Investing in Human Capital

I was pondering why many of my undergraduate students performed so poorly on my recent final exam when this video and a second one came across my desk.

Perhaps my students are just investing in skills that are not tested on my exam.

(Hat tip: Peter Thompson and Bob Warrington.)


your students might be investing in skills that are not tested, but unfortunatly pourly performance are more often the result of a lack of investment in anything but watching tv and playing videogames... I think next freakonomics book should deal with that (is it better to spend hours on developping one excentric skill and become the best in the world, and to be a middle-skilled guy in a good old fashion sector... (guess marc andressen was spending much time on developping mosaic, but i guess that it was a good student too...?

From a french point of view (i am french) United states are givin a chance to anyone who's the best at what it does... (we have no universities for football or baskettball players... and until the internet bubble, no one could get an important corporate top job, before, let's say, 45years old, excepted in investment banks with a top graduation)
Bur those weird ping pong & golf video experience are quite fun, (the ping pong guy works for a start-up, so...)



Strangely enough Steven, those skills are probably as useful as some of the things we DO teach them in business school!

uchicago undergrad

Maybe they spent too much time reading the Freakonomics blog. I mean, it's certainly a large part of my pre-work procrastination time.
Was it curved? I know I try a lot harder when it isn't, as it's easy to fall back on the "I'm not the worst, so even if I don't try I can get a B" plan.


They don't get to edit-out the bad takes on the exam.


What were the exam question this year?


Perhaps it is not the students and their studying that is the problem- maybe it is the teaching.


this seems like a lazy attempt to find something to post on the blog...
but for the most part I love the Freakonomics blog, especially when I'm avoiding studying for my final economics exams


If you want them to do better, teach them the test.
That's is what they have been used to since first grade.

In the business world I'd bet the golf skills will come in handy more often than whatever you're teaching them in undergraduate school.

The ping pong guy..he'd better study.


In my day, it was quarters into a shot glass. Today, ping pong balls into a beer cup. Some things never change.

Undergraduates truly don't realize how much free time they have and how much they could accomplish if they used it effectively.

Today, working full time, raising a family, pursuing and MBA, and blogging my classnotes (currently at fills my time. If I only had the classwork to think about, I'd have a lot more free time... during which I'd probably be making some amazing golf putts!


always good to take a portfolio approach to investing - even with respect to time. i'd be more worried about the future of that one dude who aced your exam.

Brian Patrick Cork

Eighty percent (80%) of college graduates will embark upon a career-path that is, essentially, unrelated to their fields of (academic) study.

There are many reasons why less than .25% of all professional people become executive leaders, and why the above referenced 80% admit they are "walking-dead", career-wise, at 35.

Consider this article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution...

I have built 7 companies and sold 5 for good multiples. My Grandad, and then, amazingly, a favorite professor of mine in school, put Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" into my hands. Grandad described this book as "A dissertation on the uncommon characteristics of successful people". NOTE: I believe this should be required reading for all students. Most of the successful leaders I business coach, recruit, and/ or recruit for, knew what they wanted both from college, and, after college. Chip shotes and drinking prowess are not high on the list.

You can see more about all of this at my own business blog at

In any event... When it comes to testing - be it in the class room, or playing quarters, the Laws of Natural Selection always play-out, eh?

Brian Patrick Cork
Cultural Architect
brian cork Human Capital