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Studies Suggests Being "Prosocial" in College Improves Experiences in Adulthood

February 5, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

College seniors who prioritize "prosocial" activities while on campus have a better chance to lead more productive lives in adulthood than their peers who may have focused more on their academics or landing a high-paying job post-graduation, according to a University of Notre Dame.

"Prosocial" activities are described as helping friends through difficult situations and participating in community service projects, not making sure your Friday and Saturday nights are planned well in advance. The researchers suggest the results point to the benefits of having goals focused on helping others rather than just helping yourself.

The two studies looked at a sample of 416 college seniors (57 percent were male) who were evaluated again 13 years after graduation, once they reached their mid-30s. As seniors, the respondents had four types of "life goals" in the following categories: creative ("becoming accomplished in one of the performing arts"), prosocial ("helping others who are in difficulty"), financial ("being successful in a business of my own"), and personal recognition ("becoming an authority in my field"). At adulthood, however, those who responded that they still considered themselves prosocial after all those years also described greater personal growth and integrity.

It isn't a stretch to believe that being kind to your peers and spending some time volunteering may make you a better person, or at least allow you to work toward being a better person. It's interesting to think, however, that how you behave in college may have a hand in shaping who you are as an adult. The studies suggest that if your purpose in life is helping others, you're set to become a well-rounded adult. Colleges may want to take notice and provide students with more of these types of activities and opportunities, or even promote service as part of their curriculums.

You don't need to allow your grades to slip or stop working hard to graduate on time and land that first job out of college. The studies are more a reminder that other things are important, too, like evaluating your life goals and giving yourself a priority check once in a while. Make the most of your college experience, and consider volunteerism and service as a way to make you more well-rounded. And if you are that go-getter worried about how the state of economy will hinder your job prospects post-graduation, consider this: community service looks great on a resume, and great on applications for advanced degrees. There are also a large number of scholarships that reward students for their service, so consider all of your options when you're planning that social calendar.


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