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  • Writer's pictureDonna Baines

From Likes to Leverage: Using Social Capital to Navigate the World

Navigating life after high school is an exciting but stressful time for teenagers. Add the pressure of college admissions to a daunting and competitive process, and it could start to get overwhelming. In studying who gets admitted to their top schools and who doesn't, we try to understand and influence the factors that we can control. While grades and test scores are undoubtedly important, students can also learn to gain an advantage by leveraging their "social capital."

So, what is social capital? It is not a popularity contest. It is not about having the most friends or being the most liked.

Social capital refers to the connections and relationships you have with other people, and how those connections can help you in different ways. It's like having a network of people who can support you and offer you opportunities, whether it's getting a job or finding new friends. Just like having money or resources, having a strong social network can be really valuable and can help you achieve your goals. By cultivating and utilizing these resources, students can expand their opportunities after high school by exploring colleges or careers that they may have never considered before.

1. One way students can use social capital is by tapping into university alumni networks. Many colleges have active alumni associations that can offer valuable resources and connections. Students can attend alumni events, reach out to alumni for advice and mentorship, and even ask for letters of recommendation from alumni who have connections to the college admissions office. For example, a student who has a family member or friend who is an alum of a college may have access to information about the college's culture, values, and admissions process that is not readily available to the general public.

2. Another way to leverage social capital is through extracurricular activities. Students who participate in extracurricular activities can build connections with their peers and with adults in their community who may have connections to colleges. For example, a student who participates in a community service organization may have the opportunity to work with professionals in their field of interest, who can provide valuable insights and potentially even a letter of recommendation.

3. Social media can also be a powerful tool for building social capital. Students can use social media platforms like LinkedIn to connect with alumni, professionals, and other individuals who can offer advice and mentorship. By sharing their accomplishments and interests on social media, students can build their personal brand and attract the attention of college admissions officers and future employers.

4. Finally, students can use their social capital to improve their essays and personal statements. By seeking feedback from teachers, mentors, and other individuals in their network, students can refine their writing and showcase their unique perspectives and experiences. A well-crafted essay can make a strong impression on college admissions officers and set a student apart from the competition.

In conclusion, students who understand and utilize their network relationships can strengthen their position in the college admissions process. By tapping into alumni networks, participating in extracurricular activities, leveraging social media, and refining their essays, students can improve their chances of admission to their desired colleges. While grades and test scores are important, social capital can provide an edge that sets a student apart from the competition. However, it is important for students to remember that personal connections are just one piece of the puzzle, and they should focus on building a strong academic and extracurricular profile in addition to cultivating their social network.

Book your first free career or college planning session today!

Donna Baines

Baines College Consulting, LLC

Donna has 20 years of college admissions and financial aid experience. She has helped thousands of high school students all over the United States with their college and career goals.

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