By the time I was a senior in high school, I had already accomplished my longest standing goal: becoming president of my school’s Science Olympiad team.
You might infer that I was an ambitious, academically driven student who surely had a college plan. But that doesn’t quite sum it up.
When it came to planning my higher education, my optimism got in the way. Meaning, I just didn’t do it.
In December of my senior year, some of my closest friends (and fellow science olympiads) stayed past our meeting time to chat. While I was enthralled in the paperwork of our organization, they discussed what sounded like a forgein language of terms I could barely comprehend.
Common app, early decision, early action, FAFSA, etc. I had no idea what any of it meant.
It soon hit me that I hadn’t done much about the whole college thing. I barely prepared for the SAT, had no idea what I wanted to study and did practically no research on different schools.
Eventually, I did end up doing all the right things (even if it was little on the later side). And of course I ended up here, at Lehigh University.
But it was my connection to peers from different wealth groups that informed my whole experience. Luckily, I was privileged enough to grow up in a diverse community that included a range of socioeconomic backgrounds.
As it turns out, this is a recently measured phenomenon.
A study published in Nature analyzed the Facebook connections of 84% of U.S adults between 25 and 44 years old, and it found that economic connectedness had the strongest impact on upward mobility. The study also found that Americans in high school have the easiest time making friends regardless of socioeconomic status.
I owe it not only to my community, but to the connections I made with those across wealth lines, for my eventual success at college.
When I read this data-driven story several months ago, I was almost shocked to see how my own story fit into this bigger picture. But now it all makes sense.
Back in that tumultuous December of my senior year, it was a friend who came to review my applications and breakdown the steps I needed to take to go to college. And look, a few years later, I’m still here!
This research could be monumental in building stronger futures for students of all backgrounds as the promotion of cross-class friendships holds the key to equal opportunity.