Sorry – College Won’t Make You That Extra Million Dollars

Then what does?

Which one is true? A) Going to bed with your shoes on gives you a headache. B) Ice cream increases your chance of drowning. C) College will make you a million extra dollars over your lifetime.

The answer – none of them.

False Correlation – People who go to bed with their shoes on, have the greatest risk of waking up with a headache. However, most people who go to bed with their shoes on are drunk. Drinking gives you a headache, not shoes.

False Correlation – Every year, drowning deaths and ice cream consumption both dramatically increase and dramatically decrease together in a very tight pattern. The real correlation? Ice cream sales go up in hot weather, and so does swimming. Swimming increases drowning, not ice cream.

False Correlation – Kids who graduate from college make a million dollars more on average than those who don’t’s missing from the correlation? Kids who go to college are motivated to succeed. Personal motivation causes success, not college.

All three of these false correlations can be disproven because lots of other things could lead to the cause. Headaches are caused by all kinds of things. People regularly drown who had no ice cream. And people are happy and succeed in life all the time without going to college. A true correlation to make would be, “Motivated kids are more successful than unmotivated kids.” That one would stand up universally.

Correlation Is Not Causation
To correlate success of any kind, monetary or personal, with college, we have to identify a cause that can be attributed to college. Colleges are very careful about how they word the million-dollar thing. They NEVER say, “Graduating from college will CAUSE you to make a million dollars more than if you just got a high school degree.” Why? Because the correlation doesn’t exist, and they know it. They’re just hoping you will draw a false correlation because they put the words “college” and “million” in the same sentence, like headache with shoes, and drowning with ice cream.

In my new book, Why Employees Are Always a Bad Idea (out in 6-8 weeks), I debunk the million dollar myth. At the VERY best it’s a couple hundred thousand, but it’s more likely a minus hundreds of thousands. But if that distracts you, then for now, go ahead and assume college kids make TWO million more, because the correlation between the money and college just isn’t there.

If there is any advantage a college kid has over a high school graduate, it wasn’t because of college, but because of the kid. They were more motivated and that is what made them more money. College had nothing to do with it. The kid would have been successful no matter what path they took.

What Causes Success?
One out of five millionaires never finished school. More Fortune 500 CEOs never got a degree than from any one university. The richest cohort in America (one out of seven billionaires) are non-college grads. 23 to 25 year olds who did vocational training are happier than 23 to 25 year old college grads (recent study).

If the correlation was between college and success, then we wouldn’t see such ongoing, regular success with no college degree. These people aren’t statistical anomalies, freaks or exceptions. Nobody can explain away one out of five millionaires, one out of seven billionaires (and the richest of them), or the biggest group of S&P 500 CEOs, as anomalies.

Want to be successful?
Then be motivated. You can go to college, too, if you want. Or not.