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To what extent do connections determine your college success?

jdusterjduster Registered User Posts: 137 Junior Member
At first, I thought Asians and Indians going into STEM fields in the United States was a racial/cultural phenomenon. But I learned the real reason. First and second generation immigrants, on the whole, don't have many connections. They don't necessarily have the luxury of majoring in Comparative Literature and having their uncle's friend helping them get into a publishing company. As a result, if they want to raise their income , they need to study a field with above average demand.

In the success rates of college graduates (i.e. job placement, salary, etc), I am curious of the extent in which people of well-connected backgrounds can skew the data. For example, a person who does not have family members who know people in industry or above average social skills to build connections by themselves.

To an extent, many wealthy people attend college as a way to qualify them for jobs they already are near-guarenteed to earn. For example, the "percentage of business majors who get a decent paying job" metric includes people who have family members that will employ them and pass down the business to them.

But to what extent is a non-STEM/nursing major a benefit to people who have merit but limited connections?
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Replies to: To what extent do connections determine your college success?

  • romanigypsyeyesromanigypsyeyes Registered User Posts: 31,899 Senior Member
    But I learned the real reason. First and second generation immigrants, on the whole, don't have many connections.

    Neither do most low income students but you don't see them flocking to STEM fields in droves.
  • raclutraclut Registered User Posts: 3,016 Senior Member
    edited July 29
    The choice to choose stem field has nothing to do with connections. In many countries liberal arts majors are not an option that is offered. In high school itself starting 10th grade you work towards a specific field for example if you want to go to medicine you start on the science or stem track from that point. A business major would not be taking the same classes. This forces students to decide on their careers early on. In the U.S. a student can go to college undecided and take classes to figure out their college major. It is not the same in other countries.
    You are misinformed and are making generalizations of other cultures. I find your conclusion humorous.
  • PengsPhilsPengsPhils Registered User Posts: 2,844 Senior Member
    Neither do most low income students but you don't see them flocking to STEM fields in droves.

    Are there numbers on this generally? I'm curious what the trend is there, separate from OP's line of thought.
  • CU123CU123 Registered User Posts: 1,089 Senior Member
    edited July 29
    I know of no study that specific but your premise is correct, connections are the single most important thing in landing a job, whether that be family or friends.
  • Ranza123Ranza123 Registered User Posts: 1,205 Senior Member
    Connections don't necessarily need to be family. There are plenty of people out there without any wealthy uncles in the industry they're looking to go into. Networking is a pretty crucial part of college, especially as an upperclassman, and talking with alumni can help you land a job. I hated the premise of networking and paid no attention to colleges bragging about their "vast alumni network" during my college visits. Luckily, I still ended up at a university with a really great alumni network, and this past summer I've been able to go to events and have one-on-one lunches with a ton of alumni who work in similar fields/geographic area that I want to be in. Even if their career is only loosely related to what I want to do, each of them is able to point me in the direction of one of their friends who also has insight, who can then give me some of their contacts, etc. It took a matter of a couple of weeks to build hundreds of connections on LinkedIn, and I didn't need any wealthy uncles.
  • gardenstategalgardenstategal Registered User Posts: 2,783 Senior Member
    Many alumni are happy to help current students and recent grads of their alma mater. NetworkING is important, and while having family and friends with good connections in your network is helpful, other connections are often the ones that lead to jobs.
  • NEPatsGirlNEPatsGirl Registered User Posts: 2,059 Senior Member
    I've found for my two kids that lower income families do have a significant barrier when it comes to networking. Its something I never realized until they were in high school. What has helped both of them very much is being friendly, hard-working, and learning to not be intimidated by those better educated or affluent. Its been a struggle, we watch other kids get some undeserved perks but without sounding like a cliche, I also believe it "builds character". Character is not something money can buy, nor is integrity or working hard because its the right thing to do. I'll take that over money or good networking contacts any day.
  • raclutraclut Registered User Posts: 3,016 Senior Member
    I agree with @nepatsgirl. If you have things handed to you, you don't appreciate the opportunity you have and take the connection you have for granted. When you have to make a hundred calls to get one interview you have that inner drive to succeed. It builds character and a good work ethic. When you do finally get a position after all that struggle you don't take it for granted and put all your effort into doing a good job.
  • romanigypsyeyesromanigypsyeyes Registered User Posts: 31,899 Senior Member
    @PengsPhils eh, it's actually pretty complicated considering that most low income students don't go on to get 4 year degrees. They end up in technical fields (associate degrees).

    http://college.usatoday.com/2015/07/23/parents-income-affects-students-major/

    It's also worth noting though that the whole Asians go into STEM, others don't thing is overblown. They're disproportionately represented in a few like math & social science but in others like bio, it's not the case. Plus, Asians in general are just more heavily represented (proportional to the general population) in universities than other races.

    OP, there's actually a lot of scholarship already on why Asian Americans (and first and second generation African Americans) succeed in certain fields over others. Asians were excluded from American immigration for a very long time and when those avenues opened, they were primarily for the best educated. It's the same for African and Middle Eastern immigrants.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 61,580 Senior Member
    Re: #1 and #3

    Students from low income backgrounds who do attend four year colleges are more likely to attend less selective colleges like non-flagship state universities (often for reasons other than their academic abilities). The majors of choice at such schools tends to skew more toward pre-professional majors (not necessarily STEM ones; business majors are commonly the most popular).

    Of course, whether many of these pre-professional majors really do help job and career aspects compared to liberal arts majors is another question entirely. I.e. does reality match perception in that a pre-professional major helps job and career prospects over a liberal arts major, for those students who do not already have pre-existing advantages in connections, support from wealthy families to do extended job searches, and the like?
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 61,580 Senior Member
    edited July 29
    Regarding Asian immigrants and their kids, the biggest reason is probably more due to how immigrants are selected by the immigration system. Many Asian immigrants these days come here as PhD students, probably overrepresented in STEM subjects (something like 70% of immigrants from India and 50% of immigrants from China have bachelor's degrees, far higher than the percentages of bachelor's degree holders in India, China, and the US overall). There are probably both nature and nurture effects on their kids with respect to (a) being more likely to go to college in the first place, and (b) being more likely to choose a STEM major than other college students.

    The "lack of connections" may not be as big a reason as hypothesized in post #0, since many of the Asian immigrant parents with bachelor's or higher degrees are in the upper middle classes, so they are unlikely to be highly disadvantaged in terms of connections associated with higher income and wealth. Some may encounter "glass ceiling" situations that stop them from reaching the highest levels of advantage in this context, but that is different from being limited to highly disadvantaged situations (like many of those from low income backgrounds).
  • romanigypsyeyesromanigypsyeyes Registered User Posts: 31,899 Senior Member
    Yes, ucb, I said that:
    Asians were excluded from American immigration for a very long time and when those avenues opened, they were primarily for the best educated. It's the same for African and Middle Eastern immigrants.
  • zannahzannah Registered User Posts: 459 Member
    Academic success does not depend on connections if you mean important people. Everyone makes their way through whatever challenges they face, our personal strengths, weaknesses, obstacles and opportunities, a d all those things that make us unique and a member of one or more groups.
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 28,336 Senior Member
    One of my US born Caucasian daughters majored in Poli Sci/Public Policy. She got a job through an older student she met at the same school. So no outside network connection there. D2 majored in a STEM subject and is headed to grad school -- again, no outside connections there. Maybe they are needed in foreign countries to advance, but not as much here.

    Regarding why immigrants go into STEM, it wouldn't surprise me if when English isn't their first language or the language spoken at home, math & science feel easier to them. I don't think it has anything to do with connections.
  • raclutraclut Registered User Posts: 3,016 Senior Member
    Per the constitution of India the official languages are standard Hindi and English.
    Many of the schools are English medium schools. (classes are taught in English)
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