What does happen to C students? Do college grades matter in the real world? It turns out they do.
The U.S. Department of Education report, College Quality & the Earnings of Recent College Graduates, 2000, examines the relationship between earnings five years after graduation and various aspects of the college experience. The largest factor among those analyzed in the study was choice of major. College graduates who majored in engineering made more than humanities majors, on average. (However, a humanities major who goes on to law school might pull head later.) The second biggest factor was GPA. I was surprised to learn that the quality of the college, while important, contributed less to earnings after five years than GPA. This might be due to a higher number of graduates from elite schools going on to graduate or professional schools. Still, it is heartening to know that students at less prestigious institutions who are reasonably bright and work hard often do well.
Unfortunately, gender also matters in the real world. Although women tend to have higher GPAs they make less than their male counterparts even controlling for other factors. But, within each gender, GPA matters for future income.
So, once you find a major the suits your interests and talents work hard and get good grades. Of course there is more to college than tests, homework and grades. No one would suggest that college students should devote all their waking hours in pursuit of a 4.00. Extracurricular activities -- although not studied in this USDE report -- can also add value to one's degree.
But your college grades do matter.