Survey Says: Get 1,300 on Your SAT’s and a 3.9 GPA And You’re Set For Life!

I came across an intriguing article with a secret on getting set for life. Study hard, get good grades, nail your SATs, and get into one of the top 20 schools. Or if you weren't scared off by the college admissions scandal, you could bribe your way in. But of course only you can decide if taking that level of risk is worth it.

The New York Times highlighted PayScale's survey of 1.2 million college graduates. They reported how much money they made right out of school and 10 years after graduation. Would you feel set for life with these salary ranges?

Set For Life Graduate Salary Statistics

If you look at the picture, it's interesting to note that the majority of schools are: 1) Private Schools, and 2) Highly Ranked in US News & World Report and other popular college rankings.

The average SAT and GPA scores of these 20 schools are roughly 1,300 and 3.7, respectively. Hence, one could argue that the key to making a six figure income 10 years out of school is simply high test scores and good grades!

As such, it behooves all incoming 9th graders to recognize their grades accumulate from 9th to 12th grade. Don't mess up your child's chances of getting into Dartmouth, UPenn, and Yale if you want them to be set for life.

Set For Life In The Long Run

I really used to think education was not very useful since we forget much of what we learn. But, as I grow older, it becomes apparent that many of the most successful people we know have been very well educated.

Barack Obama went to Columbia for his BA, and Harvard Law School. George Bush Senior went to Yale, and even Bush Junior went to Harvard. Say what you will, but anybody who becomes the President of the Free World is successful in my eyes. In the long run, the cream rises to the top, be it whip cream or sour cream.

For the sake of argument, let's say elite schooling is the only way to a healthy six figure income. The trick is to manipulate little Johnny and Emily to recognize during middle school or earlier they can goof up all they want. But, once the 9th grade hits, they've got to buckle down.

I remember when I was in 7th grade, my buddy's older brother told me exactly this. He said, “Squirt, you can be a goofball all you want and annoy me on our bus ride to school, but you better not mess things up in high school or else you're going to be a loser.”

His words are still quite clear in my mind 20+ years later. He scared the hell out of me, and I stopped trying to be cool and sit in the back of the bus with him. I also stopped shooting spitballs through straws which was a nice milestone.

Help Your Kids Get Set For Life

Any parents out there, I would just tell it to your kids straight. There's only one chance at life so they might as well work as hard as possible to get the best perceived education one can afford.

The reason why private education costs so much is simply because parents are willing to pay for it. College tuition is essentially inelastic. The perceived value of a Harvard degree is tremendous.

Whether you learn something more or not is not the debate. All the text books are generally the same. It's all about perception, and the admission into a club which will open doors for you or your children. The perpetual motion of education has already been set, you just have to play the game.

With tuition at these schools hitting $30,000+/year, there is often an unfair advantage for already well to do families. The good thing is that many of these schools have hefty endowments with need base scholarships, and more often than not, rewards will be given to bring this cost down.

There's No Shame In Getting Financial Aid

Hence, don't be deterred from applying to schools out of your price range. There are many ways to pay for college.

You can also learn how to game the college financial aid system. You never know what type of aid you will receive and if you don't apply. And you'll never know whether you'll get in if you don't take a chance. It's even possible to get financial aid with a multiple six figure salary!

When I was in HS, I felt so guilty for my parents that I just applied to the local state schools. They were government employees, and didn't make a lot of money. I sometimes wonder whether I would have been able to get in.

The article also goes on to highlight that the degrees with the highest salaries include: Aerospace Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Economics, and Physics.

Coincidence these majors don't sound easy, probably not. It really is too bad that Social Work, Music, and Education are at the bottom of the list for salaries. If I were President, I'd pay these professions the most!

Related: Bankers, Techies, Doctors, And Lawyers: You’ll Never Get Rich Working For Someone Else

Nothing Is A Guarantee

Sure you want to be set for life and want the same for your kids. But, alas nothing is guaranteed. You could go to the top school in the nation, quit your job and end up broke and alone. On the other hand, there are countless examples of people who didn't go to any of the schools in the survey, who've done incredibly well for themselves.

Heck, I went to public school for High School and College and turned out ok… I think. But, when people from these schools continue to dominate the senior management positions at many of America's leading firms, we may be at a disadvantage if we want to reach the very upper levels of the firm.

Look around at your managers. It's not a coincidence that if Boss X went to Cornell, Boss Y right under Boss X also went to Cornell. You can take this analogy further to people in terms of sex and race. People like to be around people who are most similar to them. Just look around, and you'll notice the “coincidences.” It's just human nature, and it is what it is.

Many of us who are already working and didn't got to a top school may ask, “I can't rewind my life and go back to 9th grade, RB, so what now?” The good thing is that once you enter the work force, your success is largely up to your own performance (see “Rich People Try Harder: True or False?”)

Get Set For Life With An MBA

If you feel that performance alone isn't good enough, look into part-time graduate programs (see “To MBA or Not To MBA“) or full time graduate programs.

No question many of us have had different economic upbringings and different maturity profiles while growing up. The way I view grad school is that it's a second chance to try again if you're unsatisfied with the first go around. You've got your entire life to work, contrary to the title of this blog!

Another thing to note is that going to a local grad school may often yield better dividends than a higher ranked school e.g. going to UCLA if you work in LA may carry more weight than going to Columbia, same thing goes for going to University of Wisconsin if you live in Madison and so forth.

Nobody really knows how successful one will be in their careers. All we can do is work hard, work towards harmonious relationships, and arm ourselves with as many weapons possible to combat in the work jungle.

Related: The Secret To Your Success

Readers, what are your thoughts on the relationship between expensive elite private schools and your ultimate success in your career? I especially would like to hear stories of triumph proving all these survey's wrong.


Learn More, Make More Money. Here are some additional resources I’ve put together that will help you on your financial journey to earn more, save more, and hopefully double or triple your income!

Refinance your student loans today. Check out Credible, a student loan marketplace where qualified lenders compete for your business. Get personalized prequalified rates you can compare to help you lower your interest rate and save. Getting a quote is easy and only takes minutes. Take advantage and see what's available today!



12 thoughts on “Survey Says: Get 1,300 on Your SAT’s and a 3.9 GPA And You’re Set For Life!”

  1. Pretty good graphic. Most of the big earners that I’ve known were engineers with a MBA or been in the business long enough to network with the major corporations, so this gels nicely with real world data.

    I’m with you on the 3.9 from San Jose State versus 2.5 from Berkeley. I’ve landed some pretty high profile internships and jobs alongside students from MIT and such… wasn’t all that impressed.

    Their education was just as good as mine (from Virginia Tech – another engineering school), but it all depends on how much you’re willing to put into it.
    .-= Matt SF´s last blog ..Restaurant Meals You Can Make at Home with Leftover Turkey =-.

  2. You know what's weird… when i was in hs, you could definitely kinda tell the smarter folks from the not as smart folks. But, it was harder to tell in College, and at work, it's even harder.

    Hence, maybe it's not the prestige level of the education that really matters, so much as the GPA level and resume signs of hard work and multi-tasking. Getting into Berkeley shows you did well in high school, but getting a 2.5 GPA in Berkeley shows you might not be able to handle work/life. Hence, i would likely rather hire the 3.9 GPA student from San Jose State who also worked part-time than the 2.5 GPA Berkeley student.



  3. I've hired college grads and definitely look at their education and GPA. When they leave their GPA off their resume I always ask as it's generally a sign they had bad grades. I have hired people with strong GPAs from good schools that ended up being difficult to work with, so grades aren't always an indicator of how strong an employee will be. But I admit I'll put a resume with a strong college on top of a resume from a party school in my interview stack. Rachel

  4. I'm really afraid of losing 2 years of work experience to go full time. More and more, there are high quality schools like Berkeley, Penn, Chicago, NYU offering part-time programs. Yes, it's a pain to work and go to school, but to lose 2 years of work experience and salary is way too painful.

    Going PT is the way to go! I went to Berkeley Haas' Part-Time program and really loved it. I also got promoted during school, and was able to make a lot of money in 2006-2007….. would have been tough to go full time in and graduate in 2008!


  5. Hi Anon 9:27pm, one of the best quotes I remember from a Bloomberg article discussing the difficulties of getting into private secondaries schools in NYC is, "Little Johnny goes to private school all his life, but instead of going to U Penn, he goes to Penn State." This goes along the lines of what you comment on. Must be an interesting switch.

    At the end of the day, I think parents are just so petrified their children will associate with the wrong crowd, that they are willing to spend everything they have so their children can go to private school. At the end of the day, there are bad apples on both sides. It's the kids and the parental guidance that determine whether they want to take a bite.



  6. I don't understand why parents send their kids to private school and then let them enroll at state universities. Seems like a waste of money if the private school graduate decides enroll in a public state institution at the university level.

  7. I went to public school for K-10 and private for 11-12 on scholarship and the difference was night and day, enormous actually.

    I learned way more in private school and had so many more opportunities and great prep for college.

    I got into a strong public college, good good grades and think I've done well in my career.


  8. Hi FB – Thanks for sharing. I read your profile that you cleared 60K in debt in 18 months while making 65k/yr. That is quite a feat! Do you mind sharing what the #1 thing is you did to pay that debt? That's about 100K gross, or 75K after tax. Did you basically just live on 15K over an 18 month period to clear that debt?

    I like the idea of working 3 months a year, and taking the rest of the year off. Sounds like a plan to me :)

    Your expense side of the equation is low, and that's great. Mine is completely opposite, but I hope to go pay off my rental prop in 8 yrs, so it'll be purely rental income.

    Thnx for sharing.



  9. Fabulously Broke

    Going to a prestigious business school definitely helped launch my career and get my foot into the door.. but after that? All on my own.

    I started in a public college before I went to that business school and my grades weren't stellar.. but I had started a lot of businesses when I was younger & made them relatively successful and that's what got me in.

    I graduated that bschool with $60k in debt. Cleared it in 18 months, and now I'm a freelancing IT consultant who (if I worked the whole year) could earn around an average of $200k – $250k/year

    But it all depends on IT projects & their rates — feast or famine you know.

    It's not really money I'm after in the end. In the end, it was better for me to be able to work 3 months and take the rest of the year off if I decide to do so, due to the amount of money I earn.

    Now, during the recession, I take it easy as IT projects are only starting to take off.

  10. Interesting. The "B" I got in economics could literally have hurt my chances to get this particular job b/c it may have lowered my average GPA below the employer's threshold. I went to a state school, and am doing fine.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *