Hey everyone! My name is Jeff and I’m a Harvard 2025 student, Team Ontario competitive golfer, and currently work as a private equity analyst in my gap year. I’m super passionate about finding financial freedom and also helping others do the same which is why I started my own personal finance blog Financial Pupil, which you can check out here. Even though I’m still bright-eyed and bushy tailed with relatively not much experience under my belt, I’ve encountered enough to realize that a good university does not guarantee financial success.
“Study hard in school so you can get into a good university so you can get a good job so you can be successful in life.” How many times have you heard that? Probably too many times to count. Even my mother, who is a “financially progressive” real estate investor, tells me this whenever I bring up the idea of financial freedom. The idea that good schools equal wealth and financial success is deeply scripted in society.
Well, I’ve followed that path. I studied hard, golfed hard, took the SATs, got into Harvard, and now work in private equity. If you were to ask me the question of whether a good university guarantees financial success, my answer would be no.
What is Financial Success?
Before we tackle my (potentially controversial) assertion, let’s address the question: what exactly is financial success?
When people think of financial success, they often imagine big houses and fancy cars. But, big houses and fancy cars mean big payments. Without the money to afford them, you actually owe a ton of money to the bank and various lenders. That’s not financial success, that’s being in debt.
Some define financial success as being debt-free. Others define financial success as being able to save for long-term goals. These are both aspects of financial success, but we can take it a step further. We can define financial success as “no longer having to work to live the life you want.”
This can come in many different forms. Either have enough money saved up to live the rest of your life without working. Or, build enough passive income streams to cover your expenses year to year.
If you don’t agree with that definition, that’s fine. In the next section you’ll find out how a good university doesn’t guarantee financial success no matter what definition you use.
Why a Good University Doesn’t Guarantee Financial Success
“I think college is basically for fun and to prove that you can do your chores, but they’re not for learning.” – Tesla CEO and Billionaire Elon Musk.
“You don’t have to be a genius or a visionary or even a college graduate to be successful. You just need a framework and a dream.” – Founder of Dell computers Michael Dell.
“Even if you do want a job, many companies don’t require a degree — including Google, Apple, and VaynerMedia.” – CEO of VaynerMedia Gary Vee.
Besides multi-millionaires and billionaires supporting this idea, it also logically makes sense.
1. Being Debt Free
If financial success is defined as being debt-free, then university students lose by a lot. According to Education Data, the average amount of student debt a post-secondary graduate carries is $38,000. On top of that, the national student loan debt in the US has reached $1.6 trillion dollars according to US News.
You might be thinking “yeah but if I go to Harvard, my earning potential is going to soar.” Well, according to Top Universities, the average Harvard undergrad is only earning $81,000… by the age of 34! Obviously 80k a year is a respectable salary, but tuition needs to be factored in. When you consider the $300,000 cost of attending an Ivy League school, it really balances the scale.
2. Being Able to Save For Long Term Goals
The ability to save for long term goals is not restricted by the university you go to. There’s no law that states that if you didn’t go to a good college, you can’t save for a house. Anybody can save for “long-term goals.” Whether you are making $14 an hour or $50 an hour, you can save for the future. And since we already established that “good university” graduates don’t really have a leg up in regards to earning potential, everyone is on equal footing.
Something that helps with the ability to save is learning about how to manage your money. BUT, I have yet to see a mandatory course titled “personal finance” in either a community college or a top 20 school. So a “good university” education is not advantageous on this front.
3. Being Financially Free
As previously mentioned, an elevated notion of financial success is when you don’t need to work to live anymore. When you can CHOOSE whether or not to go to your job, that is when you’re financially free and financially successful. Typically, this is achieved by building enough passive income streams (through business and investing.)
Again, having a good university education has nothing to do with this. You might need a prestigious university degree to become a doctor, but you don’t need one to build a business or to start investing. As examples, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg both dropped out of Harvard and are now both multi-multi-billionaires.
How to Actually Realize Financial Success
If you currently don’t or didn’t attend a “good university”, this is good news for you! If you currently are attending or did attend a “good university,” there’s also no need to fret. The reason is because the steps to financial success are the same. Not only that, but they are easily applicable to anyone and everyone.
Here are the few broad steps you need to take if you want to achieve financial success:
- Learn more about personal finance
- Pay off all bad debt
- Begin saving a percentage of each check you get
- Start investing
- Start and grow a side hustle
The fact that you’re scrolling around blogs like Day To Day Finance means that you’re on the right track. There is plenty of good information on this site and many others about all things finance! Once you learn about it, you can get started on these steps and grow along the way.
Keep consistent with your goals, give it time, and you will be shocked at how soon you become “financially successful.”
Whether you’re a Harvard grad or a college dropout, you’ve been shown that you can achieve financial success. The steps are straightforward and the internet is your mentor. Keep educating yourself with blogs like this one, and make sure to put what you learn in action! Your future self will look back and thank you for it.
Thanks for reading through this post! Super grateful to Day to Day Finance for letting me guest post here; definitely check out more of their blog! Also, if you liked reading this, check out Financial Pupil, my own personal finance blog where I share my journey and everything I’m learning about financial freedom! Finally, let us know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments!