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This High School Dropout Went to Harvard! Your Life Is Not Over Because You Dropped Out of High School

C. E. Clark home schooled her child from Kindergarten through high-school. Public and private education is high in importance to Ms. Clark.

The message I heard as a young person and which seems to be alive and well today many years later, is that dropping out of high school dooms a person to menial low paying jobs for the rest of their life, if they can even get a job at all.

In this hub, I want to tell you there is hope for high school dropouts and that dropping out of high school is not the end of the world. I want to tell you a little bit about someone I know who turned that phrase “high-school dropout” into a success story. My purpose in telling this story is to give hope to people who may believe that a mistake they made as a teenager has ruined their life forever.

Harvard Law School

A Harvard Law School T-shirt

A Harvard Law School T-shirt

Harvard Law School Campus

Harvard Law School Campus

Harvard University

Harvard University was founded in 1636, but the Law School was not founded until 1817.

High School Dropouts Can Be Successful

Today that someone I know who dropped out of high school is an honors graduate of Harvard Law School. He dropped out of high school as a sophomore. After that he learned carpentry, how to build cabinets and do trim work, starting when he was only 16 years old. He is a bit of a perfectionist.

When he reached the required age in the state where he lived, he obtained a GED(General education degree which is the equivalent of a high school diploma), which despite what some people want you to believe, is just as good as a high school diploma. It will expand employment opportunities and give a person the ability to attend technical schools, colleges and universities. The someone I am telling you about also worked as a fireman and an EMT (emergency medical technician) for several years before entering the local state university. As you can see, the high school dropout with only a GED was pretty successful even before he attended the university.

Because he accomplished a 4.0 GPA (overall grade point average), the only student graduating in a class of more than 2100 with that distinction, and also got the highest possible score on the L-SAT, the high school dropout I’m telling you about received grants from Harvard Law School that paid for all of his tuition, books, and some living expenses. It had been his dream to graduate from Harvard Law School and he had all but given up on it. Like so many people, he believed it would not be possible to attend any university, much less Harvard Law School, because he had dropped out of high school.

Reading Room at Harvard Law School

This is the reading room at Harvard Law School.  When I toured that library it was full of students and no photos allowed.

This is the reading room at Harvard Law School. When I toured that library it was full of students and no photos allowed.

High School Dropout Accepted at Harvard Law School!

Let me tell you, a degree from HLS is valuable to anyone who holds one whether they started out as a high school drop out or not. The University of Michigan, also a university with one of the most prestigious law schools in this country, was bidding for this particular high school dropout’s attendance as well. Yale Law School put him on their waiting list.

The year this high school dropout was accepted into Harvard Law School (1991) he was competing against more than 10,000 other applicants for 550 seats in that school. He received his letter of acceptance just 2 weeks after sending his application – on Valentine’s Day.

Grades Matter But Need Not End Your Dreams

Never imagine that grades and test scores do not matter. They can make the difference in not only whether you are accepted at a particular school, but also whether or not you receive the funding to pay for it. This is true regardless of whether you have a high school diploma or a GED. How badly a university wants you as a student determines the financial aid package they offer you.

You may say, “But I could never have grades that good or score that high on such a tough test.” That does not mean your life is over because you dropped out of high school, or because your grades were less than exemplary while you were in school. Even if you are not the world’s best student, you can dare to dream and you can accomplish far more than you may believe you can.

Harvard Law Library at night

Harvard Law Library at night.  This library is a focal point on campus and the largest academic library in the world.

Harvard Law Library at night. This library is a focal point on campus and the largest academic library in the world.

You CAN Do It -- Dig Out Your Dreams and Dust Them Off

There are fewer barriers to your dreams than you may think. Henry Ford is quoted as having said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” If anything is holding you back, it is your own beliefs, your own thoughts. If you think you can’t, then like Ford said, you are probably right. What you believe about yourself is extremely powerful.

If you have been buying into the old message that high school dropouts can never amount to anything, or that only people with perfect grades can live their dreams, banish those thoughts. Grades can make a world of difference in the opportunities available to you, but they do not have to mean the situation is hopeless. The reason the tortoise won the race is because he did not give up.

So dig out your dreams from wherever you have buried them, dust them off, and see what you can do to make them come true.

More Inspiration & Motivation from Au Fait


C E Clark (author) from North Texas on September 24, 2015:

RTalloni, thank you for reading and commenting on this article! Yes, there is more than one way to skin a cat, and people need to remember that.

RTalloni on September 22, 2015:

Neat encouragement for anyone who thinks they are hampered because of not having attended high school Love stories about people who succeeded outside the box! :)

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on September 15, 2015:

Ali Khan, thank you for coming by and sharing your own story! I'm looking forward to reading some of your work, so I hope to see some on your page soon.

Ali Khan on September 13, 2015:


I dropped out of high school because of financial reasons. I started working 30 plus hours a week starting in 7th grade. I left high school my junior year because I could not give my studies enough time because of working full time in food industry. After working for a year full time, I realized this was no way to live out the rest of my life and that higher education is absolutely imperative to my future goals. I studied diligently and passed the GED and enrolled at a community college where I excelled and graduated in the top 10% with numerous scholarships. Because of my accomplishments at the community college, I was accepted to a four year university with a presidential scholarship that covered tuition and fees to complete my bachelor's degree. I graduated in the top 10% from the four year public university and currently studying for the LSAT. With hard work, dedication and the absolute belief in yourself that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to will eventually open doors you never thought were possible before. Confucius said "He who says he can and he who says he can't are both usually right". Believe in your self and there is nothing that you cannot accomplish!

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on April 03, 2015:

Patricia (pstraubie48), thank you for reading and commenting, voting on and sharing this article, and especially for sending the angels. I hope they will always be surrounding you and your loved ones keeping you safe.

This story is about my late husband, so I know first hand that it can be done. Have a wonderful Easter!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 23, 2015:

It is self-fulfilling we think, thus it will become. As Mr. Ford said in his own words.

How determined and how willing one is to give it what it takes to get what we want has such a huge impact on whether our dream becomes a reality.

This is a story of hope and inspiration that young people who are feeling discouraged should be lead to read.

thanks for sharing.

Voting up+++ and shared

More Angels are on the way to you this afternoon ps

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on February 05, 2015:

Peggy W, thank you for reading, commenting on, and sharing this article! Just as the bubble bee can fly because no one told it it isn't supposed to be able to fly, people can achieve amazing things if they think they can and no one pounds into their heads that they can't.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 03, 2015:

This is really motivational for people who think that their life is defined by past events. If one has the fortitude and persistence to forge ahead, their dreams can still be achieved in many instances. Sharing this once again to give people hope for their futures.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on November 17, 2013:

cfin, thank you for stopping by.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on November 16, 2013:

Thank you moonlake, for reading, commenting on, voting on, and sharing this article.

The only help my late husband got to go to school was after he proved himself with his exceptional GPA and L-SAT score. Then HLS paid him to attend their school. Before that, he had to struggle to pay for school like lots of people did back then, and still do even more so nowadays.

Of course he graduated HLS in spring of 1994, and things were better back in the 80s early 90s in the way of student financial aid availability. Congress has, in the last 3 years, cut available financial aid to college students, just as it has cut funding for HeadStart, and public schools generally. In fact, they've cut pretty much everything except their own salaries and bennies.

HLS is a private school and not dependent on government for funding. The money my late husband received from them to cover his tuition and some expenses was donated by HLS alumni.

cfin from The World we live in on November 14, 2013:

I have a law degree. It's hardly a dream. I am happy though and would have been even as a high school drop out. In 2013, peoples ideas of their dream (connected directly to a degree which is just to make money) have become quite disappointing.

moonlake from America on November 14, 2013:

Very interesting hub. There is never any reason to lose hope in what you want to do even if you have dropped out of school. There is always help for people that may want to go to college. Voted up and shared.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on October 28, 2013:

Thank you Shyron, for voting on, sharing/pinning and sharing your unfortunate experience in school (bullied). A GED is just as good as a diploma and never think it isn't. It will open the same doors. I wasn't allowed to go to most of the social events at my schools, and now when I look back I see I didn't really miss much.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on October 23, 2013:

Au fait, this is an amazing hub and inspirational to people like me. I went to community colleges and did not go to high school. My only regret was the social events that I missed. But I was bullied in school.

Voted up, UAI, shared and pinned.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on August 16, 2013:

Alca, thank you for taking time to read and be inspired by this article. It is a true story about my former husband.

As for your experiences being limited because you didn't finish high school? Your experiences may have been different from those of your 'peers,' but they are just as valid and important. If that were not so we would all be clones going through all the exact same experiences. Your experiences are important and contribute to who you are, and that will influence who you become. You may have learned more valuable lessons as a result of not finishing school.

Regardless, there is no reason to let mistakes or unfortunate occurrences even when they may be beyond our own control, limit our ability to reach for our dreams. After all, no reach, no grasp. The person who doesn't try will not succeed and that is a certainty. With determination there is no telling what you will accomplish.

The truth (that no one will ever tell you) is that there is so much none of us knows. Some people credit themselves beyond what they do in fact know, but the world is still so full of mysteries that we have not even scratched the surface of yet discovering, that not even the smartest person on the planet, whomever that is, knows even a quarter of all the knowledge that is considered known, much less all the knowledge that is available, still to be learned and discovered.

Best wishes on passing your GED. I know you will do it. :)

Alca on August 15, 2013:

I'm 19 going on 20. I never went to high school and feel very ashamed about it. I am in the process of trying to get my GED and it is extremely discouraging at times because there is so much I don't know as well as all of the experiences I missed out on. :( .. Thank you for this post. It is really encouraging and lifts my spirit.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on August 02, 2013:

Thank you for reading, commenting, pinning and sharing this article. I wrote in hopes that people would realize that dropping out of school, though unwise, is not the end of the world. That's true of so many things, but if we think we can't we often don't even try. I think it's important for people to realize that often they can accomplish more than they think they can.

Deborah-Diane from Orange County, California on July 31, 2013:

Wonderful story that will give encouragement to many young people. Definitely worth pinning and sharing with my followers!

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on July 20, 2013:

Thank you Shyron for stopping by and for sharing and pinning this hub!

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on July 19, 2013:

Very good hub, an inspiration to people who just can't handle high school for whatever reason.

With a GED, a person has to pass testing to get it.

Shared and pinned.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on July 19, 2013:

Thank you Peggy W, for tweeting this hub!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 14, 2013:

Hi Au fait,

Going to give this hub a tweet. It is inspiring and may help others who read it.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on April 28, 2013:

Thank you pinkchic18 for reading and commenting on this hub! Glad you found this hub enjoyable. Attitude is everything.

Sarah Carlsley from Minnesota on April 22, 2013:

Wonderful hub! It's all in your motivation. If you think you can do it, you can! Loved reading this, nice work.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on April 07, 2013:

Doodlehead, thank you for reading and commenting on this hub!

Yes, HLS does prefer older students who have had some real life experience and they do like excellence.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on April 07, 2013:

Thank you SidKemp for reading, commenting, and sharing this hub, and for sharing your thoughts and information about your mother and on this subject in general. Most people can do more than they think they can do, it just takes determination and effort.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on April 06, 2013:

Thank you Paul Kuehn for reading and commenting on this hub, and especially for sharing this article and for sharing your thoughts and experience.

What a lot of people don't know is that persistence often pays off more than anything else. It doesn't matter how smart or talented a person is if they give up easily. Very few things work out perfectly the very first time and so determination and persistence are required to get through the rough patches and to go the distance.

Yes Einstein was predicted by one of his teachers to be a failure at pretty much everything he attempted. The man I write about here had other reasons for dropping out of school -- family issues beyond his control, etc. There are lots of reasons why people do what they do, but I think it's important to realize that sometimes a person can go back and pick up the pieces and start again.

People like to say, "You made your bed, now lie in it." I like to say, if you don't like the way your bed is made, then make it over. Do it again, and keep on working at it 'til you get it right, or at least the way you want it. So often people settle for less when they don't have to.

Doodlehead from Northern California on April 01, 2013:

Great informative hub. Thomas Sowell, I believe also was a dropout and lived on the streets for a while. I guess Harvard likes that good ole diversity.

Sid Kemp from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on April 01, 2013:

Thank you for sharing your friend's story. This is very important. It clearly illustrates that hard work, discipline, and continued effort matter much more than past failures.

My mother was a pioneer who developt the first on statistics back in the 1970s that showed how much less income and education high school dropouts, on average, had than high school graduates five years later. But each person is not a statistic. Each person is someone who can engage self-leadership to set direction, self management to do the work, and make his or her dreams real.

Let's keep sharing these stories and methods. Yes! Shared!

Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on April 01, 2013:

Au Fait,

This is a very inspirational and motivational hub. Wasn't Einstein also a grade or high school dropout? If a person sets their mind to do something, they can accomplish it regardless of being a drop out. My second oldest sister failed twice to get into vet school, but through persistence in retaking courses and getting a Masters in Dairy Science, she was finally admitted to the University of Minnesota vet school. She has been a successful vet now for 27 years. Voted up and sharing with followers and on Facebook.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on January 08, 2013:

Thank you Peggy W, for reading and commenting, voting on, and especially sharing this hub! It seems to me a lot of people allow themselves to be limited by what they think will happen or what they think is true, when maybe it isn't. Never hurts to try -- same advice I gave in my hub on How to Get What You Want! ;)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 05, 2013:

Hi Au fait,

The more education one acquires, the better in general. However that being said, there are always the great exceptions of people who excel without the formal educations. This is a great pep talk to those who might think that early choices or mistakes doom the rest of their life. All one has to do is look around to see examples such as the one you cited which is great. Up, useful and sharing to spread the news. I liked those quotes you cited!

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on January 02, 2012:

Thank you Shyron for making a comment. A GED is just as good as a diploma any day of the week. Gets you through the right doors as you read above. But I understand that maybe you're missing the social stuff? The homecoming, football games, and proms? I can understand that. You have some beautiful children and grandchildren now and that makes up for it, yes?

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on January 01, 2012:

I would have loved to go to highschool, but do not want to share the reason I did not. but did get my GED and some college.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on December 04, 2011:

Pcunix: Thank you for your input. You raise some interesting considerations. Don't be too sure about that HS education. Sometimes people with even a university degree have trouble finding things . . . ;)

Tony Lawrence from SE MA on December 04, 2011:

I dropped out, but had a very successful and happy life. I had to work for myself most of it, but I prefer that anyway.

Actually, it is sometimes advisable. Some of us are autodidacts and simply cannot thrive in a traditional educational setting. If there is no alternative available, dropping out is better than suffering.

I have a hub that goes into more detail. It's easy enough to find if you have at least a High School education :-)

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on November 23, 2011:

I would never advise anyone to drop out of high school or college either, but I do want people to know there is life after dropping out if that's what they did and now believe they're stuck and can't change their life as a result. They can change their lives if they want to and I want them to know there are lots of options available to them.

Thank you for reading and commenting on my hub Clippy34. I appreciate your taking the time!

clippy34 on November 14, 2011:

Good read but not advisable, to drop out that is.

C E Clark (author) from North Texas on November 06, 2011:

Thank you Johnny for taking the time to read my hub and make a comment, and thank you for your encouragement!

jonny W on November 06, 2011:

an interesting life story - keep em coming !! :-)

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