Predicting Future Success of Students

My mom has a traumatic brain injury. The consequences of the brain injury have been difficult to accept. Although she did return in the slightest bit to become a shell of her former self for a year or two after the injury, she is no longer there at all. Over the past few years, she has steadily and dramatically declined.

We were told my mom would likely never talk again, but she did talk again for a period of time. Very few words, if any, escape her lips today. She relearned how to walk and maintained that ability until recently when her brain no longer consistently communicated with her legs to move forward. Today, she is in a wheelchair. She had relearned toileting skills even though occasional “accidents” did happen. Today, she is diapered 100% of the time with no independence.

Even though she initially had made a bit of a return to her former being, the last few years have definitely taken their toll. If one were to look only at her immediate future when this all first happened, her comeback would be viewed as quite the success. She certainly had overcome a lot considering the damage. At the time, she surpassed much of what we were warned about!

In fact, based on my mom’s initial progress in the first year or two following her brain injury, those predicting future success mostly assumed she would continue to improve.

me, my girls and my mom

What Things Are Like Today

As she is today, she may or may not know who we are on any given day. My mom went from being completely independent to requiring full-time care. She went from being able to walk to living in a wheelchair. And lastly, she went from being able to have a conversation to simply laughing when she sees or hears something going on around her. Oh, yes, she still loves to laugh in the most childlike sense!

This is today even though she surpassed many of her therapy goals over the first year or two following her brain injury.

Why Even Bring This Up?

I don’t share this story looking for sympathy. I share it because there was no way of knowing how her future would look. Focusing on the moments of the first year or two following her brain injury, she had made one hell of a comeback! She even was approved to drive again for a period of time!

I bring this all up because of this one very important point. We have no way of knowing or properly predicting what will happen to individuals in the years to come. We may think we do, but we don’t.

Fast forward 8 years to a man I know with a recent brain injury involving bleeding in the brain. Again, medical professionals did not know whether or not it would be best long-term to operate or let the bleeding dissipate on its own. It was heartbreaking to hear that medical professionals still were unsure of what to recommend to the family. Here’s the thing though. No one knows. We can pretend to, but that’s about all we can do.

When the odds are beaten, it is often called a miracle. This is stated especially when there is no idea what was involved in getting that individual from Point A to Point B. Predicting future success accurately in any individual is more difficult than it first would appear.

switching thoughts about predicting future success

Switching Thoughts to Students and Youth

At least the medical staff were honest with us in that they didn’t pretend to know how it would all turn out. I switch this thinking to some staff members and parents in schools now. I know this doesn’t apply to all of the aforementioned adults by any means, but I have heard individuals say that certain students would never amount to much. 

How can this be stated though? It isn’t as if follow up of other students that behaved similarly or have had similar test scores is being done. In fact, if we looked at it this way, we may be pleasantly surprised that so many professionals get it wrong. Each person is unique. There are SO MANY examples of individuals barely making it through school or who did not complete school that have rocked it in life.

Predicting future success often happens within the school system. Some predictions are good, such as those for the A student. Other predictions are negative. 

Success Story Following a Very Inaccurate Prediction

One of my favorite success stories is the story of John Paul DeJoria who is now a self-made billionaire even though he had been homeless and left to be a single parent of his 2 ½ year old son in his early 20s. According to the book Millionaire Success Habits by Dean Graziosi, John Paul’s 11th grade teacher had him and a friend stand up after they were caught goofing around in class.

The teacher said, “See these two? Don’t hang around them because they’re not going to amount to anything. They’ll absolutely never make it in any business.”

As it turned out, both of the individuals made it and became hugely successful. Apparently the other individual even tracked down their former 11th grade teacher for John Paul’s 50th birthday. Upon learning of their tremendous success, all the teacher could say was, “Well, shit.”

tequila, one of John Paul's successes

Is it Shocking that the Adult was Incorrect in Predicting Future Success?

Now the words the teacher used in class that day seem shocking today knowing what John Paul’s outcome was. However, I believe it is all too common for adults to make inaccurate predictions about our youth. This is especially true when youth aren’t behaving as we adults would like them to.

Don’t we hear this all the time? “Oh, youth today! They don’t know what a hard day’s work even is! They think…” The list goes on and on.

When students struggle in school with things such as reading or math, this can often amplify the situation. Coping strategies such as becoming the class clown happen and more adult judgments occur. However, it is true that many, many people have become successful despite struggling in school. You likely are aware of some of these individuals yourself. I have highlighted a few of them in previous posts such as Dyslexia Does Not Define Success and Inspiring Children’s Book Authors with Dyslexia.

Wouldn’t it be neat to learn where the same individuals we made predictions about in their youth are at years later? In fact, I bet the adults are rarely accurate about the school age youth. Just as the predictions about my mom’s future based on her initial comeback were incorrect, my opinion is that the predictions that we make about many of our youth will be incorrect as well. The biggest difference is that those predictions about our youth are more likely to be positive outcomes.

Predicting Future Success of Students

Can You Relate?

What are your experiences with predicting future success? Have there been any predictions made about you or others you know? Were the predictions accurate or inaccurate? Let me know in the comments below or by emailing me at

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  1. What a beautiful story Sherry, as someone who was a caregiver for about 18 years, I can understand what you are going through. I completely agree with you, nobody knows what the body and soul are capable of doing, and it looks like your mom is well loved.


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