We want our kids to get high grades in school because it can pave the way for a successful future. We all wish they have the potential to be valedictorians, of course, but it's okay if they don't become the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. Besides, this recent study says academic achievers may not have that much over a child who doesn't graduate with the highest honor once outside the school.
Karen Arnold, a researcher on the study and associate professor at the Educational Leadership and Higher Education Department of Boston College, puts it this way: “Valedictorians aren’t likely to be the future’s visionaries...they typically settle into the system instead of shaking it up.”
As reported by Time’s Money Magazine, Arnold followed 81 high school valedictorians and salutatorians. Ninety-five percent went on to graduate college with an average GPA of 3.6 (the highest possible GPA in the U.S. is a 4.0). At present, nearly 90 percent of the participants are in professional careers with 40 percent holding top-tier jobs.
“They’re extremely well rounded and successful, personally and professionally,” Arnold told Money. However, they don't seem to be the ones who to change the world. “Even though most are strong occupational achievers, the great majority of former high school valedictorians do not appear headed for the very top of adult achievement arenas,” she told Time.
Arnold points out that valedictorians and salutatorians are good at following orders and rules. Intellectuals and movers and shakers, on the other hand, like to think outside the box. Participants who admitted they weren’t the smartest in the class claimed they were the ones who worked the hardest.
To be an honor student in school, one needs to get high grades in all classes, essentially making a child a jack of all trades but a master of none. In the real world, however, true success often comes from expertise and mastery in one, often very specific, area.
Past research and other studies have advised parents against banking on school performance or a high IQ as a predictor of success.
“It's like we literally think they will have no future if they don't get into one of these tiny set of colleges or careers we have in mind for them,” said Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Stanford Dean and bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult. “Contrary to what the college rankings racket would have us believe you don't have to go to one of the biggest brand name schools to be happy and successful in life.”
For example, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a study co-authored by James Heckman, an economist and Nobel laureate, found that personality was a better driver for success rather than an individual’s intelligence quotient (IQ).
Parent coach Heidi Landes, who spoke at a TEDx event late last year, agrees. “Childhood self-control strongly predicts adult success, in people of high or low intelligence, in rich or poor,” said Landes citing a groundbreaking study conducted by Dr. Roy Baumeister from the University of Florida.
Still not convinced? Take it from Injap Sia, who started Mang Inasal and became the youngest dollar billionaire in Forbes Asia’s list of wealthiest in 2016. His success does not come from a college degree -- in fact, he doesn’t have one! Instead, he built Mang Inasal on perseverance and hard work with his parents as his role model. Injap watched them start a grocery store from scratch until it eventually grew. “That was many years of learning, watching how my parents ran their business so precisely. I think they subconsciously gave me a lot of insights,” Injap wrote in his book, Life Principles.
Read "How to Raise a Future Billionaire, According to Injap Sia" here.