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).
In my life, a few times I ran into dead ends where there was nothing I could do in the straightforward way; the people were right to refuse me, according to the official rules.
But once I could find people who knew someone inside the system, a month wait would turn into just a few hours wait or they would find a place for me where they said the rules would not allow them to give me one.
You know someone who knows someone who is in power; this is the way they have the things done.
If you know the right people, you can have the most difficult things done with little effort.
At the same time the majority of Russians don't have what you call in the west "good manners". Russia is quite a tough country and Russians usually do not hesitate to say what they think in a way that doesn't leave room for any misunderstandings.
During the Soviet period having "good manners" was considered as a bourgeois survival. When they meet or phone each other, they seldom spend time on questions like "How are you? They are not rude, it's just a way of doing things. Russia has the highest educational level in the world (more than 40% of the total population have college or university degree).
At secondary schools, they study not only the history of Russia but also the world history, including American and European history.
Church survives selling candles and reminder notes and charging for services such as baptizing, weddings and funerals. A couple has to register their marriage with government authorities first to be allowed to have church ceremony performed.
Medical aid and education in Russia are free, though Russians joke that education becomes less and less free with every year.
They do it to ask for something to happen (a business deal, an exam) or to remember a close person who is dead.
People do not have to be a member of the church to do it and they do not have monthly contributions to the church.