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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.

Entrepreneurs

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 blip.tv.
  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.

Athletes

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.

Actors

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.

Writers

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.

Entertainment

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.

Inventors

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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