Do grades really matter?

A growing body of evidence suggests grades don’t predict success — C+ students are the ones who end up running the world


Back at Thornhill high school in the early 1970s, Mike Cowie and his brother Mark didn’t pay much attention to their school work. For one thing, the identical twins were working at a garage after school to pay for their cars. They were bored in the classroom and didn’t see any practical point in the curriculum. Why, for example, should they memorize a bunch of “common musical terms” from an eccentric music teacher who claimed he let his dog sit in the driver’s seat on the way to school? They emerged from high school with C-pluses and a few Bs, just enough to get into university. Their father gave each of them $600 for tuition on one condition — they get out of town.

Now, their old teachers may be surprised to learn that the Cowie brothers are among Canada’s most successful commercial real-estate brokers, doing mega-million-dollar real-estate deals for corporate Canada. From their modest offices in downtown Toronto, they can see some of the high-rise buildings they’ve helped clients buy, sell, lease or build. You’ve got to be able to read people, says Mark. “I look for little signs” — how they sit, how they hold their arms, what they do with their hands, which way they look. Just recently he saw a potential deal start to crater when a developer failed to look a prospective client in the eye as they were shaking hands. “I can understand inflections, how people say things,” says Mark. “You can tell if they’re hesitating.”

The Cowies’ success is the story your high school teacher may not want you to know. It’s the triumph of the C+ student, the guy who won’t be voted Most Likely to Succeed. He’s bored in class, and comes home with withering report cards that say things like, “If only he tried harder.” His eyes glaze over as his high school English teacher tries to whip up enthusiasm for Shakespeare. He gets lousy marks because he does not want to deliver what the teacher demands. But then, in university or maybe later, he turns on — and becomes so successful that the school brings him back to give speeches to the kids. High school marks, it turns out, do not predict how well you’ll do later in life.

High school marks don’t even predict how well you will do in first-year university, says James Parker, who holds the Canada Research Chair in emotion and health at Trent University. “In our culture, high school marks are the most important thing,” he says. “Yet if you look at success in first year, high school marks don’t predict that very well.” A decade ago, Parker started tracking students who arrived at Trent in first year and found that high school marks don’t even predict who’s going to drop out. “Lots of other things beside high school performance predict achievement later on.”

So there’s hope for the C+ student in high school. “The truth is that many indifferent students do extremely well in business because the set of skills required to be a good student does not match the set of skills to be a success in the world,” says Michael Thompson, a University of Chicago-trained psychologist and co-author of the bestseller, Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys. He likes to quote the old line: “School is a place where former A students teach mostly B students to work for C students.” It may be an overgeneralization, but it has “more truth than educators are comfortable with,” he says.

As a psychologist, Michael Thompson spends a lot of time talking to anxious parents in Canada and the U.S. about their children’s performance in high school. He keeps telling them that a C+ does not mean the kid is headed for a dismal future. High school grades, after all, measure one thing — whether the teacher thinks the student has mastered the curriculum. But some kids, especially boys, are just not interested in delivering what the teacher wants. Boys, he says, often think school is “stupid, boring and inefficient,” says Thompson. “They’re just waiting for it to be over.” Girls, on the other hand, do better in school, even though they’re bored too, because they want to impress the teacher. Boys, he says, are more active, impulsive and impatient. “They support each others’ dislike for school.”

So the report card goes home with the C+ marks and the parents fume. Why won’t their son do his homework? Is he a loser? Maybe not.

There are innumerable examples of poor students who changed the world — or made a pile of money. Winston Churchill was famously at the bottom of his class at Harrow, the exclusive English private school. Richard Branson left high school to run a newspaper he founded. Senator John McCain graduated 894th out of 899 in his class at the U.S. Naval Academy. President George W. Bush was a solid C student in his first year at Yale but showed early promise as a politician because he could remember the names of each of the 54 pledges in his fraternity.

Plenty of successful Canadians were poor students in high school as well. Angus Reid flunked Grade 12 English but built such a successful polling business that he gave his Winnipeg high school money for a wing named after him. Fred Jaekel was kicked out of school in Buenos Aires at age 13. Now he’s a multi-millionaire entrepreneur in the auto-parts business with 6,000 employees. Ron Joyce, co-founder of Tim Hortons, dropped out of school after flunking English(while scoring 100 per cent in math)in Grade 9. James Orbinski graduated from a west-end Montreal high school with ho-hum grades in the low 70s. He dropped out of university a couple of times, and yet became a doctor who, in 1999, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the international organization he led, Médecins sans frontières. Paul Clinton finished high school in Vancouver with a mediocre 70 and dropped out of technical college after a year, but went on to be North American CEO of a global beverage company. Terry Mosher was kicked out of a Toronto high school for possession of dope in Grade 11. When he was accepted to art college in Quebec City, he didn’t have a high school certificate, so he drew one, very accurately as it turns out. Now, as the creator of the celebrated Aislin cartoons, the Montreal-based Mosher has been awarded an Order of Canada. And David Thompson graduated from Toronto’s prestigious Upper Canada College with mid-60s, only to be told by a YMCA career test that university would be a waste of his parents’ money. But he went on to get good enough marks to get into law school and later became the principal of one of the most sought-after private schools in Toronto. The list goes on.

Take a look at all those former C+ students who are enjoying their million-dollar condos at Whistler while the A students toil in town as intellectual serfs, trying to store away enough money for a modest retirement. It’s a big turnaround from high school, where the A students got all the kudos while the C+ students were pummelled with complaints from their parents. So who has the last laugh now?

Consider what psychologists have learned about motivation or drive. Successful people, Harvard psychologist David McClelland found back in the 1960s, are driven, to a greater or lesser extent, by three needs: one is individual achievement — to start a business or make a million dollars or win a Nobel Prize, for example. The second is relationships, and the third is power. The significance of each depends on the personality you were born with and the influence of parents. But memorizing the “Six Reasons for World War I” in history class is not likely to tap into the powerful urge to make millions or wield power or lead people. That curriculum might not even appeal to future professors. So a student might be bored and unmotivated in class, but then, once he discovers something that fires him up, work so hard that he becomes a resounding success.

Drive is crucial. Without it, even the most brilliant kids will fall short of expectations. Rena Subotnik noticed this when she checked up on 210 graduates of Hunter College Elementary School, a Manhattan school for intellectually gifted children. These kids had a mean IQ of 157 — higher than over 99 per cent of people. They came from economically advantaged families. If raw intelligence predicts career success, they would surely have it. But when Subotnik checked how the kids turned out, she found that in middle age they had become happy, prosperous, community-minded citizens. But they hadn’t aspired to achieve great things. “It was really eye-opening for me,” said Subotnik, director of the Center for Psychology in the Schools and Education at the American Psychological Association. “If we do want greatness, IQ is clearly not sufficient.” Why they fell short of expectations is not clear, but Subotnik, a Hunter graduate herself, has a theory. “They weren’t hungry. They didn’t have the drive to prove themselves, which is so necessary to be a force of nature.”

Latent drive can appear with a vengeance. Take T. Harv Eker, who was a classic C+ student at high school in Toronto “with a couple of A’s thrown in so my parents wouldn’t yell.” Eker says he wasn’t interested in doing the work. “I thought I was wasting my time.” He dropped out of York University after one year but now, several decades later, Eker says he’s a millionaire “many times over.” His book, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, has sold over 650,000 copies. He’s taught half a million people in high-energy seminars that their financial success is dictated by their “subconscious blueprint” about money, which was formed at a young age. He knows why he was driven to be rich: “I became a success in order to prove to my parents that I wasn’t a bum.” He sure couldn’t do it through his grades.

Sometimes the very kind of thinking that leads someone to change the world can cause them to bomb in school. Creative thinkers, the kind who launch businesses and transform how we see things, share many delightful characteristics such as curiosity, an appetite for risk, and an open mind. Bill Gates, though he sailed through private school in Seattle, dropped out of Harvard in his third year to build the company called Microsoft. When he was given an honorary degree there this spring he joked that he was happy to be called “Harvard’s most successful dropout.”

These sorts of people share traits that are rarely appreciated in the classroom, according to U.S. research. They can be stubborn. They forget details, challenge the teacher, question the rules. They can be disorganized and impulsive. Yet the qualities that drive teachers crazy catapult them to fantastic heights.

Take Fred Jaekel, one of Canada’s great business innovators. He still remembers the first time he was thrown out of school. He was 13, and he had just made $100 off one of his inventions — wooden, spring-activated pellet guns that could shoot kernels of corn. The principal had the guns lined up on his desk as he called Jaekel’s parents to tell them the boy had to go. Jaekel became a tool-and-die apprentice, moved to Canada, and eventually became the head of Magna International’s metal stamping division. Jaekel liked to study how things worked, and one day he came up with a great idea while studying plumbing parts in his own home. They were shaped by high-pressure water. What if car parts, which then were welded together, were formed in the same way? That process, hydro forming, helped to catapult Magna into the ranks of the world’s top 10 auto parts suppliers. Now, as CEO of Martinrea International Inc., Jaekel didn’t miss attending high school. His success came from his unrelenting curiosity.

Creative minds often rebel in school. Albert Schultz, for instance, was so bad in math at his Calgary high school that he needed a tutor(his Grade 11 math teacher)to help him pass Grade 12 math. Even then, he only scored a 39 on the final math exam, just enough to squeak through. Then at York University’s fine arts program, Schultz was required to take a science course. When he sat down for the final exam in biology, Schultz signed his name at the top of the paper, took one look at the questions, and closed the book. For the next four hours, he thought about what to do. He immediately quit university and threw himself into the theatre. Now, he’s the impresario of a highly regarded theatre in Toronto, Soulpepper. Shultz acts in theatrical classics as well as movies, directs some of the plays, and reviews the numbers of his multi-million-dollar operation every day.

A students, on the other hand, succeed in high school because they delivered what the system wanted. They’re often not the type of people to buck the status quo and create something new. A study of 81 high school valedictorians in Illinois illustrates that point. Fifteen years after graduation, these academic champions had turned into solid citizens, accountants, lawyers, engineers and doctors. But not one of them became an entrepreneur or achieved “wildly off-the-charts success,” says Karen Arnold, an associate professor in Boston College’s education school. “They’re not eminent mould-breaker types. Face it, in high school you’ve got to do what the teacher tells you.” People who are hugely successful have a “single-minded obsession within a single domain. They’re not going to make sure the angel food cake rises in home ec.”

Straight IQ, or academic marks, account for only 20 per cent of success in the business world, according to psychologist and author Daniel Goleman. “IQ offers little to explain the different destinies of people with roughly equal promises, schooling, and opportunity,” Goleman writes in his best-seller, Emotional Intelligence. “When 95 Harvard students from the classes of the 1940s were followed into middle age, the men with the highest test scores in college were not particularly successful compared to their lower-scoring peers in terms of salary, productivity or status in their field, nor did they have the greatest life satisfaction, nor the most happiness with friendships, family and romantic relationships.”

The other 80 per cent of success, the big slice of the pie, could be any number of factors, such as family wealth and education, temperament, luck and emotional intelligence. The last one is clearly the most important, though. As Goleman describes it, emotional intelligence covers a broad spectrum of abilities — self-awareness, which includes a sense of self-worth and the ability to read one’s own emotions; self-management, which includes initiative, optimism and controlling disruptive emotions; social awareness, the ability to read other people’s emotions; and the ability to manage relations, by influencing, cultivating a web of bonds, working in teams, leading with a compelling vision. The significance of this form of intelligence has been confirmed by 30 years of data on thousands of organizations, notes Rick Lash, a Toronto-based consultant at the Hay Group, the global HR consultancy that works with Goleman. While any big corporate job requires a healthy IQ, it’s only an entry ticket, says Lash, North American director of the Hay Group’s leadership and talent practice. The difference between the corporate stars and the also-rans lies in other qualities — such as the ability to manage your emotions and read other people’s feelings, your ability to listen effectively, your desire to achieve.

A generation ago, David McClelland, the Harvard psychologist, was asked to find out why so many of the best students from Ivy League schools floundered in the U.S. foreign service. It turned out that top performers on the job took the time to learn all about their potential audience before making a move. They considered how other people were feeling and thinking and adjusted their message accordingly. The Ivy League kids who were flailing did not do this.

Roger Martin, dean of the University of Toronto’s Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, may have found a reason why. In a previous job at the consulting firm Monitor, Martin used to hire the top scholars from Harvard, but he noticed they didn’t perform any better than other people. Why? “They’re told over and over again that they’re right. Then they go out in the world and try to be right, and they’re flabbergasted when people don’t follow.”

A lack of insight into people can be dangerous in the corner office. “When a CEO gets let go, or is derailed, it’s almost never because he’s poor at math or couldn’t express himself verbally,” says Gary Latham, a professor of organizational behaviour at Rotman. “It’s a lack of emotional intelligence, the ability to read yourself and others. A lot of CEOs get in trouble because they can’t read their own board. They see heads nodding, but that doesn’t necessarily mean agreement.”

In 1973, McLelland proposed a radical new way to hire people. Instead of just relying on marks and IQ, employers should identify the behaviours that distinguish the people who succeed in that position, and hire people who behave like that. Drawing on this research, the Hay Group identifies the behaviours needed for any given job, which can vary depending on the job. Many of the competencies are emotional, such as the ability to listen, self-control, flexibility and the ability to work in a team.

These kinds of attributes, of course, don’t get a grade in high school, so it would be easy to overlook a future star in business. Take Paul Clinton. He wasn’t interested in school, much to the distress of his father, a senior high school administrator in Vancouver. But after dropping out of college, he turned on when he took a sales job at a major packaged goods company. By his early 40s, Clinton was promoted to be North American head of the global beverage company, Diageo. Knowing how to sell was critical. So was the ability to cut through the clutter, identify what was critical for success, and deliver it. And he wouldn’t have hit the big time if he didn’t know how to manage people — especially in a company that has to sell its products.

Some schools are getting it. In Toronto, for instance, Greenwood College School was launched in 2002 with a $10-million donation from Richard Wernham, a former lawyer and money manager. Wernham, the son of educators, says he started the private school because he noticed, in his professional and business career, that the top performers were not necessarily A students in high school. They were often people who had struggled. Success, Wernham thought, was driven by personal qualities like resilience, determination, initiative, the ability to work in a team. Greenwood sets the tone from the start when Grade 7 and 8 students head out for a two-week camping trip. Canoeing teaches perseverance, resilience, interdependence and integrity, says David Thompson, the principal. “It’s an incredible leveller. It doesn’t matter if an A student is in the bow, and a C+ student is in the stern. Marks are irrelevant. It’s how you are.”

Meanwhile, Ontario’s Education Ministry is trying to instill “character development initiative” in all provincial schools. Teachers will be encouraged to show kids how to read other people’s feelings from non-verbal clues, says Avis Glaze, Ontario’s chief student achievement officer. Kids might not get a grade for empathy, but it will help them in later life, she says. “In my career as a teacher, I always said: ‘Do not write kids off because their marks are not high. They will be stars in the workplace. Why? Because they have the qualities that will assist them.’ ”

Angus Reid used to sit in the classroom watching the clock to see how long he could hold his breath before getting out of there. Reid was dyslexic and had to complete Grade 12 English in night school. Then, he says, “I began to read stuff I wanted to read,” and he ended up with a doctorate. “To be successful, everyone needs the same thing — a sense of self-esteem,” Reid says. “The most important ingredient, whether the academics are good, bad or ugly, is that your self-esteem is intact at the end of the day, so you don’t leave high school thinking you’re a loser, that you’ll never get anywhere in life. I think that’s the single most important ingredient, and the one that parents unwittingly steal from their kids.

“There should be some certificate parents get,” Reid says. The grade — pass or fail — would depend on the answer to the following question: “Did you rob your kid of self-esteem during the really tough developmental process called high school? If it’s a pass, you’ll be surprised at how things work out.”

Getting a C+ in high school might not win you plaudits at home, but it can potentially be an advantage, says entrepreneur Bob Young. Young, who comes from a distinguished business family in Hamilton, went to Trinity College School, then a boys-only boarding school in Port Hope, Ont. “My fatal flaw was that I was incapable of doing anything I was told to do,” says Young. He was a C student who spent a lot of time in the library reading about things that were not on the course outline. He made it into the University of Toronto, but after graduating, when he applied for jobs at the banks and the accounting firms, he didn’t get any callbacks. “I had no alternative but to go outside the system.” Lucky he did. Young co-founded Red Hat, a global open-source software company that shook up the entire industry and made him a billionaire at the peak of the Internet frenzy in 1999.

Now back in Canada, working on a new entrepreneurial venture, Young is glad to have been a C student. “Good students figure out how the system works so they can excel within the system,” he says. “As for those of us who didn’t figure out how the system works, we became bank robbers or entrepreneurs. That’s what makes a lot of us poor students into successful people. Typically, our success does not come from working within the system. It comes from reinventing the system.”


Do grades really matter?

  1. The gross oversimplifications and exaggerations made in articles such as these, that believe in the flawed mantra that “C students” daily utilize as a bastion of hope: “School is a place where former A students teach mostly B students to work for C students.” never ceases to amaze me.

    As with most other articles in this cliched and outdated genre, persuasive examples of “C students” who “made it big” and “run the world” are provided such as: George W. Bush, Winston Churchill etc. whereas the A and A+ students who made it big are left out. This is for one simple reason: the list of A and A+ students that run the world is larger by several orders of magnitude than that for C and C+ students.

    Also conveniently left out when citing such examples is that the source of wealth and power for C and C+ students is often that they are born into a family that is already wealthy, influential, and powerful and sometimes have been for several generations. Tracing the histories of these families leads us to the first individuals that made the transition from being “unsuccessful” to “successful” who were almost always A or A+ students.

    Also, it never ceases to make me laugh when editors and columnists like to throw in a snarky “so who has the last laugh now?” as if something significant has been achieved immediately after stating that C+ students roll in money and live in luxurious condos while A students toil as “intellectual serfs”. Any “A student” that reads such lines must laugh hysterically because they know that such a lavish and luxurious lifestyle is a prison of grandiose pressure and dilemmas as opposed to paradise and that such statements as “who has the last laugh now?” only prove that these C students have a life sentence in their prisons whereas “A students” have extracted the necessities of living a happy life and are far more successful as human beings for not having the simplemindedness that C students have built their entire lives on.

    Moral of the story:
    YES grades do really matter because A students find happiness and success in their wealth of knowledge and understanding which transcend the boundaries of humanized wealth and power which C students rarely reach, and when they do make a big deal out of it whilst failing to realizing they are puppets and front-men for “A students” without even knowing it.

  2. Hey, watch it buddy, you could not be further from the truth! The fact that you think A students excel more than C students is far without measure! I could think of countless examples of all sorts of bug C student hotshots! SO BUG OFF! I don’t disregard either kind of student because intelligence is not necessarily knowing all the facts! That is why they have text books and manuals for formulas. Just think about it: what would have happened if the great things built were done just by memorization!! They would not be there very long!!!

  3. Ezekial, I agree with your statement of over generalization and s implication of the article. However I also believe your own generalization is poor with the “pursuit of happiness” through knowledge. Obviously some do truly enjoy but there are others who do not.

    There are also many “A students” tend to be through intense family/situational pressure. This tends to give them extreme stress and mental anguish, actually living a very unjoyful life.

    The purpose of this article is to simply state that “Grades” in general do not consistently correlate to both success in: Material Wealth nor Contement with lifestyle (in this case pursuit of knowledge excellence).

    Let this article have its joy as it is to help highly agitated parents realize there are many roads that leads to Rome.

  4. Good luck getting into law school or med school with crappy grades.

  5. Many examples used in the article are of the generic “Einstein example” where the kid is doing a poor job in school because he/she finds it boring and does not make an effort. I feel its safe to say the percentage of people who fall into this category make up less than 0.01% of the population.

    Many C students are C students because they cannot achieve that A.

  6. Have you ever considered the benefits of getting an A… like earnin a scholarship for example… learning for free… pursuing further education…

  7. I wish students with B grade average would be more appreciated than A graders….. i mean….i try so hard to succeed in school. But I really do not think grades are all that important as long as we understand the meaning of the course we are taking. (im in grade 11 btw)

  8. Maybe people with “crappy” grades dont intend to go to law school. For some people earning “A”s isnt that easy. In university I have “A”s “B”s and “C”s depending on the class. Somoe stuff comes easily to me while other stuff doesnt. I study hard in all my classes but in some of them an “A” is unattainable. Not everyone has their grades served to them on a silver platter and I am very proud of my B as I am my A

  9. I think this article makes an excellent point but not the one some people are ranting about defending A grades and dividing people based on a letter and happiness. You missed the problem and point.

    The problem is our education system. The “problem”: If someone is so creative that they can reinvent the world, redefine a profession and be labeled a “C student” or “dropout” in university, what is happening in our schools? These energies need to be put towards causes that do not have to do with making money or war but this is exactly where they end up going…look at Young’s comment. People that are criticizing this article are ironically feeding into its overall themes. Add something positive or experiential to the discussion instead of criticizing it. We know you are capable of getting “A’s” and defending your intellectual positions. But can you agree, add your own thoughts/experiences and contribute to the “project” or “problem”. If you can’t you’ll always be taking commands from someone that does.

    Here is something for you “academics”. A person that tried to address this problem was a philosopher known as John Dewey. A good Wikipedia summary: Dewey was a relentless campaigner for reform of education, pointing out that the authoritarian, strict, pre-ordained knowledge approach of modern traditional education was too concerned with delivering knowledge, and not enough with understanding students’ actual experiences.

  10. For those who disagree, because you are surely A+ students. I ask you: How successful have you been? And this is a serious question. I am just trying to compare opinions is all. Thanks guys.

  11. The most successful people I know would be categorized as “C” students. In terms of net worth, and social influence and power over others.

    I see some highly amusing posts here. Some state that you can’t get into higher education without good marks. OK, that’s obvious.

    What the academics miss entirely is that C students aren’t interested in “getting a job” and then dreaming of a corner office as their next goal. A C student’s plans and visions are lofty, due to their early realization that the conformist infrastructure that schools represent is contrary to their instinctive libertarian values.

    C students start companies. They make real, measurable things happen in life and the world. They realize that the mountains of impractical info foisted upon others in education “institutions” have no correlation to productivity and results.

    I’m C student, and retired at age 32, due to success in sales, in my own business. I still work, but I certainly don’t have to. I get 5 hours of sleep a day if I’m lucky. Sleep is for people who have nothing amazing going on. My days are like non-stop ecxtasy!

    Academics cling to theories, it’s all they have outside of their student loans. I cling to my cash, I admit. ;-) But, like Henry Ford, if I lost it all, I could rebuild again without fear.

    All of the education in the world – plus 1 dollar – will buy you a cup of coffee.

    It’s no surprise to me that Academics are often liberals & democrats. Just delusional all around.

    Mark Twain: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

    I was fortunate to be raised around business, around money… and tangible accomplishment.

    Academics, PLEASE learn to be responsible for yourselves and take care of your own affairs. It’s not the government’s job to steal from victorious C students like me through taxation to fund your egregious life choices. The sweetest fruit is from the trees you plant yourself.

    If your teachers are so smart, ask them why they aren’t rich. Ask them why bartenders and vacuum cleaner salespeople earn more. ;-)

  12. Criminology and Justice is my career and it was nor easy to earn this career If you believe inyourself you can do it :) :P

  13. Pingback: Quote of the day – Do grades really matter? « Tree of Eden

  14. “A and A+ students that run the world is larger by several orders of magnitude than that for C and C+ students.”

    This is one of the dumbest comments I’ve heard in my entire life. Let’s see… The RICHEST man is the world is a college dropout. (William Gates).. The most respected(debatable) scientist failed much of school (Albert Einstein).

    My personal opinion: Grades don’t reflect intelligence or success in life. They only reflect the work that you did in that particular class.

  15. Bill Gates may have left university, but not because he did not excel academically — he aced his SATs, for example. Further, the idea that Albert Einstein did badly in school is a myth that arose from a misunderstanding of the grading system used in his school system.

    My own view is that grades are a result of intellectual ability multiplied by willingness to work hard. The more you have of one, the more you can cover for the lack of the other. And if you have both, well, now we’re back to Gates and Einstein.

  16. “Bill Gates may have left university, but not because he did not excel academically — he aced his SATs, for example. Further, the idea that Albert Einstein did badly in school is a myth that arose from a misunderstanding of the grading system used in his school system.”

    Yeah, I’d like to see some proof of your reasoning. Your reasoning is only opinion. Just because you ace your SAT’s doesn’t give you a degree. The FACT is, Bill Gates dropped out of college.

    Einstein may have done well in math, but tottally biffed it in history, languages, music and geography. Particularly French, he did really bad in.

    I can’t believe that there are people that truly believe that you can measure intelligence with a letter.

    Dropped out of college:
    -Bill Gates
    -Michael Dell
    -Paul Allen
    -Steve Jobs
    -Ted Turner
    -Scott Carpenter (astronaut- twice dropped out)
    -John Glenn (astronaut and congressman)
    -Charles Lindbergh
    -JFK (dropped out of Princeton before attending Harvard)
    -Robert Frost
    -J. Paul Getty (oil tycoon)
    -Rush Limbaugh
    -Karl Rove
    -Carl Bernstein
    -Warreen Buffet (dropped out and returned)

    Dropped out of HS:
    -Jimmy Dean
    -HG Wells
    -Andrew Jackson (7th president, dude on $20 bill)
    -Ray Charles
    -Cher (but you can’t even tell!)
    -Pierce Brosnan
    -Ellen Burstyn
    -Thomas Edison
    -Peter Jenning
    -Dizzy Gillespie
    -Ansel Adams
    -Julie Andrews
    -Louis Armstrong
    -Brooke Astor
    -Jack Kent Cooke
    -Robert De Niro
    -Sonny Bono (former member of Congress)

    The success of all these high school drop outs doesn’t say much for our public education system, does it?


    -Yahoo! Answers

  17. It all depends on where you want/see/aspire to do with your life. If you have an ambition to be a manager, engineer, designer, social worker etc. and you know the educational path that will take you there, you are golden. I find that as a come closer to graduation that others still do not know what they want to do, which is completely fine, however this will directly affect your grades. If you are in a program/discipline you have no real interest in attaining a job in the future with, you may not try as hard to achieve the grades you need.

    I am an example of the transition from a C student to A, being an engineering student in a 5 year program, I entered university having an interest in maths/science and engineering in general having a respectable average, however had no real clue as to what I could do as an engineer. So I basically coasted through my first 3 years getting grades from C to B-, not really putting in my full effort. It wasn’t until I actually got a co-op, and saw the influence I could have in the working world that I was motivated. Now in my past year I have achieved a A- average, and going on for a A+ in my final year.

    Grades do matter if you are in a program you have a passion for, and what to excel in. However as for those that are mentioned above that dropped out of high school and university; they has the insight to know that the educational path they were taken was not going to take them where they wanted to go.

    However, I must warn everyone that with this downturn in the economy, the number of people attaining higher education is increasing (In respect to getting Masters and PhD, at least from what I have been observing. No jobs, means more time to invest in the education system, which will make it very difficult to get a job in the future / and even now for that matter.

    On the comment that C+ end up running the world, that is really subjective. And may be more true in the 70’s-80’s than it is today. With higher numbers of people attaining post-secondary education no one will simply rise up from a mail-room clerk job to a partner in a corporation nowadays. From the C+ students I had in my high-school days, it was really about a lack of motivation.

  18. A person’s success starts way before school even starts..in the home and shaped by their surroundings. To me, School is like a babysitting class where the teacher keeps track of who can count and read on command, while your parents are at work. In short, successful people can come from all walks of life. Trust me. I’ve seen the best come from the gutter, vice versa.

  19. Pingback: School is a place where former “A students teach mostly B students to work for C students.” - Informational outreach - Austin Massee

  20. I was a c student, and I am by far more successful than my A student friends have become, simply because I have worked hard and made great investments and control my income where as my friends all work for someone and have peaked out on their incomes. Just because you get an A in high school does not make you work hard in the real world. The negative comments about C students lacking motivation is totally wrong, we had better things to do like make money. Intelligence is not decided by letter grade, some of the stupidest people I know and have met are educated people, they believe education is everything. As long as your happy you are successful, thanks to you A students who commented because I have lots of great B students working for me :)

  21. This is rediculou. You can’t apply a universal standard of “sucess” to compare people with different levels of performance in school. Sucess is individual defined because it is only to the individual that it matters. If your version of sucess is money and power than you may be more sucessful in you own eyes that the career academic. However that academic may have a different definition for sucess in which they are more sucessful. Using your own definition of sucess on other people is foolish.

  22. I just have 1 sentence.

    WHAT about a C student from Harvard university. and an A student from lets say Colgate university or any other lower ranked university. DOES that mean anything? NO it doesnt!!!! grades dont detemine how you will lead your future. DOnt forget kids that college and high school is not a standard to place your life on!! Comon!! MY DAD was a C student from middle east technocal university in turkey ( he went there) and he is a VERY successful man. I myself average out at B my GPA is a 3.1 at my university. but i meet alot of A students who are dumb are pointless when it comes to teh real world. all they do is memorize books that would most likely vanish onc ethey finish class!!! DONT JUDGE A PERSON MY HIS COLLEGE SUCCESS. getting an A in a class doesnt mean you will use teh information in your practical life. it means you memorized and you got it. while a C student in most cases have a better grib of life and the world around him.

  23. I was a C student in high school, but I’m not running a Fortune 500 company. Where did I go wrong?

  24. Pingback: ‘A’ students teach ‘B’ students to work for ‘C’ students. « PurpleThink.

  25. While I do agree that grades are not an amazing indicator of future success, I also believe that the author is grossly over-exaggerating and oversimplifying the matter. She appears to be saying for a large portion of the article that C students are destined for success, while A students will never get anywhere past being, say, a lawyer or doctor. In essence, she has implied that success is in fact inversely proportional to grades in school. Does anyone else see something wrong with that?

  26. This is foolish. The problem is that typically the C student’s definition of success differs from the A student’s definition of success. So it is certainly possible for each to see themselves as more successful than the other. To argue over who is more successful is argument for the sake of argument – an activity that is enjoyable but at least choose a better topic.

  27. Great posts all around, and the definition of success don’t vary as much as we’d like to think. Let’s be honest. Doing what we *really* want to do, having the funds to do what we want to do and the freedom would be considered successful for anybody. I do what I love to do, I have the freedom, I get to challenge myself, *and* I get to help more people with my company. The article is true as I have a friend who makes all A’s or close to it and he loves school and the system and he is very sheltered otherwise. He’ll no doubt be at a job or be a professor or something of the sort. And I helped him with his work. I hated and I still hate the school system as a lot of it is bs and it is really a massive business.

    Grades don’t determine your success and neither does a degree. *You* do. Regardless of what grades you made or didn’t make.

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  32. Unquestionably believe that which you stated. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the web the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people consider worries that they plainly do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people could take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

  33. Ezekiel and others who agree with his thoughts. You are all under the assumption that the only way to have success in life is to get good grades and “get into med school or law school”, and then get a good job. The flaw there is that “good job” is an oxymoron. There is no such thing as a “GOOD” job. Success is measured in time not in money. That’s why A students go to school forever to continue building their knowledge to bless the rest of us with what they know, B students go to school long enough to learn from the A students how to get a “good” job, and C students tend to be the ones who make things happen on their own and build and create the businesses that everyone works for. Its a generalization, but a rather on the mark one at that.

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