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Brown students more confident in social skills than attractiveness, intelligence

A large group of people in front of Sayles Hall
Photo: “Brown's Open Curriculum 50 years picnic” by Kenneth C. Zirkel, licensed under CC 3.0.

By Griffin Steele

“I think Brown has a wide array of different kinds of students, some of them with better social skills than others” said one junior who took BOP’s March 2023 poll.

From asking “How was your break?” to “What classes are you taking?” Brown students are known for their advanced interpersonal interactions.

According to the Brown Opinion Project’s March 2023 poll, almost 63% of Brown students think that their social skills are better than those of their peers, showing that Brown students are more confident in their social skills than their attractiveness (49% self-reported as "more attractive") and intelligence (43.9% "more intelligent").

But what did these social savants have to say about their peers? In true polite fashion, most students avoided generalizing too strongly:

“I think it’s a mix. It depends on the kind of people you are around. I think Brown has a wide array of different kinds of students, some of them with better social skills than others” wavered one junior.

Another junior agreed: “I feel like there is such a range. I don’t know about the typical Brown student, but I feel like [they are] average.”

Others were more willing to call out when they thought others were lacking people skills.

One sophomore reported: “Whenever I go anywhere I feel like I am being shoved around.” Spring Weekend 2022 attendees are sure to relate to this sentiment. “I am in CS and I think there is a lack in some aspects of social skills in the community,” they continued.

Physical science concentrators, which include those in the aforementioned computer science department, apparently disagree: 58% indicated that they had good social skills, including the 12% who think their interpersonal skills are significantly better than those of the average Brown student.

In fact, attitudes towards social skills were remarkably similar across concentrations and gender, with 66% of men and 63% of women indicating proficiency. Students who attended private school were marginally more confident than their public school peers, with 66% vs 61% reporting strength in socializing.

The largest gap was between the 69% of humanities concentrators and 58% of life sciences and physical sciences concentrators feeling affable.

Even those who were confident, though, sometimes felt unsociable.

One junior explained that a small college campus environment can make socializing uniquely stressful: “It’s a square mile radius of everyone I have ever kissed and everyone I have ever slept with and everyone I have ever known. We live together, we eat together… I don’t usually have to worry about running into someone who was in my bed naked the day before!... It’s anxiety producing and that’s not my fault.”

“I think that social skills are very dependent on the environment. I’ll be a social rockstar in one environment but awkward in a different one, so I think at Brown overall I try to sum those up and take the average, but it depends on which spaces I’m in,” one senior shared.

Finally, others highlighted why some students seem reserved.

“I feel like Brown students tend to stick to people more like themselves, so in the sense of reaching out to different types of people, [they] can struggle a lot,” reported one sophomore.

A senior added: “I’m from New England, so I tend to be more closed off, and sort of like getting to my destination.”

Perhaps the best advice, then, for someone looking to make new friends is to approach a private school-attending senior man (from outside New England), studying humanities, of course, and shoot their shot. According to BOP data and interviewees’ takes, that person is most likely to want to chat.

Note: All quoted poll-takers remain anonymous to maintain the integrity of Brown Opinion Project surveys. Brown Opinion Project conducted its March 2023 poll on March 1st, March 2nd, and March 6th, collecting 700 total responses from Brown undergraduate students. The margin of error is 3.84% with 95% confidence.


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