By Marquis Lawson


Most university and college students, including myself, want to be successful. We think about it, dream about it, envision it, work for it and fight for it.

In reality, becoming extremely book smart in college is only half the battle. It is proven that you actually need to have both book smarts and street smarts in order to achieve true success. 

According to Jullien Gordon, a famous speaker for TEDxTalks, there are four major components that must be developed for book smarts in conjunction with street smarts.

Gordon moves to explain that we are often told that the way to have success in life is to “be good,” “get good grades,” “go to college” and “get a job.”

The fact is that many students are told that the pathway leading to success is to become a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer or an accountant. While these are very admirable professions, by talking to many of my peers, I have found that most students have no idea of what they want to become or are not interested in any of these career paths. 

Having a 4.0 GPA does not guarantee you a job position in the market, and one can still be successful taking their own path to success.

According to Gordon, “Studies show that people who attend a four-year college will make a million dollars more over the course of their lifetime compared to people who do not attend a four-year college. Also, in contrast, only 25 percent of college students had a job in the year of 2010.”

One factor is that the cost of higher education since 1978 has rose 12 times the rate of inflation.

That means we must ask ourselves,“What can students do in systems of higher education to improve chances of success?”

The answer is to develop street smarts in collaboration with book smarts. As stated earlier, there are four components in making this happen.

Component number one is to have personal capital. Personal capital is examining how well you actually know yourself and what you are passionate about. When you look in the mirror, do you see a king or queen, or rather, do you see a pawn?

The second component is intellectual capital. This is where you find out what most interests you and what your strengths are.

The third component is social capital. Social capital defines who you know and who knows you, such as developing a connection with professors or connecting with mentors.

The fourth component is financial capital. Gordon describes financial capital as “when what you know intersects with whom you know.”

I am personally spending about $16,000 a year on my education. I am enrolled in the Western Undergraduate Exchange program, which means I pay reduced tuition. Even still, it is simply not enough, and I’ve had to take out additional loans for the cost of living expenses and books.

In my humble opinion, I agree with Gordon, and he has made some great points about the importance of developing street smarts. We have all heard a million times that going to college is not just about what you learn in the classroom.

This is very true and I believe at the end of the day we are ultimately paying for the experience and our education. 

There is a familiar cliche that goes:“It’s not about who you know but what you know.” I disagree with this statement. I believe both factors play a role. I can personally say that with my book smarts and street smarts I’ve developed a greater passion for college because my mind is open to endless opportunities. I realize that doors will open because I have a degree, and doors will continue to open because I have the ability to make connections with people. 

Marquis Lawson studies journalism. He can be reached at or on Twitter @gamechanger916.