Does Academic Excellence Guarantee Professional Success or It Just Gives a Head Start?

How Our Entire Merit Based System is Built on Rewarding Graduates with Good Grades

Often, it is though those students who do well in college go on to become successful professionals. Indeed, our entire recruitment paradigm is based on short listing those who have good grades and who have been consistent in their academic lives.

Moreover, corporates flock to the Top Tier Engineering and Business Schools to look for talent and in addition, they specify cut off grades to be considered for even to be considered, leave alone interviews and aptitude tests.

In other words, the belief that academic excellence is a prerequisite for professional success is so ingrained in our Merit Based System that only those with excellent grades and consistent performance right from their school years usually make the cut as far as selection to premium corporates are concerned.

For instance, the Indian Software Giant, Infosys, specifies a minimum percentage or grade in graduate degrees to be even considered for the aptitude test and this practice is so widespread in even Business Schools that recruiters often short list only those who meet stringent academic criteria.

This is the reason why educators and policymakers are so concerned with good grades.

Why Later Life Professional Success Depends on Broader Factors and Circumstances

Having said that, does this mean that only those who do well in college succeed in their careers?

While there is enough evidence to prove this maxim right, there are contrarian indications as well when one considers the lives and careers of high flying innovators and corporate honchos.

Bill Gates, for one, was a Harvard Dropout as was Steve Jobs who achieved much in their lives, mainly on account of their creative and innovative as well as visionary traits.

Moreover, there are any numbers of founders of Unicorn Start-ups who were average in their grades, but scaled new heights during their careers.

Of course, we do not suggest, for even a moment, that it is ok to flunk and fail in college and then become the next Steve Jobs.

Rather, our main argument that no matter whether you do well or poor in college, there is no reason for you to let that be a hindrance in your professional careers.

Indeed, academically brilliant graduates have an enviable head start over others that are so valuable that it gives them the chance to power ahead in the first few years of their careers and ensure that they are comfortably placed then.

Why our Merit Based System Succeeds and the Case for Retaining Its Best Parts

On the other hand, there is a reason why our entire Merit Based System is structured that way. For instance, consistency in school and college is often an indicator that such graduates are disciplined, focus, and determined.

Moreover, being consistent over a ten or Twenty Year Period indicates that the graduate in question is a Long Race Horse or a Lambi Race Ka Ghoda, as Anil Ambani put it about Narendra Modi.

In other words, having good grades throughout school and college would definitely help graduates do well in their careers.

Of course, Late Bloomers and those who discover their Mojo once in their careers are also to be feted. Indeed, in recent years, there have been countless individuals who realized their true passions and overtook those who had a head start over them.

In addition, there is every chance that those who did well in college lose focus midway through their careers, whereas others, who started late, zoom ahead due to their discovery of certain innate skills and traits that are sought after in their 30s and 40s.

Therefore, there is the other side of the coin as well and hence, our system should not deter the average students.

How Corporates Must Reorient Recruitment Strategies to Ensure All-round Fairness

So, what we need now is an entirely new way to recruit and promote talent. To start with, corporates must reorient their recruitment strategies in a manner in which even those with poor grades get a look in for the aptitude, technical, and other tests that are mandated as the initial rounds of selection.

Moreover, they should desist from the practice of allowing only those with stellar grades to the selection process.

Even the short listing of resumes must be done with a view to give those who are all round performers rather than only studious students a shot at selection.

Above all, recruiting only from the best Engineering and Business schools is discriminatory, to say the least, and there is a case for broad basing the entire recruitment paradigm.

Indeed, as any corporate honcho would attest, later life professional success depends on a wide array of factors and circumstances that academic excellence is just on cog in the wheel.

So, recruitment that focuses on narrow grades and other on paper successes is an indicator of later life success.

Of course, this does not mean that Merit does not have a place as Flashes in the Pan soon peter out.


Last, what we need to encourage are broad based skills and traits that are a true indicator of longer term success.

These include being creative and innovative problem solvers, ability to perform under pressure, Emotional Intelligence traits and attributes, ability to never give up, and discipline and focus as well as the most important ability of being hard workers.

This is the model that our policymakers and other stakeholders must nurture and establish a new way of incubating and encouraging talent.

To conclude, the Times are changing and hence, we need a new approach to who succeeds in later life.

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