Successful People Talk About How Their Bad Grades in School Affected or Didn’t Affect Their Future

It’s always strange when you get older and you see what the people you grew up with have made of themselves.

Some of the smartest kids burned out and didn’t do much with themselves and some people who seemed like they’d be headed straight for jail ended up doing great things with their lives.

Life is what you make of it, young people…and that’s your life lesson for today.

Successful people were asked how their bad grades affected or didn’t affect them later in life.

Here’s what AskReddit users had to say.

1. Doing well now.

“I did very poorly in high school and dropped out of college.

I am now the Telecommunications Manager of a very successful company who specialize in Fiber Optic Engineering (Yes, I’m involved in 5G) and Electrical Engineering.

Essentially, I got EXTREMELY lucky. I was working in a machine shop doing manual labor all day everyday until a buddy of time who was going to school for drafting at the time started talking to me about how he got this job as a drafter. I was interested needless to say.

I was on a bad path and wasn’t going anywhere in life. He trained me in the ways of mechanical drafting and engineering. Ended up picking it up quickly and getting the same job he did. Years later I quit and started as an AutoCAD drafter at a local Telecom company. Raised in the ranks to an executive level over there, left, and started a partnership with an electrical company to start their Telecom division.

Now here I am. All of this to say, you don’t HAVE to go to college to make good money and be successful. That term is subjective anyways, success is all about how you see it and what you value in life.”

2. Was borderline failing.

“Borderline failing grades in high school.

Now, JD, MBA licensed attorney in 2 states and working in risk management for one of the largest financial institutions in the world.

After borderline failing high school, I joined the army and got my proverbial sh*t together. Put that discipline to work in college, law school and business school. I believe that the Army experience opened a ton of doors for me, and that the discipline made a huge difference in my trajectory.

That said, my problem in high school was discipline, not capacity. I always tested very well, just didn’t do any homework.”

3. C student.

“I was a C student because I would ace the exams, but barely do any homework or show up for class.

I was poor and had to work a lot, so I only did enough school work to know that I understood the material. Most of my teachers loved me, because they knew I understood the material and would help explain it to other students who were struggling.

Now I work in software development. I only work for causes I believe in, and with people I like. I make decent money and am financially secure with no debt and with decent retirement savings.

I recently took six months off before the pandemic just to relax for a bit. I had planned for a year, but when the pandemic hit, I decided I should go back to work not knowing where the economy would be by the end of the year. I had a job offer the next day.

My grades in high school mattered a little. I got rejected to my college of choice and had to argue my way in. My grades in college didn’t matter at all. I got a job through my alumni network. After your first job, no one cares about your GPA.

I never even finished my degree.”

4. Seeing and doing.

“I was always a terrible student, had mostly 50s or 60s in applied classes.

I had a lot of anger and a bad home life when I was a kid/teenager which had a lot to do with how I acted and how much effort I put in at school but I also didn’t have an interest in any of the subjects other than gym and auto class.(where I still didn’t apply myself the best)

I couldn’t learn by reading or sitting listening to a teacher talk, I only learn to this day by doing and watching how things work.

I remember going to the guidance councilors when I was in high school and doing tests that would suggest I’d be good at service jobs… like food, retail or cosmetics. None of that appealed to me.

I did one year of College for cosmetics as that seemed like the best choice they suggest and failed, Didn’t even consider going back or trying something else. Looking back now I don’t know why they never suggested agriculture or why I never came up with that idea on my own.

I wouldn’t call myself successful but always a hard worker and by the age 20 I bought a house and a vehicle and worked full time making $45,000 a year with no education.

Now I’ll be 27 next month and I still own my house, a new vehicle, have 2 dogs, play my sports, & work full time with a large agriculture company where I do multiple jobs depending on the season.

I do customer service during harvest time,

Run a forklift and manage a warehouse and 3 other people in the winter/spring for seed for the farmers

Scout fields for growth, disease, weeds and insects in the summer and as well some soil sampling.

All these things learned by seeing and doing.”

5. A fresh start.

“I didn’t do well in high school. I ditched most of my senior year.

After graduating I got a job as a server in a restaurant and went to my local community college. I did well there and transferred to a good university. I now make around $200K.

My high school grades didn’t affect my entrance into college at all. When you go to community college – you get a fresh start. There’s a ton of opportunity if you want it.

It also didn’t affect my job search. Employers didn’t care that I had community college and a university on my resume. I could even leave off the community college if I wanted (I don’t). I like having it on there because I have a B.S. and an AA.

I’m 28.”

6. Skin of their teeth.

“Graduated high school by the skin of my teeth.

I grew up with a great mom and a disaster of an alcoholic and eventually cocaine addict deadbeat father. Lots of fights, drugs, trouble with the law, summer school twice. 50 days absent senior year. Absolute last in class rank. Not for lack of ability, just couldn’t stand the trappings of school and the bullsh*t that teachers fed you in the late 90’s about “life”.

I was told by pretty much every teacher and administrator that college would be a waste of time and money. Got a job in a garage, went to school part time, used those grades and a sob story essay to barely get into a good private college. I joke that I invented the “gap year” but the only exotic place I saw was under the hood of a Volvo.

Mortgaged away my future in student loans for a technology degree, which has helped provide me a middle upper class lifestyle I could never have imagined. But, it also took a while. I didn’t feel “successful” until I was almost 30. I’m also lucky in the fact that I picked the exact right career at the exact right time.

School and degrees are an entrance barrier to the workforce. People really need to grasp that better. Short of nepotism or being a shady *sshole, hard work is what builds careers. I achieved my “moderate” success by always being willing to work harder than the guy next to me.

Believing in and being willing to stretch your talents is the key to upward mobility. If you walk into an interview more than 5 years after graduating and someone asks you what your GPA was, stand up and walk out.”

7. Good work.

“I became an animator after almost failing high school.

I ended up getting to work on a lot of anime shows and TV shows through my animation skills and that proved to my parents I can be an hardworker too.

I feel I was able to open up doors to stable well-paying animation jobs now and career-wise for me is no longer a worry. I figure that’s a success of it’s own. Still got a lot to do though.”

8. Good advice.

“Dropped out of high school in the 9th grade.

Got my GED, went to a technical “college” and barely graduated after 2 years. Immediately got a job in IT setting up new hires, and fixing printers. Became buddy buddy with one of the ladies in HR recruiting and she gave me some of the best career advice i’ve ever gotten.

“If you want to advance in your career, leave”. In other words, never settle. The only way to get big bump in salary is to leave and work somewhere else. It sucked because it was my first job and I had so made so many friends. Well after a couple years of piddly 2-3% raises, I left for another job, doing the same things I was doing, but making 20% more.

During the interview process, they didn’t ask a single question about what school I went to, they only cared about my 4 years of work experience in help desk environments. Once I landed that job, I really honed in my skills on a particular piece of software. In this case it was MS Sharepoint. I learned every single thing I could about it.

A few years later I got a job offer making 20% more. They didn’t give 2 sh*ts about my education, they only cared about my 3 years of Sharepoint development skills.

Fast forward 10 year, i’m now a lead software engineer at a fortune 100 company making $250k a year plus stock options, bonuses, the whole 9.

The moral of this story is, nobody cares about where or if you went to school. Nobody cares what your GPA was. Unless you’re going to be a doctor, don’t focus so much on general education. Just be the best at one particular thing and it will pay dividends. I honestly think college is a dying industry.

Gone are the days of a guaranteed career just because you went to XYZ school. You’ll be buried in a mountain of debt and your resume will be looked at by someone who only looks at your college education to try and figure out how old you are.”

9. An academic loser.

“I was an academic loser. Bad study habits, bad homework habits, and a learned apathy for anything school related had me graduating high school with like 2.1GPA.

I had no clue what I wanted to do after. So I went to community college where I was ready to latch onto the first thing that would make me feel like I would love a job in the field. I confused my professors passion with the criminal justice system as my own.

So I got a degree in criminology before I learned how much I hated the American justice system. I also didn’t know what job I wanted but working at the prison was becoming a pretty clear reality. So I ran away.

Bless my fiancée who watched me throw away 5 years of my life working at a hardware store. Her job wasn’t much better, but she did make more than me. I could not take this sh*tty life of not being able to save money and struggling with groceries.

3 years ago I went back to school. I went to the community college and took a bunch of transfer credits then went to a four year school.

In May I received my Bachelors Degree in Computer Science (I graduated with honors!). In July I started my new job as a Software Developer. In my 3 months as a dev I’ve made more money than I did in a year at my old job.

Knowing that my family is actually proud of me now and that I can finally afford birthday and Christmas presents for them is probably the best part.”

10. The big time.

“I currently work for a major pharma company in Patient Safety making 6 figures.

I had bad grades in high school and my first year of college. I got a C- in physiology in high school and a D in physics 101 in college. I got serious my second year of college and now, interestingly enough, I have a PhD in Physiology and Biophysics.

I learned how to be good at school since I was finally motivated and that lead to learning how to be good at work. These things are skills that you can learn from people with experience.

My bad grades make me humble and worry whether or not I’m doing a good job, and they concern motivates me to do better. Also, I learned the importance of learning how to be good at things most people just do, like interviewing, corporate politics/relations, taking tests, writing emails, presenting, etc….

My bad grades have zero effect on me now since all job applications want are my school name and degree. But it taught me that hard work is a requirement regardless of how talented and charismatic you are. You gotta put the time and effort in, period.”

11. No effect.

“I graduated high school with like a 2.7 and college with a 2.4 no effect on anything.

Never once has an employer asked for a transcript.

Make 90k, my college advisor told me to drop out”

12. Don’t be afraid to fail.

“I’m managing a large corporate finance team in a fortune 100 company.

I got poor grades in high school, but did very well on my SAT so I ended up getting into a regional college on partial scholarship in another area of the country.

I didn’t do particularly well in college either, but I graduated. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I moved back home and ended up working through a temp agency for like $11 an hour doing data entry and other administrative tasks for a little over a year. I used that experience to apply for entry level analyst roles and my career moved on from there.

Honestly it didn’t matter. Once I had a degree and was able to get a foot in the door I moved up in the organization quickly. I have multiple levels of people reporting up to me with degrees from “better” schools, more years of experience and more advanced degrees.

My early career would have likely been easier if I had better grades in high school and went to a more prestigious college, but after a few years nobody cares. Just work hard and don’t be afraid to fail.”

How about you?

Did you get good grades in school?

If so, did they impact your future at all?

Talk to us in the comments!