When you’re in high school, it can seem like being popular is the most important thing in the world. But what happens to people who are popular in high school after they graduate? What we found out might not be what you would expect.

Being popular in high school tends to have adverse outcomes once someone enters early adulthood. But it all depends on what type of popularity someone has because it turns out there are two types. They are status and likability.

What is status?
Status refers to people who have a lot of power and influence over others. People who have status tend to have a lot of admirers and loose friendships. It’s the kind of popularity you have likely seen in classic teen movies like Mean Girls and High School Musical.

People who have a lot “status” in high school actually face more social anxiety later in life. They are also more likely to suffer from depression or addiction and have problems with the law.

What is likability?
Likability refers to, unsurprisingly, how well liked someone is. People who are likable tend to have a handful of strong, close friendships. It is this type of popularity that tends to serve people well later in life. Psychologists believe that people who have a few strong friendships in high school have the ability to maintain similar patterns in adulthood, which results in a higher sense of self worth and better professional, social, and romantic relationships.

Therefore, it’s not the quantity of your friendships in high school that seems to matter later in life. It’s the quality. So having a few, strong friendships in high school will benefit you more later in life than having a ton of acquaintances.

SOURCES:

The Cost of Being Cool: How Adolescent Pseudomature Behavior Maps onto Adult Adjustment

Cracking the Popularity Code

A downside to being popular in high school, study says

What happens to ‘cool’ kids? New study sheds light

High School Popularity Might Backfire Later in Life

How Does Being Popular in High School Affect Your Future? 28 February,2018Matthew Green

Author

Matthew Green

Matthew Green produces and edits The Lowdown, KQED’s multimedia news education blog, an online resource for educators and the general public. He previously taught journalism at Fremont High School in East Oakland, and has written for numerous local publications, including the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. Email: mgreen@kqed.org; Twitter: @MGreenKQED

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