College will improve your lifetime earning potential, but it didn’t make a difference for these people.

Millionaires & Billionaires

  1. John D. Rockefeller, Sr.: This high school dropout was the first American billionaire.
  2. Kirk Kerkorian: Kirk Kerkorian is said to be the richest man in Los Angeles with a personal fortune of $16 billion, although he dropped out of school in the 8th grade.
  3. Mark Zuckerberg: This young billionaire started Facebook on summer vacation.
  4. Sheldon Adelson: Sheldon Adelson dropped out of City College of New York before earning enough credits for a degree.
  5. Stanley Ho: The King of Gambling left college after a couple years.
  6. Kevin Rose: Rose used house down payment money to start the website Digg, although he dropped out of UNLV.

Artists & Musicians

Check out these artists that didn’t need formal training.

  1. Frank Lloyd Wright: Frank Lloyd Wright left high school behind to work in the University of Wisconsin’s Engineering department.
  2. William Eggleston: William Eggleston attended Vanderbilt and the University of Mississippi without graduating from either.
  3. Ansel Adams: Photographer Ansel Adams was educated through homeschooling and grammar school.
  4. Christina Aguilera: Christina was pulled out of high school because of kids who were jealous of her fame.
  5. Ray Charles: Beloved musician Ray Charles left school at 15 after his mother died.
  6. Andre Benjamin: More commonly known as Andre 3000, Andre Benjamin earned a high school equivalency degree.
  7. Eminem: Eminem’s education ended in high school.
  8. Cher: Cher’s career began at the age of 17.
  9. Louis Armstrong: Louis Armstrong dropped out of the Fisk School for Boys at 11, and joined a quartet of boys.
  10. Tom Petty: Tom Petty dropped out of high school at 17 to join the band Mud Crutch.
  11. Glen Campbell: By 18, Glen Campbell was on tour as part of the Western Wranglers.
  12. Sheldon Harvey: Sheldon Harvey left high school to care for his wife and son, and later attended community college without graduating.
  13. Coco Chanel: Her work is studied in colleges, but Coco Chanel did not attend one.


These respected entrepreneurs did it all without a degree.

  1. Mary Kay Ash: Mary Kay Ash’s family could not afford to send her to college, but she was able to build a successful cosmetics company.
  2. Jack Taylor: Jack Taylor founded Enterprise Rent-A-Car, although he dropped out of college in World War II.
  3. Mike Hudack: Mike Hudack never went to college, but he founded
  4. Paul Allen: Paul Allen dropped out of Washington University to co-found Microsoft with Bill Gates.
  5. W. Clement Stone: W. Clement Stone dropped out of elementary school, although he later too high school night courses and some college.
  6. Debbi Fields: Mrs. Fields turned her chocolate chip cookie recipe into a successful food franchise.
  7. Sir Richard Branson: Richard Branson dropped out of high school, but he went on to successfully publish “Student” magazine.
  8. Larry Ellison: Before starting Oracle Corporation, he dropped out of both the University of Illinois and University of Chicago.
  9. Arthur Ernest Morgan: Engineer Arthur Ernest Morgan learned the practice by apprenticeship.
  10. Ted Turner: Ted Turner was rejected by Princeton and Harvard.
  11. Bill Gates: Bill Gates is one of the richest people in the world, but he was a college dropout.
  12. John Carmack: The cofounder of id Software John Carmack dropped out of University of Missouri.
  13. Michael Dell: The founder of Dell dropped out of college when his dorm room business began grossing about $80,000 per month.
  14. David Karp: Although David Karp dropped out of the Bronx High School of Science at 15, he founded Tumblr.
  15. Milton Hershey: Milton Hershey started his own chocolate company with only a 4th grade education.
  16. Dave Thomas: Dave Thomas got his first job at 12, dropped out of school at 15, invested in KFC, and opened his first Wendy’s.
  17. Ralph Lauren: Ralph Lauren studied business for two years before dropping out of college.
  18. Ty Warner: Toy tycoon Ty Warner dropped out of Kalamazoo College to sell stuffed animals.
  19. Steve Jobs: Steve Jobs attended only one semester of college.


These athletes skipped over college in favor of an athletic dream.

  1. Rashard Lewis: Rashard Lewis left behind Alief Elsik high school to be drafted into the NBA.
  2. Kevin Garnett: Kevin Garnett has played in the NBA for more than 14 years since skipping college.
  3. Andre Agassi: Tennis player Andre Agassi quit school in 9th grade to go to the tennis courts.
  4. LeBron James: LeBron James skipped college to go straight into the NBA and sign an endorsement deal with Nike.
  5. Dwight Howard: After being drafted as a first pick, Dwight Howard decided not to go to college.
  6. Kobe Bryant: Kobe Bryant was drafted straight out of high school into the Charlotte Hornets.
  7. Mario Andretti: Although Mario Andretti dropped out of high school, he later earned an equivalency degree.


Although they didn’t go to college, these actors are still well-respected.

  1. John Travolta: John Travolta started his movie career at the age of 16 when he dropped out of high school.
  2. Julie Andrews: Julie Andrews, Oscar winning actress, singer and author dropped out of high school.
  3. Pierce Brosnan: Before his stage acting career, Pierce Brosnan left school at 16.
  4. Kevin Bacon: Kevin Bacon skipped college to go to New York and study drama.
  5. Ellen Burstyn: Ellen Burstyn left home at 18 before her Broadway debut.
  6. Johnny Depp: Johnny Depp dropped out of high school to become a movie star.
  7. Ellen DeGeneres: Ellen DeGeneres only studied one year at the University of New Orleans to work odd jobs while getting started as a comedienne.
  8. Raymond Burr: Actor Raymond Burr claimed to attend Stanford and Columbia, but he never actually went to college.
  9. Steve Martin: Steve Martin dropped out of college at 21.
  10. James Dean: After earning the role of Malcolm in Macbeth, James Dean left UCLA in pursuit of full-time acting.
  11. Marisa Tomei: Marisa Tomei attended Boston University and New York University, but didn’t graduate from either before pursuing work with As the World Turns.
  12. Brad Pitt: Brad Pitt left the University of Missouri two weeks before graduation to take acting classes in LA.
  13. Chris Rock: Comedian and actor Chris Rock was a high school dropout at the age of 17.
  14. Halle Berry: Halle Berry moved to Chicago immediately after high school to start her modeling and acting career.
  15. Nicholas Cage: Although he dropped out of Beverly High School at 17, Nicholas Cage has become one of the most powerful people in Hollywood.
  16. Michael J. Fox: Michael J. Fox’s education did not extend past high school.
  17. Jim Carrey: Golden Globe winner Jim Carrey left high school at 16.
  18. Tom Hanks: Tom Hanks dropped out of college to be an intern at the Great Lakes Theater Festival.
  19. Michael Caine: Michael Caine, Oscar winning actor, dropped out of high school.
  20. Joe Pesci: Joe Pesci went from high school dropout to making $3,000,000 from Lethal Weapon.


Check out these writers that created beautiful works without the help of a college education.

  1. Jack London: Author Jack London quit school after learning about his family’s past.
  2. William Blake: Poet and artist William Blake was educated at home by his mother.
  3. William Faulkner: This Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist dropped out of both high school and the University of Mississippi.
  4. Jack Kerouac: Kerouac left his athletic scholarship at Columbia University behind after he cracked his tibia.
  5. Robert Frost: Beloved poet Robert Frost dropped out of Dartmouth College.
  6. Doris Lessig: Doris Lessig won the Nobel Prize for Literature, but ended her formal schooling at 14.


These masters of the entertainment business didn’t need a college degree.

  1. Simon Cowell: Simon Cowell didn’t go to college, but rather started in a mailroom for a music publishing company.
  2. William Hanna: Cartoonist William Hanna dropped out of college at the beginning of the Great Depression.
  3. Aaron Brown: Aaron Brown dropped out of the University of Minnesota to sign up for active duty in the Coast Guard.
  4. Quentin Tarantino: This successful moviemaker dropped out in 9th grade.
  5. Sammy Cahn: Oscar-winning songwriter Sammy Cahn dropped out of high school.
  6. David Geffen: David Geffen dropped out of Brooklyn College and the University of Texas.
  7. James Cameron: He’s gone on to become an Oscar winning director, producer, and screenwriter, but James Cameron dropped out of California State University.
  8. Peter Jennings: Peter Jennings attended the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, but he did not graduate from either.
  9. Rachael Ray: With no formal training in college or culinary arts, Rachael Ray has become a star in the food and entertainment industry.
  10. Jim Clark: Jim Clark’s education didn’t get past prep school.
  11. Woody Allen: Woody Allen had false starts at NYU and City College of New York before becoming a full-time writer.
  12. Steven Spielberg: Steven Spielberg was denied acceptance to film school, but has since become one of the world’s most successful movie directors and producers.
  13. Barry Diller: The founder of Fox, Barry Diller, was a college dropout.
  14. Walt Disney: Walt Disney dropped out of high school at 16, but went on to find success as an animator and businessman.


These inventors created using just their ingenuity.

  1. Henry Ford: Ford left home at 16 to apprentice as a machinist.
  2. Steve Wozniak: The Woz dropped out of college to design calculators at Hewlett-Packard.
  3. Thomas Edison: Thomas Edison only went to school for a few months, but his mother taught him at home.
  4. Dean Kamen: Dean Kamen dropped out of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, but he holds more than 80 US patents.

Presidents & Politicians

Find out which great leaders achieved greatness without a degree.

  1. George Washington: George Washington only went to school until he was 14 or 15.
  2. Andrew Jackson: Even without a college degree, Andrew Jackson was an American President, Congressman, and more.
  3. Patrick Henry: Patrick Henry attended local schools and was tutored by his father, but he never went to college.
  4. Martin Van Buren: Although he did not attend college, he was able to work as a law clerk for several years before becoming a lawyer.
  5. Zachary Taylor: Instead of going to college or studying on his own, Zachary Taylor served in the military.
  6. Millard Fillmore: Millard Fillmore had only six months of formal schooling.
  7. Benjamin Franklin: The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin received less than two years of formal education.
  8. Abraham Lincoln: Abraham Lincoln came from a poor family who didn’t live close to a school, but he taught himself to read and become a lawyer.
  9. Harry S. Truman: This American President’s formal education ended with high school.
  10. Winston Churchill: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill flunked out a sixth grade, and although he graduated 8th out of a class of 150 at the Royal Military Academy, he never attended college.
  11. Grover Cleveland: Grover Cleveland was unable to go to college, instead having to work when his father died.

– Davos

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