How college priorities translate to future success

Posted October 14, 2020 by

College is a time of growth both personally and educationally. For many students, a lot of self-discovery comes free with the cost of their tuition. For some, the study habits that got them into their university of choice continue, but for others, alternative priorities present themselves to be more appealing. 

How does one’s priorities in college translate to their future success? The team at asked over 1,000 former students about their attitudes and priorities during their time in school to see how they translated to their future. Spoiler: Life satisfaction is not determined by college priorities – but your career choice might be. 

College priorities and their outcomes

According to the research, the College Finance team noticed that attending an affordable school and pursuing an enjoyable field were some of the top priorities when it came to choosing their paths. Of course, a well-regarded school might help get one’s application to the next phase of the interview process, but it doesn’t guarantee a paycheck. The same might be said about pursuing a degree in an in-demand field. Jobs that are trendy and needed now might be saturated by the time one officially graduates.

The study also noted the current finances of these former graduates based on their priorities. It should be acknowledged that those who attended an affordable school versus those who attended a well-regarded school only had a slight difference in annual income. The affordable school attendees made an average of $3,000 less than those who attended a well-regarded school. The same can be said about those who pursued a degree in an enjoyable field. They also made an average of $3,000 less yearly than those who pursued a degree in an in-demand field. 

Payoffs by college priority

When researchers broke down the former students’ priorities with their average annual income, we start to uncover some more trends surrounding what matters most in terms of priorities and success. 

The top priority for former students was maintaining a high GPA, but this didn’t necessarily translate to a higher average income. In fact, it was surprising to see that the highest overall average annual income came from those who prioritized partying. While we certainly don’t recommend this as a top priority, the numbers don’t lie. Overall, the former students who prioritized partying had an average annual income of $58,365. To put that into perspective, those who prioritized maintaining a high GPA only had an average annual income of $53,412. 

Additionally, those who focused on networking while in college reported the most satisfaction with their career, and that seems to have translated well into their annual income. Those prioritizing networking in school earned an annual income of $56,001.

Future preparedness

Looking at the effects of college priorities on life aspects by how focused these former students were during their time in school gives us some insight into how important priorities are. 

Among those who were unfocused on their future during college, only 54% are satisfied with their career, and only 44% are satisfied with their finances. Surprisingly, these former unfocused students also report dissatisfaction with their social lives as well. Just over 1 in 2 are satisfied with their social life. 

In comparison to those who were reportedly focused, 84% are satisfied with their career, 78% are satisfied with their social life, and 70% are satisfied with their finances. 

Priorities and future work-life balance

A high salary, good benefits, and job security are all things most people are looking for in their career of choice. But when looking at enjoying the job or having a lucrative career, the lines can sometimes be blurred. 

Once the degree had been earned, how did these former students prioritize their careers and how did that translate to their overall life satisfaction? For those who prioritized a lucrative career, they were 8 percentage points less satisfied with their life than those who prioritized an enjoyable career. As Mark Twain’s famous saying goes, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Purposeful priorities equal life satisfaction

While the study concluded that partying might earn the most substantial paycheck, it doesn’t mean that networking and a high GPA don’t matter. Planning for the future is important, especially while tuition dollars are at work. 

Following one’s passions and pursuing a career that will bring you life satisfaction should remain at the top of one’s priority list, but don’t forget to have a little fun while you’re at it.

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