How I was a successful student but a career failure (and how your child can avoid becoming the same)
Written by Ben Marley on Dec. 18th 2019
Did you know that it's possible to be an excellent student and still wind up feeling like a total failure in life?

My parents always taught me, "go to school, get good grades, and you will get a good job and be successful." They even reinforced this connection between grades and financial success by rewarding me with cash for every A when report card time rolled around. I still remember the two semesters (in my entire academic career through high school) in which I didn’t get all A’s: third grade science (failed a rock test. Because, you know, rocks are... hard.) and fifth grade science (failed a test about clouds... Pretty sure we went to the lake that weekend and rather than studying, I had my head up in them).

Aside from those two instances, I practically crushed it in school. I had straight A's in high school, took 7 AP classes, and scored in the 95th and 99th percentiles on the SAT and ACT, respectively. I was a National Merit Scholar, and I received full academic scholarship offers from five universities. I attended the University of Delaware and graduated cum laude from the honors college with double-majors in economics and communication and a minor in philosophy.

Because of my scholarships and the fact that I worked every summer, I was able to do something nearly unheard of in society today: not only did I graduate debt-free, but I actually had around $7,500 I'd saved up in a mutual fund. I expected to get out into the real world and just keep dominating.

The first hint that things might not work out that way came at the beginning of my senior year of college. The smart guy that I was, I decided it was probably best to start thinking about what I would do after school. Naturally, I went down to the career services center to talk to a career advisor. She recommended that I take a personality test that would match me up with people who had responded similarly and rated themselves as being happy in their career fields. This was sounding great... until we got the results. "Hmmm... I've never seen that before." -not exactly the thing you want to hear from your college career counselor. It turns out that, whereas most students have at least a couple of ratings of "very similar" to people who are happy in their career fields, most of my answers ranged from "very dissimilar" to "dissimilar," with the occasional "somewhat similar." The career counselor literally looked at me, shrugged her shoulders, and said, "Sorry. I don't know what to tell you." Awesome.

Fast forward to 6 months after I graduated from school: after small stints at a couple of jobs that I hated (marketing timeshare tours on the streets of Charleston and inbound sales at a call center for AT&T), I found myself unable to pay my bills. The mutual fund was gone, and I was in about $10,000 of credit card debt. Not exactly the successful life of "crushing it" I had envisioned.
That all changed slowly, over the course of 8 years of trying various jobs. Finally, I fell into my stride when I discovered the world of teaching English, test prep, and college admissions counseling.

I'm grateful to have fallen into something I love, but if I knew then what I know now, I would have done things so much differently to avoid the years of pain resulting from my life falling severely short of my high expectations.

My key takeaway? Academic success is not enough. Real world success requires a plan. It's figure-out-able. All it takes is beginning with the end in mind. You can do it. We’re here to help. Let’s start the conversation to prepare your child for their successful future today.

Ben Marley


Ben Marley helps families successfully navigate the college admissions process.  He is an expert at helping students find the right college using online methods and making things super simple to understand.
If you're interested in being 100% certain of your child getting into the college that's right for them, then definitely reach out and request a free strategy session today.
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