influence how one performs in college: location, study habits, distance from home and other personal factors. A strong educational background is crucial for success in a place of higher education. It is a perception throughout society that a private high school education is better than a public high school education. This has been the assumption for a while, and will continue to be the norm in the future. Several studies have tried to determine which is better: public high school or private high school. One source (Coleman & Hoffer, 1987) looked at the drop out rate of both Catholic (private) and public high school students. The drop out rate for public high school students was 14.4% while the rate for Catholic students was 3.4%. There is quite a difference between the two, which could be why the popular belief is that Catholic (private) high schools are better than public high schools. One more statistic mentioned was grade distribution among Catholic private high school students and public high school students. 9.1% of public high school students and 13.8% of Catholic (private) school students had A’s; 17.6% of public high school students and 21.6% of Catholic (private) school students had B’s, the list went on in a similar distribution order. Another source (Alt & Peter, 2002) claimed that private high schools require more academic work than public high schools do. By saying this, they meant that in order to graduate, private high schools have higher standards and requirements than public high schools. It also claimed that those who graduated from a private high school were more likely to have been enrolled in advanced math or science courses. Because students who attended a private high school may have been more likely to be enrolled in an advanced course, it may prepare them better for college. The majority of the research on the topic reveals that private high schools have more to offer than public high schools. Private high schools were found to have more rigorous academic requirements and a less significant dropout rate than public high schools. The debate between private high schools and public high schools is endless. There will always be people pulling for either side, and a clear decision will never be made. Although the battle between private high schools and public high schools is riveting, what this study really looked at was if private schools are so much better, did they help students after they have completed their secondary education? Adjusting to college life is different for everyone, but do those who attended a private high school have advantages over others?Adjusting to college can be a very challenging time for some students. It is very pertinent that one adjusts properly because if they do not, it can lead to changing of schools, or even failure to pass their classes. In one study, it was stated that of the 2.8 million students that enter a higher level of education, 1.6 million will leave their first institution before they graduate. Of the 1.6 million that leave their first institution, 1.2 million will leave and never receive a degree. The source also said that because 75% of students who drop out of college do so within their first two years, it is important that they adjust accordingly during their first year (Boulter, 2002). In a review article by Pantges and Creedon (1978), it was found that social adjustment of students was just as important as academic adjustment. The previous notion had been that academic success was the only concrete way to measure adjustment to college; If one did well in classes, then they were thought to have adjusted well. This review article was important because we now know to study adjustment, we have to look at more than just the academic aspect. Because of what Pantges and Creedon found, it has opened a new doorway to studying adjustments to college. Both social and academic adjustment was looked at in a study done by Franco, Kaczmarek and Matlock (1990). The researchers were trying to determine if there was a difference in adjustment to college between freshmen in a “general sample, a peer-counseling sample and an academically marginal sample”. The levels of the independent variable were the group the freshmen belonged to: general, marginal or peer counseling. The dependent variables were student’s scores on the subscales (social adjustment and academic adjustment, among others). They found that in the academic adjustment subscale and in the social adjustment subscale, academically marginal students scored less than the general sample and the peer-counseling sample. This means that academically marginal students did not adjust academically and socially as well as the sample group and the peer-counseling group. This study was important because it demonstrated that academic and social adjustment are different for students with only marginal academic abilities and students with general academic abilities. If it is true that students who attended a private high school had a stronger education than those who attended a public high school, then this study has some relevance. In this particular study private high school students may have had a bigger advantage than those who attended a public high school. This study also demonstrated that a student’s academic ability does impact their social and academic adjusting abilities. The next study looked at a certain component that the researchers believed would have an effect on one’s overall adjustment to college. A study conducted by Brier and Paul (2001) looked at friendsickness as a determinant of one’s adjustment to college. They established from previous studies that when people lose their familiar group of friends, and are put into an unfamiliar environment, emotional triggers of grief and mourning can be prompted. The researchers inferred that the tighter the group of friends is, the harder it would be for the members to move on without their old friends. In many private high schools, students go to school with the same group of people from Kindergarten on through high school. In public high schools this is often not the case. Therefore it can be assumed that private school students have a tighter group of friends, and it would be harder for them to spread out and find new friends in college. If it is harder for students to expand and meet new people, their social adjustment to college life may be hindered. This may restrain their social adjustment more than it would students who attended public high school. However, being able to make friends is only one way to measure social adjustment, there are others to take into consideration. Of the many factors that go into social adjustment, alcohol, partying and drugs are very prevalent on most college campuses. Students who drink are more socially accepted in college than those who do not drink, thus indicating that if students do not consume alcohol their social adjustment may be less prevalent than students who do consume alcohol. Alcohol use is problematic in high schools and colleges around the nation. In a study conducted about alcohol use in high school and college it was found that the more a person drank in high school, the more they tended to drink in a 4-year college setting (Yu, 2001). The impact of alcohol use in high school also is correlated with alcohol problems during college. Over indulging in alcohol can be very detrimental to one’s adjustment period. In our study, we examined the link between adjustment to college and the type of secondary school attended (public and non-public). There has not been much research done in this area, therefore it was a good area to study. We surveyed college freshman about their alcohol tendencies, grades and other aspects of college adjustment. There have been numerous studies about public and non-public high schools, but not many that link them to college adjustment. Our hypotheses is that college students from private high schools will adjust better academically than those from public high schools; However, college students from public high schools will adjust better socially than those from private high schools. The variables in this study were alcohol consumption, academic performance in high school and college, location and type of secondary school attended, types of classes taken and amount of hours taken.

Participants The participants in this study consisted of 67 college students from Loyola University New Orleans. There were 20 male participants and 47 female participants. All participants were over the age of 18 and were volunteers recruited through convenience sampling. Some participants received credit for participation. Participants were recruited from psychology courses, as well as through the Human Participants Board of the Psychology Department. Materials The materials used in this study consisted of consent forms (2 per participant) and a survey, consisting of 19 questions, to be filled out during the allotted time. One consent form was to be signed by each participant and given back to the researchers and the other form was for the participants to keep. No published instruments were used in this study. In order to measure academic adjustment the researchers constructed a survey that asked for information concerning academic performance (what was your GPA in high school? What is the average of your expected grades for your first semester in college?). In order to measure social adjustment we asked about participant’s alcohol consumption in both high school and college (how much alcohol do you drink per week? per sitting? in college and high school). A copy of the survey can be found in the Appendix.Design and Procedure The current study utilized a quasi-experimental design. The independent variable was the type of secondary school the participants attended. The independent variable had four levels: public, private, boarding or other (which the participant specified). The dependent variables of this study were the social and academic adjustment of the participants. The controls of this study were that the survey administered was the same for everyone, and all participants were tested in a classroom setting. All participants were put in groups in accordance with when they signed up to partake in the study. They arrived at the designated classroom and sat down at the desk of their choice. Participants were reminded that if they felt uncomfortable at any time throughout their participation, they could leave without being penalized. Once participants were seated, they were given two consent forms. One consent form was for them to sign and date and give back to us, the other was for their own records. After consent was given the surveys were handed out. Each participant was given one survey and was given 15-30 minutes to complete the survey. They were all asked to not put their names on the survey for their own confidentiality. After everyone completed the survey, all the participants were debriefed. During the debriefing, because there were some sensitive subjects in the survey (alcohol tendencies and academic performance) all participants were told that if they felt uncomfortable at any time during their participation they could seek counseling in the Counseling and Career Services. The location and phone number of the Counseling and Career Services was given during the debriefing and it could be found on their consent form.

Results Our hypothesis was that students who attended private high schools would adjust better academically to college and students who attended a public high school would adjust better socially to college. Our null hypothesis was that the type of high school one attended would not have any effect on social or academic adjustment in college. We defined social adjustment primarily as one’s alcohol consumption in both high school and college. Academic adjustment was primarily defined as one’s grades in high school and college along with GPA. Our study consisted of 67 participants. Of those 67 participants, 25 attended public high school, 38 attended private high school, 2 attended boarding school and 2 were marked “other” with no specification. Although we had hoped to get a lot of freshman to participate in our study, there were only 13 freshman participants. Regarding our dependent variables of academic and social adjustment, we found that students did not drink as much as we thought they would. 42 of the participants reported that they consume alcohol 1-3 times/week in college, and 32 of the participants said that they did not drink at all in high school. An interesting finding we noticed about expected grades in college was that a lot of the participants were extremely optimistic. 62 of the participants expected their average grades in all their classes to be an A or a B. We used an independent samples T-test to analyze our data but were not able to conclude that our hypothesis was true. Public high school social adjustment (M = 7.8800, SD = 1.9647) and academic adjustment (M = 8.2, SD = 1.8257). Private high school social adjustment (M = 8.5, SD = 1.6399) and academic adjustment (M = 7.7105, SD = 2.1549). No significant differences were found between public and private high school adjustment for academic adjustment (t = .337, n.s.) and for social adjustment (t = .198, n.s.) We were, however, able to conclude that there was a difference in amount of drinking done by students in college based on if they went to a private high school or a public high school. We found that students who attended private high schools drank more in college than those who attended a public high school (t = .019, p < .05). This finding went against our hypothesis because we used drinking as the main component of social adjustment in our study. Therefore, if private high school students are drinking more in college than public high school students are, they are (by our terms) adjusting better socially to college than public high school students are.

The purpose of our study was to determine if there is a difference in academic and social adjustment in college based on the type of high school one attended. Although we were not able to find anything that was in accordance with our hypothesis, we ran an exploratory correlational analyses for all of our variables and found other interesting results. One result we determined was that academic adjustment was significantly related to college grades (r = .69, p < .01). This means that students who felt they were adjusting well academically suspected that their college grades would be good. This goes along with how we defined academic adjustment as grades in college. We also found a negative correlation between alcohol consumption in high school and GPA in high school ( r = -.258, p < .05); This implies that the more students drank in high school, the lower their GPA’s were. Another correlation we found was that the number of college credit hours in which one is enrolled is positively correlated with how many hours they study per week (r = .340, p < .05); This finding implies that the more classes one is enrolled in, the more they study. There are many limitations to take into consideration when looking at our research study. One limitation of our study may be that the survey did not consist of enough varieties of questions related to social and academic adjustment. In our study alcohol consumption is the primary definition of social adjustment and grades and GPA of academic adjustment, but these are not the only factors to explore. Factors such as the number of friends one has and feelings of loneliness (just an example of a few) are examples of other things that could influence academic and social adjustment that were not incorporated into our survey. Another limitation may be that a lot of the participants did not answer the questions. This could be for many reasons: they were confused by the question, they did not know what to answer, etc. There were some participants who were confused about their high school location (suburbs, urban, inner-city or rural).therefore they may have answered the question wrong. We recorded any questions not answered as missing data. Another limitation to take into consideration is that some of the participants may have tried to figure out what our study was about and tried to answer questions according to how they thought we wanted them answered. Therefore the answers given may not have been their own true feelings, only what they thought we wanted. Our study is in accordance with one of the previous research mentioned. In one particular study it was found that the more a person drank in high school, the more they would drink in college (Yu, 2001). We found this to be true as well. Our study was also in accordance with a review article that found social adjustment was just as pertinent as social adjustment. We tried to treat both types of adjustment equally by asking an equal number of questions pertaining to both social and academic adjustment. Our study may be difficult to generalize because it consisted of only 67 participants. Because this is a small sample size, it may not be enough to generalize to college students everywhere, considering how many people attend colleges around the world. The location of our school (New Orleans) may also have had an impact on our results (maybe students who live in other areas have different drinking and/or studying habits). In future studies regarding social and academic adjustment, researchers should work towards obtaining a larger sample size, and asking questions related to more aspects of social and academic adjustment such as: how many friends one has, amount of social interaction, introversion/extroversion, lonliness one feels etc.

Alt, M. N., & Peter, K (2002). Private schools: A brief portrait. Online source available: http//, L. T. (2002). Self-concept as a predictor of college freshman academic adjustment. College Student Journal, 36, 234-246. Brier, S. & Paul, E. L. (2001). Friendsickness in the transition to college: Precollege predictors and college adjustment correlates. Journal of Counseling and Development, 79, 77-88. Coleman, J. S., & Hoffer, T (1987). Public and Private High Schools- The Impact ofCommunities (p 99, p.101) New York: Basic Books Incorporated.Creedon, C. F., & Pantages, T. J. (1978). Studies of college attrition: 1950-1975. Review of Education Research, 48, 49-101. Franco, J. N., Kaczmarek, P. G., & Matlock, C. G. (1990). Assessment of college adjustment in three freshman groups’. Psychological Reports, 66, 1195-1202. Yu, J. & Shacket, R. W. (2001). Alcohol use in high school: Predicting student’s alcohol use and alcohol problems in four-year colleges. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 27, 775-793.

College Life Activities

Please circle one:


Male Female

2. Year in School:


3.What type of high school did you attend?

Public Private Boarding Other (please specify):________________

4.Was your high school:

Single sex male Single sex female Co-ed

5. Was your high school: Catholic Non-Religious Other Religious (specify):____________________

6. How often did you drink in high school? (by drinking we mean engaging and participating in

activities involving alcohol consumption. Please skip this question if you never drank alcohol in

high school)


7. How often do you drink at college? (Skip this question if you don’t drink alcohol)


8. When you drink alcohol, how many drinks do you usually consume in one sitting (i.e. at each

particular location you at which consume alcohol)? (skip this question if you never drink


_________alcoholic drinks

9. Where do you go drinking? (select all that apply, skip this question if you do not drink


Bars Dorm Room Clubs Other .

10. Where was your high school located?

Suburbs Urban Inner-city Rural

11. What was your high school gpa? (on a 4 point scale) .

12. What do you expect your average grade in your classes to be this semester? (circle one)


13. Rate the academic difficulty of your high school in comparison to Loyola University on a

scale of 1-10 (1 being your high school was a lot easier than Loyola, 10 being that your high

school was as difficult or more difficult than Loyola.)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 (easier) (harder)

14. What is your major?__________________________________________

15. Are you taking honors courses or regular or both?__________________

16. How many hours are you taking this semester?

12 15 18 other (please specify how many)_________

17. How many hrs/week do you spend studying?


18. How do you think you’re adjusting to college life socially? (on a scale of 1-10, 1 being not

adjusting well at all and 10 being adjusting very well)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

(not adjusting well) (adjusting very well)

19. How do you think you’re adjusting to college life academically?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

(not adjusting well) (adjusting very well)

Submitted 12/12/2002 10:35:30 AM
Last Edited 12/12/2002 10:43:02 AM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

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