The Millionaire Next Door

College Ranking Not Among Millionaires’ Key Success Factors

The national survey which served as the base for The Millionaire Mind represented a fraction of the top 1% of the wealth holders in America.  Some of the myths about these people are that they were all straight A students, scored at the top on the SAT, attended elite private schools, etc.  The average SAT score for the sample was 1190.  Their most frequent grade in both high school and college was “B.”  Their GPA in college was 2.9.  They typically did not qualify for admission to an “elite” college or university.  But there were a few who, in spite of their mediocre credentials, somehow made it into the freshman class of a prestigious college.  How did this happen?

In a Wall Street Journal article, Richard D. Kahlenberg mentioned that:

Princeton University scholar Thomas Espenshade and colleagues found that, among applicants to elite colleges, legacy status was worth the equivalent of scoring 160 points higher on the SAT (on a scale of 400 to 1600).

Mr. Kahlenberg also reported that Princeton University in 2009 accepted only 9.2% of non-legacy applicants; in contrast, it accepted 41.7% of legacy applicants.  Four other Ivy League schools were also cited in the article. 

What if you were one of the 9 out of 10 non-legacies who were rejected by Princeton?  Many a millionaire has told me that their experiences with rejection compelled them to succeed.  Gaining access to an elite college via the legacy route or otherwise does not insure success.  Only about 1 in 10 (11%) of decamillionaires rated “attending a top rated college” as a very important factor in explaining their socioeconomic success.  A significantly larger portion rated a variety of success factors as being very important, including:

  • being honest with all people  5.5X
  • being well disciplined  5.1X
  • loving my career/business  5.1X
  • working harder than most  4.8X
  • getting along with people  4.7X
  • having a very competitive spirit/personality  4.5X
  • having strong leadership qualities  4.3X

Overall out of the 30 success factors studied “attending a top rated college” rated 29th or just above “graduating near/at the top of my class.”

As reported in an earlier blog, one eminent scholar said, “your degree will get you your first job, but after three years nobody will care where you went to school.”  Even in America not all opportunities are equally distributed.  Recognize it, deal with it and overcome it.   

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