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When Average Students Make Extraordinary Humans

Want to know a secret? It’s a good one. Come closer. Are you ready?

Nobody cares about your grades.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Those tiny letters next to your course names only matter while you’re in school. Before and after that, they’re just wee alphabetic indicators of how much you may or may not have enjoyed high school History of Civ or that advanced statistics class you signed up for by accident.

GPAs and standardized tests are not great indicators of the many types of intelligence that exist. And while a scantron can measure your comprehension of sine, cosine and tangent ratios, it can’t reflect the life experiences that teach you how to think critically, make good decisions and forge strong relationships.

C students become presidents. College dropouts run companies. So no matter how “average” your transcript is, just remember that you are capable of extraordinary things.

We’ve already written about how the only difference between success and failure is how you look at it. Success is not just a matter of perspective, it’s a product of second chances. Here’s our list of 14 respected people who didn’t graduate at the top of their class (or at all) and still managed to make something amazing of themselves.

Bill Gates

Before he founded Microsoft at the tender age of 31, Bill Gates was a Harvard dropout. They awarded him an honorary degree eventually, but that was only after he became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.

Muriel Siebert

Before she was the first woman to take a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1967, Muriel Siebert was a college dropout. Now, she’s known as “The First Woman of Finance” and has her own hallway at the NYSE.

Steve Jobs

Arguably the world’s favorite entrepreneur and the man who made business attire out of black turtlenecks and mom jeans, Steve Jobs famously had a GPA of 2.67, which is just one of the ways he thought different.

Richard Branson

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson became a dropout at 16 after struggling in school because of dyslexia. Ironically, he immediately founded a successful magazine called “Student” before expanding to include a record shop and a recording studio. Not bad for a teenager.

Aretha Franklin

When Aretha Franklin had her first child shortly after her 14th birthday, she had to drop out of school. Since then she’s recorded dozens of hits, won 18 Grammys and been awarded honorary degrees from Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory.

Al Gore

Former Vice President Al Gore didn’t let a D in Natural Sciences stop him from becoming one of the century’s most influential voices on climate change.

John McCain

John McCain graduated at the bottom of his class at the U.S. Naval Academy. But as someone who survived years as a POW in Vietnam, he is one of the most respected veterans in the nation.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden had an undergraduate GPA of 1.9 and was 76th in his law school class of just 85. That didn’t stop him from becoming a popular senator, Vice President and star of the best meme on the internet.

Hilary Swank

After struggling to fit in and manage her ADHD, Hilary Swank dropped out of high school, which freed her up to win two Oscars and a pair of Golden Globes.

George Bush I & II

Neither of the George Bushes were stellar students, but both of them were able to secure White House jobs for 8-12 years.

Sophia Amoruso

Community college couldn’t hold Sophia Amoruso’s attention, so she dropped out to become the founder of Nasty Gal and pen the bestselling memoir #GIRLBOSS. And though her company recently hit a rough patch, the former freegan and anarchist has made it through hard times before, no thanks to her GPA.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney’s grades suffered when he fell asleep in class. All that daydreaming certainly paid off when he poured his energy into creating the wonderful world of Disney and making fantasies come true—his own and everyone else’s.

Oprah Winfrey

Before she was the Queen of all Media, Oprah Winfrey dropped out of Tennessee State University. When they invited her back to speak at commencement, the media mogul said no — not until she finished the last credit required for her degree…which she did.

This list of impressive entrepreneurs, politicians, musicians and more who bungled their way through high school and college only to turn their lives into incredible success stories proves one thing: There are always second chances. And isn’t that something to be thankful for?


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