Intellectually, Russians are interesting people to talk to and enjoy deep subjects.
In Russia, one still needs to know people in power to make things work.
This is why they maintain more friendships than an average westerner.
They often have to rely on their friends to help them out.
On the entrance exams at universities and colleges only questions from the general course of the secondary school can be asked.
Universities and colleges accept students according to the results of entrance tests, and not according to their marks at school, though having excellent marks can help (for example, you would only have to pass 1-2 exams instead of regular 4).
People that were doing community work were given benefits (free or discounted travel, ability to buy deficit goods, ability to receive a better apartment from the government for free etc) - remember, there was no private property until Perestroika, everything used to belong to the state, which was controlling distribution and would award the most active citizens.