Party Culture at College Can Derail Women’s Academic Aspirations

Dr. Armstrong

Dr. Armstrong

A study by Elizabeth A. Armstrong, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan, and Laura Hamilton, an assistant professor at the University of California at Merced, found that women students in colleges tend to form similar type cliques that are typical in American high schools.

The five-year study, recently published in Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality (Harvard University Press), followed women who started college on the same floor of a large dormitory at a state-operated university. The study found although only one third of the students began college as what the authors describe as “socialites or wannabes,” almost all the women were impacted by the party culture prevalent in the dormitory. The authors found that the women who came to college to succeed academically were judged by their peers mainly on their success in attracting the attention of men and being accepted into a sorority.

“The pressures these young women encounter make it very difficult for them to focus on academics,” Dr. Armstrong said. “For many the experience is not a good one, and we found that it can affect the trajectories of their lives for many years to come. The fit between a student and a college should be considered, and this includes social fit as well as academic fit. The culture of the school is extremely important in determining what the impact of attending a particular school will be down the road.”

Dr. Armstrong joined the University of Michigan faculty in 2009. She previously taught at Indiana University. A graduate of the University of Michigan, she holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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