It can be hard to convince students that high school GPA matters beyond the college application process. We can tell them all we want that good grades are an investment in the future, but making a persuasive case is difficult. Thanks to a recent study revealing that high school GPA predicts a student’s future salary, that may be getting a little easier. Money may not be the most academic motive, but it is something that unmotivated students can understand and appreciate.
The study, led by Michael T. French and performed at the University of Miami, found a strong correlation between high school GPA, college graduation, and future salary. The results were dramatic: increasing GPA by one point doubled a student’s chances of graduating from college and boosted future earnings by 14 percent for women and 12 percent for men. Assuming a base salary of $50,000 per year, a woman with a 3.5 high school GPA would make an extra $7,000 each year compared to a woman with a 2.5. Clear financial benefits like this can help make the long hours of problem sets and essay drafts seem more worthwhile to high schoolers.
While the correlation between high school GPA and future earnings is strong, good grades do not guarantee a higher salary. Strong GPA usually indicates that a student has mastered academic skills, developed effective work habits, and opened up promising opportunities for college education. All of these factors prime students for success in college and, eventually, in their chosen careers. On the other hand, weak high school grades limit opportunities for students to attend strong colleges, earn scholarships, and qualify for enriching programs.
“These findings…highlight the importance of doing well in high school for both short term (college admission) and longer term (earnings as an adult) goals”
As researchers continue to investigate how education influences future career opportunities, the information they reveal can provide great motivation for high schoolers. Many bright students limit themselves because they coast through high school planning to work harder once they get to college. But the data is increasingly clear about the danger of this approach, which limits the medium-term opportunities that lead to long-term career success and financial stability.