INTRODUCTION For many students, college means moving out of their parentsí house. Living on-campus is required for all out-of-state students during their first year at an institution. After their freshman year, students may choose to live off campus or remain in the dormitories. Being on campus all of the time is conducive to a studentís participation in on campus activities, these students are more likely to take advantage of the programs and activities that the university has to offer (Chapman & Pascarella, 1983). Living off campus has several benefits of its own. Firstly, the strict rules that govern residence hall living are nonexistent in an off campus residency. Secondly, living off campus allows the student to remain in the same living environment without having to move out at the end of each academic year. There have been studies done to explore the social integration of college students. Chapman & Pascarellaís (1983) study assessed the academic and social integration of college students. They found that students in residential institutions tended to be higher in both academic and social integration, while commuter students appeared to be less involved in campus-based academic activities. In this sense, college studentís involvement appears to be related to the opportunity to participate in terms of proximity and location. Other studies have sought to research college studentsí academic performance and social activities. Bauer & Liang (2003) studied how personality traits affected a studentís social involvement. Other research includes the social life of students living on campus (Switzer & Taylor, 1983). Because literature on this subject seems limited, the social activity of college studentís within an academic and non-academic setting was investigated with the location of residency being the variant. For research purposes, the location of residency is defined as whether it is on or off campus. Previous research has found that living on campus increases an individualís likelihood of becoming socially involved in the university and to make more friends due to the living arrangements. Since living in the dorms does not allow for much privacy it has been concluded that students that continue to live in the dormitories are more socially inclined than those students that choose to live off campus (Switzer & Taylor, 1983). Research also shows that social opportunities were among the most important factors when students decided whether to live on-campus (Cleave, 1996). Findings from the same study demonstrated that living in the residence halls has positive effects on students, including increased levels of persistence, more involvement in campus activities and a greater interaction with members of the faculty and peers. The purpose of this study is to explore the differences in social activity between college students living on campus and college commuters. The research project will explore the following questions: Are college students living on campus more socially active than those students who live off campus? Is there a difference in the amount of social activity between commuters that live with their parents and commuters that live on their own? It is hypothesized that college studentsí social activity is greater when the student lives on campus as opposed to off campus. It is also hypothesized that social activity is different between commuters that live with their parents and commuters that live on their. own. I expect to find that students that live on campus are more socially involved in university activities as well as in non-academic activities.
Forty-two undergraduate students, both males and females, attending Loyola University New Orleans served as unpaid subjects in the Fall of 2003. They volunteered to participate in a study of the social activity of college students. The subjects were 18 years of age or older. Participants had to participate in research experiments in order to fulfill class requirements. Therefore, they had that as an incentive to participate in the study. Subjects were recruited through a posting on the psychology departmentís human participant research pool. The general purpose of the study was briefly explained on the sign up sheet, participants signed up willingly for a time that was convenient to them.Materials All subjects completed a survey consisting of 23 questions. A portion of the questions was adapted from Inkelas and Weismanís Different by Design (2003) A copy of the survey instrument is enclosed. Five questions asked for demographics including, sex, class, living arrangements, age and area of concentration (i.e. Majors and minors). In order to assess the subjectís involvement the survey asked if the subject was involved in any social clubs, organizations or teams. This question was followed by an open-ended question regarding the activities involved in and any positions held. The survey also asked the number of times per week that a student went out for non-academic purposes. Seven questions asked the subject to rate their level of involvement and overall transition to college. The scale went from not at all, to very, depending on the question (i.e. not at all confident, very confident etc.) Nine questions asked the subject to rate their level of satisfaction with their current living arrangements. This consisted of a five point liken scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Design and Procedures When the participants arrived at the study site, they were given two copies of the informed consent form. They were asked to sign and date both of the copies, keeping one for their personal records and surrendering one to the researchers. The informed consent form described the studyís general purpose, the risks and benefits to the participant as well as our policy of anonymity and confidentiality. Participants were instructed not to put their names anywhere on the survey. The survey was expected to take no more than twenty (20) minutes to complete. At the end of twenty (20) minutes participants were asked to turn in their surveys, whether or not they were completed in full. Once the entire group was finished the researchers explained the purpose of the study in detail, as well as what they expected to find.
RESULTS The hypothesis that students living on campus would have higher levels of social activity than students that live off campus was not supported. There was no difference in levels of activity for the two groups t (39) = 1.489, p > 0.05. However, further analyses yielded results that approached significance. Participation in Greek-letter organizations had higher levels of activity and had a t (39) = 1.750, p = 0.088; participation in clubs and organizations yielded a t (39) = 1.707, p = 0.096. As a studentís participation in Greek letter organizations, as well as in clubs and organizations, increased, so did their level of social activity.To further analyze the data, a Pearsonís Correlation matrix was used. It was evident that the higher a subject scored on the questions regarding openness to new perspectives the lower their score on the times per week they engaged in social activity outside of an academic setting; r = -0.34, p < 0.05. Furthermore, a personís sense of belonging at the institution related to their level of confidence in their transition to college; r = 0.359, p < 0.05.
DISCUSSION The results of this study indicated that there was no noticeable difference in social activity between students that resided on campus and students that resided off campus. The hypothesis that students who live with their parents would have decreased levels of social activity was not supported either. The lack of support for these hypotheses is possibly due to the small sample size. This is a limitation that was faced and was obviously detrimental to the results obtained. However, statistical analysis of the data showed that the results for the social activity of students that participated in Greek organizations as well as in other clubs approached significance levels. A peculiar finding was that high scores on openness (liking other perspectives) seemed to indicate a lowered likelihood of going out. It is a good thing to have an open mind and learn about different perspectives, one would even assume that a person who indicates this tendency would be more sociable and hence go out more, however the data shows that this is not necessarily true. The reason being that people seldom put what they say into practice and therefore this is a contradictory finding that is inexplicable for the time being. The data also suggests that a studentís sense of belonging relates to their perceived level of confidence in their transition to college. This is easily applied to a real situation, if a student is confident in his/her transition to college then he/she is more likely to feel that they belong at that institution as opposed to a student who is not at all confident in his/her transition to college. In that case a student is less likely to have a sense of belonging.A studentís level of involvement was influenced by their feelings of belonging. This relates to the previously mentioned finding in that a student that is confident will have a sense of belonging and is therefore in a position to become socially involved within that institution. By the same token, a student that is satisfied with his/her residence, regardless of whether they live on or off campus, is more likely to feel like they belong at the institution.It can be concluded that overall satisfaction with residency and college life as a whole contributes to a studentís social involvement. Future studies could focus solely on the social activity of college commuters both within and outside of an academic setting. They are a special population that is often neglected and excluded by universities. A new group in Loyola, Wolves on the Move, was set up to allow commuters to enjoy the college experience and be a part of activities by catering especially to them. Perhaps more of these types of organizations will be seen on other campuses. Further research on the social activity of college students and itís relationship to the studentís living arrangements needs to be done. This could allow universities to better the residence hall system and make it more appealing and beneficial to students. If universities advertise living on campus as a positive, and social experience that promotes social growth they could appeal to students to live on campus and take advantage of the campus facility. The results indicate that participation of any kind contributes to increased levels of social activity.
REFERENCES Bauer, K. W., & Liang, Q. (2003) The effect of personality and precollege characteristics on first-year activities and academic performance. Journal of College Student Development, 44, 227-290.
Chapman, D. W., & Pascarella, E. T. (1983) Predictors of academic and social integration of college students. Research in Higher Education, 19, 295- 321.
Cleave, S. L., (1996) Residence retention: Reasons students choose to return or not to return. College Student Journal, 30, 187-200.
Inkelas, K. K, & Weisman, J. L. (2003) Different by design: An examination of student outcomes among participants in three types of living-learning program participants. Journal of College Student Development, 44, 335-368.
Switzer, J., & Taylor, R. B. (1983) Sociability versus privacy of residential choice: Impacts of personality and local social ties. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 4, 123-136.