Higher education cliques: coolness in college

By on March 9, 2005

Remember high school? You probably knew exactly what group you belonged to and who your friends were. During our collegiate career and having met new people, have old cliques replaced with a more diverse group of friends or has college created a level of higher-high school bonds?

Why do cliques form?

Sociology professor Suzanne Hudd said, “It seems that there is some “security” in a clique of other people like oneself who affirm that whatever I’ve chosen is acceptable to a group of people. Security and affirmation of choices seem like they might be motivating factors.”

“I also think many people seek to avoid differences. Dealing with difference stretches us. A clique – a group of people who believes and acts in similar ways to me – enables me to avoid this kind of analysis of my own thoughts. It is just easier to be with people like you who affirm, rather than question what you do,” Hudd said.

Are college cliques just as bad as high school? There are obvious distinct groups of friends in college; however, not all students feel this is problematic.

“[Cliques are] not as bad as high school, but you know who you want to be friends with especially after freshman year,”said senior marketing major Kimmy Masterson.

“It’s not as dramatic as high school when [for example] your friends didn’t like one person the whole group didn’t like them. That is the difference in college-it’s easier to get along with groups here,” Masterson said.

“People here just sometimes fall into place with people with similar backgrounds but I don’t feel that it has caused barriers like it did back in high school,” Masterson said. “No need to compete, everyone has found their place.”

Not everyone agrees cliques are a thing of the past. “Everyone is in everyone’s business. There are the cool kids, jocks, meatheads and nerds just like in high school,” senior business major Brad Palazzo said.

Regardless of the presence of cliques, there is a change since high school. Senior nursing major Victoria Backus said, “The difference from high school is that now we’re comfortable in our own skin. There’s a sense of establishment here without the awkwardness of ‘growing up’.”

“At this stage of our collegiate career, I think that most people are comfortable enough with themselves not to be competing for popularity,” Backus said.

Senior Charles Cassanelli said, “Groups now do not compete as much as groups in high school. Yes, you make similar friends but it’s different because the friends that you meet at school grew up different from you so they have different values and beliefs.”

“I am more open to make new friends here then I am with kids from high school because I have grown apart from many of them and grew closer to kids out here,” Cassanelli said.

For some size does matter. “When a group is small and people can see the “options” around them of subgroups they could be part of, perhaps they are more likely to value cliques,” Hudd said. “I would guess that cliques might be less evident or important on a large campus where there is more diversity, and therefore, more of an “anything goes” philosophy.”

Former Quinnipiac student Brad Lebeau, who now attends Southern Connecticut University, feels cliques are more prominent at a smaller school.

“QU seems a lot more divided up. QU is close to being a high school, not worse but just as bad,” Lebeau said. “That’s just how people are especially at a smaller school, you see the same people”

On the other hand, things are different at a larger university like Southern. “There are cliques but I haven’t noticed it as much. You see a lot of different people wherever you go not the same people in most of your classes,” Lebeau said.

In some people’s opinions, gender does play a role in the formation of cliques.

“Girls have a totally different attitude. Girls don’t understand how to let things go as easily as males,” Cassanelli said.

Girls are not the only ones forming cliques. “Guys can be bad also,” Lebeau said. “They are more upfront about it. They don’t talk behind there back as much. They will be blunt about it if they don’t like someone.”

For some students, cliques do not exist, but for others they are in plain sight.

“People judge people and until that doesn’t happen anymore there will always be cliques,” Palazzo said.

In Hudd’s opinion, cliques tend to dissolve after high school and college.

“I would say there have definitely been times in my adult life where I have felt part of an “out group.” I think the issue of “cliques” is less pertinent to adult life, however, because cliques become the minority experience,” Hudd said. “I don’t know many adults who spend a great deal of time labeling other groups of adults, although it certainly does happen on occasion.”


About Nicole Silva