Alumni networks, whether direct friendships or associations with a common alma mater, are powerful. In an analysis of investment trends, The Harvard Business Review found that investors were actively betting against companies to which they had no college ties, while selecting investment opportunities with companies within their alumni network. It turns out that who you shared lecture halls with even has a sway over the stock market.

Together with the high employment and starter salary rates seen amongst graduates of leading universities, the data confirms that studying at a globally ranked university has serious sway over employability and earning power. “From access to cutting edge research hubs, internship programme and postgraduate associations, top universities offer very powerful advantages,” says Rebecca Pretorius, Regional Manager for Crimson Education Africa.

Crimson Education is a global mentoring company that specializes in building the candidacy of high schoolers for acceptance to universities in the States and the United Kingdom. While the company’s driving motivation is to support high schoolers from around the world to dream big about their education, it does not shy away from the fact that a degree in the States and United Kingdom is an investment in powerful social networks.

The top 100 colleges in the United States offer institutional resources, quality of staff, diversity of student bodies and academic research output to make any driven student excited – leading to it becoming the top university destination in the world with over one million international students. Across the pond in the UK, the Russell Group leads the pack in terms of graduate success – offering an average starting wage 9.4% higher than other UK universities, while costing the same to attend. These are the institutions that Crimson Education focuses on, with mentors based on key campuses across both countries.

With steep competition from every corner of the globe, gaining access requires a step up in what students must demonstrate; “Overseas universities, particularly in the United States, look for well-rounded candidates that have demonstrated academic competency and an ability to make an impact outside the classroom,” says Pretorius.

This is why applications mentoring with Crimson focuses on academics, entrance exams, essay-writing and extracurriculars. A team of current students and alums from top colleges, which can include Harvard, Stanford and Oxford, provide the strategy and motivation, even guiding students through starting their own small business or community project in the senior years of high school.

According to Pretorius, international students, once on campus, are set up for success; “The university culture is conducive to socializing and networking. Students typically live on campus for at least their first year and meet peers from around the world, join a range of extracurricular activities and sports, and take thought-provoking classes.  The missing link for many Africans is the support and know-how to get them there – that’s why we are here.”