Why Students Fail To Find Success: The Top 20 Reasons
Why students fail to graduate or find success and why businesses fail to stick around often run parallel to one another.
In a recent infographic explaining the latter, CB Research Insights shared some details on the top 20 reasons startups fail, and it turns out each reason can be applied to students who fail to meet their goals. Let’s examine the ways.
Why Students Fail No. 1. No Market Need
The CB Research Insights data lists “no market need” as one of their top 20 reasons, and this applies in the education world as well because students need not fail at their direct goal to be failures. They can often find it in reaching a goal that wasn’t necessary and wasting a ton of time and money in the process.
The Daily Beast shared a pretty brutal takedown of useless majors in this post from 2012. Much of it continues to ring true today.
2. Ran Out of Cash
This is an easy one to see the parallels to, considering how expensive college has become even as job markets become more competitive. Many students can alleviate the pain by attending community college, in-state schools, and graduating on time without any changes in majors along the way.
However, a great deal of the reason why students fail has to do with failure to think through a viable plan for how to pay for college before actually going. Others misuse monies by borrowing unnecessary funds and creating expenses before they are mature enough to handle them.
3. Not the Right Team
Sometimes students fail by picking the wrong team the same as startups do. For students, however, it is not the people they hire but the colleges they choose to attend. Maybe it’s too expensive, too large to provide hands-on instructional time, or too misaligned culturally.
Whatever the reason, a college home is important, and if the connection is off, students won’t get much from it.
4. Get Out-Competed
Yes, a student may attain a degree, but he also has a responsibility to keep up with the competition. How to do that? Stay up to date on continuing education initiatives and the trends that affect your industry and peers.
Learn to become a forward-thinker and have foresight about where your sector is heading, and you will stay in the highest percentiles.
5. Pricing/Cost Issues
Pricing and cost issues can keep many students from reaching their full potential in the same way that too much overhead can kill a business. Students can help mitigate their financial burdens by making more budget-conscious decisions.
For example, instead of going to an out-of-state school right out of the gate, why not go to school in-state to take care of two-year and four-year degree paths before jumping ship to an out-of-state school of choice for graduate school?
You’re not getting off cheap either way, but you won’t be paying as much as if you enrolled immediately in the out-of-state school.
6. User Un-Friendly Product
Startups that fail often launch with a user unfriendly product that needs more work before it could ever be considered helpful. In the same manner, students may present their product (themselves) in an employer-unfriendly manner. If the student never learns how to function in a work environment and lacks soft skills, he won’t last long.
LinkedIn recently posted the most in-demand soft skills among job candidates. Memorize and do your best to internalize them.
7. Product Without a Business Model
Sometimes entrepreneurs can be so eager to launch their business that they fail to put adequate time into developing a business model that works. The student translation: no plans beyond graduation except to enroll in another school.
Some students are still buying into the lie — and it’s a lie we’ve tried to advise against at every turn — that as long as they graduate college, they should be fine. The truth is that if you go to school and never develop a plan for how you will use your degree, then it eventually won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.
8. Poor Marketing
Marketing is a word typically reserved for companies that hope to find an audience. They tailor their messaging to the most appropriate customers and, hopefully, see business growth as a result.
If you are a student, you need your own personal marketing department inside your brain when it comes to approaching potential employers. If you are bad at interviews, resumes, and job search functions, then your marketing department is failing you.
Bone up on each of these three areas, and you will find your target audience.
9. Ignore Customers
When taking interviews, building your resume, and working on how you present yourself to potential employers, you don’t need to fall into the trap that many failing startups do — ignoring your “customers.”
How this would translate in the world of the student: consider your potential employers “customers” instead of people who owe you a job. When reaching out to them, take time to study their pain points and figure out the ways that you can help them accomplish something FROM WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW.
By approaching the job search with this value-add mindset, you will stand out from the hundreds of other applicants they are likely to see.
10. Product Mis-Timed
Sometimes a startup can have a great time and a solid work ethic, but it can fail simply because the market wasn’t ready for their product, or the window for capitalizing on the product passed them by.
When you chase degrees that will soon be outdated by ignoring emerging tech data and the rise of automation, you set yourself up to become extinct. That’s a form of “mis-timing your product” that you have to be on alert about.
11. Lose Focus
Companies that launch before knowing their core purpose have focus issues. These focus issues often lead to their failure. As a student, this can manifest itself by taking eight years to get a four-year degree.
In fact, Politifact notes, that college students “are taking six years to get a four-year degree.” When you consider that a year of college can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 to complete, the extra time is a significant burden that places graduates behind from the moment they cross the podium.
12. Disharmony Among Team/Investors
When team members at a startup are fighting and can’t agree on anything, it is hard for the company to make wise choices and capitalize on opportunities.
Similarly, when a student’s personal life is in shambles through either poor choices, poor family support, or both, it reflects itself on class assessments and overall performance.
That’s why it is so important to take care of yourself during college and beyond. You want to surround yourself with people who make you better and phase out those who don’t.
13. Pivot Gone Bad
Pivots are important in the course of any company’s lifespan, and they are important for you, too. To make good pivots you will want to stay abreast of changes in your industry and try to stay 5-10 years ahead of the present at all times.
Pivots should never be about taking the easy way out, but they should lead you to working smarter, not harder.
14. Lack Passion
Ask any accountant what their job is like, and they probably won’t be just brimming with passion over the day-to-day grind. However, many have found a way to be passionate about their careers because they see the bigger picture. Companies that fail to see the bigger picture of helping customers solve their pain points won’t be around very long.
Likewise, students who fail to find things to be passionate about in their careers probably won’t last. That doesn’t mean you have to “do what you love” — in fact, many have failed and found misery pursuing such notions — but it does mean you should find opportunities to create and exercise passion in what you choose to do.
15. Failed Geographical Expansion
Another way that startups have a tendency to fail is that they don’t expand or take their businesses to the right geographical locations. Instead they close off their business until a competitor fills the gap.
Students can make this same mistake by returning to their same small town and closing themselves off to opportunities out of fear or trepidation.
16. No Financing/Investor Interest
At a certain point in the life of any business — sole proprietor or large company — there will come a point where one goes as far as they can with the talents they have and the only way to grow or expand is to engage others who are capable of better handling things that the current team cannot.
Getting the right people engaged — like, say, investors, for example — means making them believe in the mission of what you are doing and the opportunity that exists in helping.
If a graduate cannot make others believe in them, they run into the same trap. You have to think about how you are putting yourself out there on social media, in job applications, interviews, and resumes. Make others believers in you.
17. Legal Challenges
Nothing is more frustrating to the life of a business than to get clogged up with legal challenges or dilemmas just when a good idea takes off. Many of these challenges could be avoided if the company had done enough research upfront to avoid potential pitfalls.
Students may not run aground of legal challenges in the traditional sense, but they can experience similar setbacks when they fail to properly vet their plans for what could go wrong before embarking on them.
Get in touch with your inner attorney before jumping on an opportunity, and try to remember the old life adage that if something appears to be too good to be true, it probably is.
18. Didn’t Use Network
Startups that fail also do so because they stumble over building a solid network on which to build trust and cultivate resources.
Networking is equally important to students and graduates, and it is a vital component to getting a good job with a good outlook.
If you haven’t started to network effectively, there are libraries of books that you can read on the subject, but one of the most important things you can do is to turn your social media accounts into professional hubs where employers can learn why you would be a great candidate.
Companies get sick of what they are doing and topple for a variety of reasons. The same is true for students. If you do get hit with a case of the burnout, try not to make any rash decisions that burn bridges or cut off the progress you’ve made.
See the dean over your major about pausing for a year or semester. Know ahead of time what the repercussions of that will be, and show your university a willingness to return and complete your education.
20. Failure to Pivot
This particular line item was separated from No. 13 because there is a difference between bad pivots and no pivots. Both are decisions that can stymie growth, but they are distinct. When you make a bad pivot, at least you’re doing something to show that you tried finding a solution.
No pivots show zero proactivity or intuition, and that seems worse even though it may produce similar outcomes.
Lesson for students: don’t be the band playing as the Titanic goes down. Be the person out there trying to find a lifeboat.
Startups fail for a variety of reasons, as you can see, and many of those reasons will apply to why students fail as well. Heed the warning and learn from the people and the companies that have crashed and burned. By avoiding their missteps you can put yourself in the driver’s seat for a bright future.
Now what are some of the things on this list that you struggle with the most? Sound off in the comments section below, and if we left anything off, then please let us know!
[Featured Image by The Blue Diamond Gallery, fair use license]