Patterns of academic competence, externalizing problems, and internalizing problems were examined in females from the longitudinal Individual Development and Adaptation (IDA) program in order to understand unexpected patterns of educational attainment and problems in adulthood. Person-oriented methods were used to identify patterns of competence and problems at ages 10, 13, and 43. These patterns were linked across time to reveal expected and unexpected educational pathways from childhood to adulthood. Most later patterns were consistent with earlier patterns of competence and problems. This structural-level stability supported our hypothesis that competence and problems tend to be inversely related and function together over time as integrated systems. We focus on one unexpected educational pathway characterized by individuals whose problems remain low over time despite stable levels of low competence. This unexpected educational pathway was examined further in terms of optimal versus general adjustment consequences in adulthood. Some policy implications of studying individual patterns and pathways are discussed.