College Advice Blog

Sep 5, 2012

Building your Professional Network in College

What makes an Ivy League college so appealing? In addition to a faculty full of academic leaders, Ivy League schools are renowned for providing connections. In fact, an education from an Ivy League school could be as valuable as other, less expensive schools; but the esteem and connections affiliated with Ivy League establishment are the true gems of higher-end higher education.

Ivy League schools are competitive and expensive: a formula that admits only the extremely intelligent or the extremely wealthy. By creating an environment of only the crème de la crème, Ivy League schools simply make it easier for students to make connections that will lead to success.

So how can the average college student build a professional network?

Set Social Standards
Stay focused on the social activities that will promote your success. This may seem like an easy choice, but when your friends ask you to blow off a student council meeting for a trip to the lake – the decision won’t be as easy.

Finding balance between social and academic pursuits is a matter of setting social standards. Especially in today’s world of social media, college students should have clear standards concerning appropriate behavior and friendships. Limiting your behavior in order to maintain respect is an important part of setting social standards.

To form healthy social standards, consider…

  • Social groups that strengthen a connection to your values and culture.
  • Social groups that do not pressure you to engage in self-destructive behavior.
  • Social groups in which you feel like a contributor, not an outsider.
  • Social groups filled with people who have similar definitions of success.
Make Connections, Not Friends
Sometimes friends can evolve into connections and vice versa, but it is very rare that a person assumes both roles simultaneously. A connection is a person who amplifies your knowledge or brings you closer to a personal goal in some way. The very term “connection” has dehumanizing properties; but your connections have skills, knowledge and talents that you can, very humanly, appreciate. Never take advantage of a connection without expressing gratitude.

Professors, high achievers, community leaders and even employers are common connections for students. Building connections isn’t about building relationships with ulterior motives. Instead, it’s about living an incredibly focused life. If every relationship you build is filtered through your goal of becoming a world-renowned opera singer; you will automatically begin building a strong network of connections to lead you down this path.

  • Share your career goals with professors and maintain a conversation based on current projects and future opportunities.
  • Look for opportunities to meet industry leaders, possibly through internships.
  • Participate in student organizations of high-achievers or those who hold similar values and goals as you.
  • Make friends with people with positive attitudes and promising futures. These people can connect you to the best of yourself.
Leaving home for the first time can be an intimidating and exciting experience. In college, many students are exposed to a wide variety of cultures for the first time. Sampling different lifestyles can lead to diversity, but it can also be a distraction. Too much distraction can bury the fledgling student in a pile of social and academic obligations.

Friends will listen to you complain about your significant other or your horrible boss. Connections, on the other hand, are less interested in the mundane and trivial drama of your everyday life. People in your life who serve as connections are those with whom you can have an intense and focused conversation regarding your favorite topic or your career goals.  


Alvina Lopez has freelanced about education throughout her career. As technology and education converge, Alvina hopes to guide her readers as they search for online college programs that have the potential to jumpstart their careers and change their lives. She welcomes feedback at alvina.lopez at

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