Wharton professor writes op-ed arguing against academics as a success indicator

A university professor has penned an op-ed in The New York Times arguing that academic success in college does not necessarily guarantee success in later life.

“The evidence is clear: Academic excellence is not a strong predictor of career excellence,” wrote Adam Grant, a Professor of Psychology at Wharton, in his essay “What Straight-A Students Get Wrong.”

Grant described watching his students over the years obsess over achieving perfect grades, often to the detriment of their own health. But perfect grades, he argued, often come at the expense of other qualities, like creativity and leadership.


“Getting straight A’s requires conformity. Having an influential career demands originality,” Grant wrote.

As proof of his claims, Grant cited famous people who did above average or poorly in school. Steve Jobs, for instance, “finished high school with a 2.65 G.P.A.” and “J.K. Rowling graduated from the University of Exeter with roughly a C average.”

Rather than taking easy classes so as not to ruin their perfect G.P.A., Grant proposed students take difficult classes that take them outside their comfort zones – even at the risk of getting a B.

Detractors who disagreed with Grant’s take have called his piece “simplistic,” “filled with inaccurate stereotypes” and reeking of privilege, ABC 13 reported.

Grant concluded the piece by lamenting the long hours he spent as a student “memorizing the inner workings of the eye” rather than “trying out improv comedy."

Employers, Grand said, should it make clear they “value skills over straight A’s,” while students need to “[r]ecognize that underachieving in school can prepare you to overachieve in life.”