School-based alienation in UNSW CSE: An isolated problem or a systemic issue?

School-based alienation in UNSW CSE: An isolated problem or a systemic issue?

Coming from a catholic school, I’ve always wondered how much coming into university with zero connections in CSE had affected me. I still ended up with some lovely friends - but around me, many of my friends from high school were struggling.

This is a common sentiment that is shared amongst students; while there is group bias, social media platforms like Reddit, Facebook and more are filled with confessions of students who struggle to find friends - many who don’t form any ‘close’ relationships till graduation.

This article aims to be a statistical analysis into whether such biases exist; do selective school students come into university with an intrinsic advantage in social well-being?


Yes, selective school students have an advantage. The proportion of selective school students who felt they were socially satisfied, as well as included in UNSW CSE, was > 20% compared to other schooling systems. This is statistically significant; and something that should be discussed (and is discussed below!).

Statistical Analysis

I began with a theory:

Selective school students populate more of UNSW CSE, and thus have an advantage in social wellbeing.

Instead of personal testimonials, I decided to get data from a sample of UNSW CSE through CSESoc members and Discord. I asked the following questions:

  1. What year are you in?
  2. What schooling system did you attend?
  3. Do many of your friends come from high school connections?
  4. From a scale of 1 - 10, how included do you feel at UNSW CSE?
  5. From a scale of 1 - 10, how happy were you with your situation regarding friendships in high school?
  6. From a scale of 1 - 10, how happy are you with your current situation regarding friendships at UNSW CSE?
  7. Could you talk about why you are satisfied/unsatisfied?

From this data, I decided to investigate the following relationships in reference to my theory:

●   Satisfaction of social situation categorised by schooling system (selective, other)

●   Satisfaction of social situation categorised by friend origins (many high school connections, not many)

●   Feeling of inclusion categorised by schooling system (selective, other)

●   Subjectivity-weighted sentiment analysis categorised by schooling system (selective, other)

Figure 1: Student social satisfaction categorised by schooling systems
Figure 2: Student social satisfaction categorised by friend origins
Figure 3: Student feeling of inclusion categorised by schooling system
Figure 4: Average subjectivity-weighted polarity categorised by schooling system

These graphs were generated using Python - check out the repo here if you’re interested!

Figures 1, 2, and 3 are straightforward - I just counted the number of students who said they were satisfied (satisfaction greater or equal to 5), and divided by them the total number of respondents for each given category.

Figure 4 is a little different - I used a Python package called TextBlob which has a built-in sentiment analysis tool. For the sentiment analysis tool, you are given two properties - polarity and subjectivity. Polarity considers the positivity/negativity of the statement. 1 is a very positive statement, and -1 is a very negative statement. Subjectivity considers the subjectivity of the polarity - how subjectively positive/negative the statement is. I weighted the polarities with the subjectivity - an objective statement should be weighted heavier than a subjective one.


Figures 1 and 2 seem to contradict each other with reference to my theory - my theory would generally dissolve down to the fact that if you have more high school connections, then you are more likely to be happier with your social well-being. I added Figure 3 as a further investigation into the selective school theory - again, it was shown that selective school students were more likely to feel included at UNSW CSE.

Figure 4 is too close to make substantial takeaways from, but it shows that the average selective school student responded more positively in the free-response section.

Overall, we can conclude that the proportion of selective school students who are more satisfied with their social wellbeing and feel more included is larger by a margin of > 20% (!), which is quite a substantial margin.

What can we do?

I believe that it is imperative for societies, especially, to introduce diversity in schooling systems. On a broader perspective, it’s important to break up clique-like behaviour; as the crowding effect of tangentially related social groups (same school, sister school, mutual friends) is strong. This means that taking into consideration things like mutual friends, schooling systems, high schools, etc. could be an important factor for diversity in terms of creating a more inclusive environment.

Some of the students said the below in the survey:

‘When it comes to UNSW CSE, there is a clear inner circle. On chats, there is a tinge of elitism at all times (by a vocal minority albeit) that makes it really hard to assimilate.’
‘I think it’s a lot easier to make surface level connections with people but it’s difficult to form what would be “groups” like in high school. I feel like this is partially bc many people come into uni with a pre-existing group and once any sort of group is formed it’s virtually impossible to become part of it.’
‘ (I’m satisfied with my social wellbeing by) knowing many people from selective schools.’
‘I got into this situation by going to social events and meeting mutual friends from highschool.’

It’s fairly clear through personal testimonials too, that what I’m theorising is at least a relevant issue. I believe that we as a whole (UNSW CSE), should become more open-minded to more open-minded to people who don't fit our normal criteria.

On a personal level, if you are struggling to make friends, it’s important to be persistent - and as many of our respondents in our surveys stated, to join societies and attend events. While I did say that societies too suffer from problems of cliqueness; it’s still a far better opportunity to improve your social well-being than many other options. CSESoc has multiple programs to help students acclimatise to university - including peer mentoring, subcommittee recruitment, and various social events throughout the year.

If you are struggling with feelings of self-worth and inclusiveness; and want to talk to someone about it, UNSW provides free mental health consultation to students through: Mental Health Connect

Stay safe, love yourself - and love your friends!

Haeohreum Kim

Also check out: A Guide to Making Friends at UNSW