In 1984, a team of researchers led by Cleveland State professor Gordon E. Samson combed through 35 independent studies and found very little, if any, correlation between GPA and “income, job satisfaction and effectiveness.”

Educators have been scratching their heads ever since.

A great many studies have since been commissioned on this topic and, while findings vary somewhat, no one has found a very strong correlation between grades or success after college.


This may provide a ray of hope to students currently making up a course in summer school. Kurt Vonnegut, Bill Gates, Woody Allen and Colin Powell were all in your shoes too. And there’s plenty more.

La Salle University professor Dr. Katie Neary Dunleavy, who studies the classroom behavior of students and professors, says it’s all about what experts in her field refer to as “learning orientation verses grade orientation.” “Students can be one or the other or a combination of both,” she says via e-mail. “The [heavily learning-oriented] student probably won’t use a study guide … They are, however, great to speak with interpersonally, as they often have more of a firm grasp on the ideas presented in class.”

And life, rather than school, is constantly demanding learning orientation. Without an outside motivator, it can be difficult for the heavily grade-oriented student to summon the determination after college.

“It’s a high degree of motivation formed by a conscious decision. That’s what Colin Powell had,” says Jeffrey J. Matthews, co-editor of “The Art of Command.” “At City College, he dropped his engineering degree because it was too rigorous. He had something like a C-minus average when he joined the ROTC.”

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