Why valedictorians rarely become millionaires, author says

It’s high school graduation time and a slew of young, newly minted grads are ready to tackle the workforce or continue their education. And, while many of those graduates have poured their blood, sweat and tears into getting perfect grades (like the valedictorian), one author says that motivation may not turn into success—or lots of cash—in the real world.

“They do well, but they don't go on to change the world or lead the world. School rewards people who follow the rules, not people who shake things up,” Eric Barker, author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree, tells FOX Business.

Barker spent years interviewing various academic experts to try to figure out the science behind success. Through that process he met Karen Arnold, a researcher at Boston College, who followed 81 high school valedictorians and salutatorians from graduation through their careers and the statistics were surprising, he said.

Of the 95% who went on to graduate college, their average GPA was only 3.6, and only 60% had received a graduate degree. And today, 90% of them are in a professional career but only 40% are in the highest tier jobs.

There are two reasons for this, Barker says.

“First, schools reward students who consistently do what they are told. Academic grades correlate only loosely with intelligence (standardized tests are better at measuring IQ). Grades are, however an excellent predictor of self-discipline, conscientiousness, and the ability to comply with rules.”

The second reason is that schools typically reward being a generalist, he says.

“There is little recognition of student passion or expertise. The real world, however, does the reverse,” he says.

In conclusion, he says he discovered the keys to success are to “know thyself” and “pick the right pond.”

“In the end, it's about having a personal definition of success. With an interconnected world where you can work 24/7 and unrealistic standards of achievement are set by TV and the internet, the only way to succeed and be happy is to work toward a standard of success you set for yourself, not one created by others,” Barker says.