Everyone remembers the “popular kids” from their high school days—we all know the ones I mean. Every school had a few individuals who seemed to get all the attention, all the dates, and all the “most likely to” awards in the yearbook. There’s no doubt that many a student devoted a lot of their youthful time and energy to trying to win the respect and approval of these lucky and elite few.
But are the few truly as lucky and elite today as we remember them being back in the day? This may come as a surprise, but former “popular kids” end up on all kinds of different life paths once they leave the natural habitats of their high schools. Some of these ultimate destinations are amazing, and some are… not so much.
For anyone with even a semblance of nostalgia or curiosity, hearing about where high school “popular kids” have ended up in life can provide a fascinating endeavor—and maybe even give some hope to people concerned that high school popularity status really matters in the grand scheme of life. Spoiler alert—it doesn’t.
Here are 33 examples which demonstrate exactly that.
33. Some Things Never Change
Fifteen years out of high school, the most popular guy in my graduating class now sells an absurd amount of cannabis to support his family.
(He’s the Sales Manager for a medical marijuana distributor.)
32. Staying in Familiar Territory
Teachers, mainly. Good ones as well, from what I understand. Turns out being popular and really enjoying school makes you want to go back there.
31. Appearances Can Be Deceiving
These two jocks at my school were really “popular” but didn’t actually have many friends other than each other. The administration loved them but all the students except a couple other football players hated their guts. They used to beat up my little brother until one of them got expelled and then moved.
After he left the guy who stayed killed himself, and then it came out that they had been secretly dating each other since junior high.
The guy who moved recently friended me on Facebook and he seems all right.
30. There are Pros and Cons to Every Life Decision
All—literally all—of my ex-classmates are parents or work in retail/fast food now. We are 26. No one has any big career ambitions. The populars had babies together and the rest are scrambling at their casual jobs.
It was a small city. I left for a big city and I work in medicine.
To be honest, I’m jealous of them. They have friends, family and children. I’m alone.
29. Judging By What Really Matters
A perfectly successful rich kid I went to HS with turned out to be a perfectly successful rich adult. It’s all good, I don’t measure myself by how the popular kids turned out. Best of luck to them. I wasn’t so popular but I turned out fine.
28. Some Have Moved On
No clue. After I walked at graduation, I kept walking.
27. Living In the Past?
Reliving their younger lives as football coaches and cheerleading instructors.
26. You Can Really Never Tell
The captain of the football team is the groundskeeper at the hospital.
The really popular cheerleader went to college , got pregnant in her first semester and had to balance having a kid and college, she eventually worked it out and became a better person because of it and now she is now a counselor for the town council.
25. No Consistent Correlation
One got a modeling gig and seems to travel a lot. Another became a doctor. Quite a few never left the small town we grew up in. Some married their high-school SO’s, and others are still living with their parents.
What I’ve learned is that high school popularity doesn’t necessarily equate to success in adult life.
24. A Turn for the Worse
On the sex offender registry. Lmao the jerk had it coming.
23. Some Are the Real Deal
Our student body president was a really good guy. My most vivid memory was him dancing with a special needs girl with a crush on him during prom for the last dance and two or three other times.
Reconnected with him recently, and told him how cool I thought that was. He said, “Stacy? Yeah, we still talk every week and I visit her as often as I can.” He’s a very successful lawyer, super hot, and looks like he met the man of his dreams.
22. Falling Off the Grid
They’ve all done fairly well, except for that one guy. Most of the popular kids were popular for a reason: they had social skills. They’re all successful years later. That one guy was popular for being mean…and no one has heard from him (maybe he’s doing well). Maybe not. I dunno. But, given my sample, like, 11 out of 12 popular kids remain popular/successful in life.
21. Sounds Like a Disaster Area
I am 50 yrs old. My high-school was literally like Fast Times At Ridgemont High; so much drugs and skipping school and pregnancies and buying grades and coaches bonking students and female teachers sleeping with football players and the principal got TWO students pregnant.
I have never attended a class reunion. I have zero interest. Some think I am snobby. Excuse me for wanting to stay-the-F-away. I don’t care that we all grew up. Everything we have in common is awful.
And since I’m never at the reunions you have someone to gossip about!
20. Noticing a Trend?
This entire thread is just a measure of how messed up your school or town is. Good school in a city? Popular kids are successful well adjusted family people. Lousy school in a lousy small town nowheresville? Barbie the cheerleader is now a crack addict and Daryl the quarterback mows lawns.
19. Social Media Versus Reality
One of the dumbest Barbie dolls at my high school has “interior designer” down as her job on Facebook.
She actually works retail at a paint shop.
The most popular girl at my high school has her job down as “child and youth support officer.” Considering she left school having failed most classes, couldn’t get into a single college, and was last seen two years ago working at an ice cream shop I find that very hard to believe.
I think this is the case for most. According to my Facebook I’m an extreme sports fanatic who builds computers in my spare time. Really, I spend most of my free time in World Of Warcraft. I am shockingly lame.
18. People Are Complicated, People!
A friend of mine was a total jock and a football star. He was pretty darn cool and I felt lucky he sat with me (I was friends with two girls) in art class (my only non-academic class).
Anyways, he was actually a pretty cool guy and we both drove mustangs, so kind of “bonded” with that. He dropped off the face of the earth after HS, I graduated, finished college, and moved abroad.
Anyways, found out that he got his gf pregnant right after HS, didn’t finish college, had two kids, got his act together, went back to school, and he is doing great. Not all “popular” kids are jerks and I’m glad you’re doing alright Fidel.
17. Positive Influences Can Lead to Positive Results
Many of them are doing very well, but many of the popular kids weren’t jerks. Some of them are starting families, others are done with college and moving on. Unfortunately some others have died, and some have turned to drugs. So is life.
I came from a really nice, class A school. And this is coming from someone who was on the bottom of the food chain. No one liked me haha. But generally many of the popular kids were popular because of how well they did in school, and how active in the community they were, and not how much they partied. So even if no one was a fan of me, I still look back on them quite fondly and I’m happy to see they are doing well.
16. Evening the Score Years Later
Meh, they’re mostly doing okay. Most of them still live in my small town, are married to kids we went to high school with, and hang out at the same corner bars our parents went to. I ran into a few over the holidays and they were nice enough but it was definitely a “the cycle repeats itself” kinda thing with their parents. I’m glad I got out.
Though I do have one fun story about my run-in with them: my junior year a rumor went around that I was a lesbian because I played Rugby. Literally, that was the only reason. It sucked for a while, mostly because I couldn’t find a boy to give me the time of day after that whole thing.
I ran into a bunch of the guys from school over winter holidays and all of them were shocked I was engaged to a dude, except for one guy. He sheepishly admitted he was the reason everyone thought I was into girls, because he found out one of his friends had a crush on me and thought if he started that rumor when his buddy made a move it would give him a better shot, like I’d say yes to anyone willing to have me. Instead the friend thought I was a lesbian and refused to make a move, and I got called p**** puncher constantly for the next two years. I made him buy me a beer to make up for that.
15. My How The Tables Have Turned
Went to a very small school (about 20 kids per grade). Popular kids dropped out of college, developed drug and alcohol addictions, or had a bunch of kids and are currently unemployed. Some got fat. One is dead. One was a suspect in a murder case.
I’ve noticed some of the nerdy kids got better looking and are doing well in life though.
14. You Really Never Know What Goes On Behind Closed Doors
I was bullied really, really bad in high school. When I was given the option to nope out my junior year to take college-level classes at our local branch of University, I never looked back. I’m not in contact with anyone from high school, besides following a few of my former classmates on FB. Two interesting stories:
One of the girls who bullied me the most—popular girl spreads rumors that geeky Harry Potter fan is into witchcraft—reached out a few years ago on FB and apologized. She seemed really sincere, and has contacted me a few times about hanging out. I thought she did it as part of a 12 Steps program or something, but apparently she had become a Yogi and was on a higher plane of existence. I guess.
Another girl, who pretended to be nice to your face but was just an uber jerk behind your back? We ended up in the psych ward together last year. It’s a relatively small town, so they had people with addiction problems and people with other psychiatric disorders grouped together. I was in there for a suicide attempt, she was there for heroin addiction. She spent a lot of her time asking others how best to shoot up when she got out.
I don’t know, man. It’s so weird when you have such a clear picture of who people are, and you find out they’re not who you thought they were after all. Bamboozled again?
13. You’ve Got to Put the Work In To Get the Right Results
One super rich kid I went to school with never studied b/c his father would make donations to the school, invite some teachers to a fancy restaurant, then he would never have to repeat any year. His family made most of its wealth on furniture. Ikea, the bad economy and the internet has destroyed their business model and they went bankrupt.
This is how he is now. Young parent with no friends, no career.
12. Karma Hurts, Doesn’t It?
Popular kids in HS made me feel insecure about my weight and all. Now, they still live in the same old town, just another nobody. I am now working abroad and earning close to six figures at age 28. I turned out pretty well. Bottom line: being popular in HS isn’t a good barometer of success as an adult.
11. A World of Extremes
I don’t really keep up with many people to be honest. The ones I’ve added on Facebook have mainly either fallen into the “wildly successful” group or the “hot mess” group.
The first group includes a Broadway actress, a reporter, a few lawyers, and a CFO.
The second group included jail time, arrests, divorce, custody fights, and one porn star.
I don’t think being popular or not popular really helped anyone in life, long term. I think how hard a worker and how privileged they were had a bigger impact.
10. Mixed Feelings About A Mixed Bag
I don’t really know for most of them, social media wasn’t much of a thing at the time I was in high school, so at most I had a few on Myspace. And I didn’t bother to hunt them down on Facebook.
But I went to my reunion and I found out an abnormally high amount of people from my graduating class died a year or two after high school. A few of them were popular kids. A few others I met had pretty normal lives, nothing super successful or amazing. One popular girl was in one of my rival firms, haha (I still hate her guts to this day and finding that out didn’t help). One popular guy claimed to be a part of a baseball team, but I don’t know how true that was, or how big the team he’s on even is.
9. Is This the Ending of a 1970s Movie?
The starting quarterback now sells women’s shoes. That weird kid with the mustache and afro somehow became a paleontologist. Fat guy with a heart of gold has an amusing cast for a family and owns a motorcycle shop. That prissy brat who pissed in everyone’s cheerios is now a stand-up comedian. I don’t know what happened to any of the girls, for some reason.
8. A Cynical Picture of The Way Things Work
About five died from various things. One suicide, two died from colon cancer which I hear was from supplements they took for working out. Another was murdered and the other I can think of died when he was hit by a semi. Mostly they are failures unless their parents had power or pull. One girl I went to school with was the daughter of a provincial leader and she was a real “dirt bag,” still got a good city job because of daddy.
I am amazed at how I never see people I went to school with though.
7. Stay Away From Drugs and Alcohol
I cut ties with everyone I went to school with the second I left and I’ve never looked back.
However, I did see not so long ago in the newspaper that the star athlete (who was a major jerk btw) went to prison after police raided his home and found huge quantities of cocaine under his floorboards.
Also, the popular chick at school who everyone loved and lusted over (also a bit of a jerk if you ask me) is now morbidly obese with three illegitimate kids and, I hear, has a drinking problem. I can’t help but smile a bit when I see her around town. It’s amazing how life plays out.
6. Cleaning Up This Matter
The super popular generic football quarterback that had a decent GPA is now 26 and is now a janitor.
5. Gone On to Bigger and Better Things
Graduated in ’08. I only know that two former popular girls became Instagram famous with millions of followers. And I only know that because I stumbled across them.
4. Let’s All Hold Hands and Sing Kumbaya
“Popular kids” at my school is a term that most of us didn’t really use. I lived on a military base. The burnouts, Christians, jocks, nerds, and freaks all co-mingled. I would say that the prom king and queen turned out great. One is a social worker and the other is an out-shoreman on a rig.
3. If That’s Not Meant to Be, I Don’t Know What Is
Turned out to be marriage material.
I was an exchange student at a US high school and I had a crush on a boy but never told him because he was so popular (Homecoming King).
13 years later we meet at Oktoberfest in Germany and he tells me he really liked me in high school but never told me because he thought I was just hanging out with him to improve my English.
We got married.
2. First Person Account of a Huge Downfall
I was popular.
Varsity cheerleader, always slept around with older guys and went out drinking every week. The summer after graduation I dated a guy from my job (breakfast hostess at a hotel, he was a bartender) that winter I got pregnant. We moved in. A few weeks after our son was born he started smoking pot and beating the crap out of me. I got pregnant again but that didn’t stop him.
Last October I finally left after he hurt our son for the first time. Now I live with my parents, with my one and two year old kids and I’m 50 lbs heavier than when I graduated. Some days are good, other days are bad. I live in a small town (population about 6,000) and most people know about my story. I know it’s used as a “how the mighty have fallen” tale, but no one deserves this.
1. Life Can Change Forever in an Instant
Well, most turned out well enough, there was one guy that didn’t. He was the “hot guy” of the class. Girls loved him because he was gorgeous…blah blah blah… Anyhow, he wound up having a kid and eventually came out as being gay. Apparently he broadcast it to the wrong person. An old man came on to him, and tried to have his way with him. He strangled the old man to death, discarded his body in a ravine, and was later arrested for it. From what I understand, the old man came on to him forcefully on a back road. He’s now doing time for the murder. I actually got along really well with the guy. It’s unfortunate that this happened to him, especially considering he has a daughter. Funny how life can change in a short amount of time. I know he’s technically a murderer, but I wish him all the best.