A college degree isn’t necessarily a precursor to financial success. Some people just have that natural entrepreneurial instinct that gives them the upper hand in business. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t try to do things the conventional way and graduate from college first.
There are plenty of actors, musicians, and business people who excelled in school. Many celebrities, like Emma Watson and James Franco, have even gone back to finish a college degree or two just because they enjoy learning. College doesn’t have to be about getting a job and paying the bills, but not many people have that luxury.
There are a lot of ways to make money other than just go to college, get an entry level job, and slowly work your way up the corporate ladder. Not every one is satisfied with that, and money is what they really want. The people with the ambition, motivation, and creativity to work for themselves or do something that is unexpected are the ones who end up with more money than they know what to do with. Here are 10 people who gave post secondary education the old college try, dropped out, and ended up making millions anyway.
10. Lady Gaga- $220 Million
Lady Gaga was one of the lucky few to gain early admission to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, but she dropped out of the program in her sophomore year to focus on her music career. Her father agreed to pay her rent for one year under the condition that if she was unsuccessful in music in that time, she would re-enroll in school. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. By 2008, she had moved to L.A with a record deal, and her first album The Fame, was released that summer. She is now an international superstar and has a net worth close to $220 million, proving that sometimes talent trumps formal training.
9. Ellen DeGeneres- $285 Million
Daytime talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres started out as a stand up comic. She went on to star in her own sitcom, Ellen, which is where she came out as a lesbian. She was the first openly lesbian actress to play an openly lesbian character on TV, and has since been a strong advocate and role model for LGBQT rights. She majored in communication studies at the University of New Orleans, but she only made it through one semester before dropping out and going through a series of odd jobs. Once she started doing stand-up, there was no looking back. She is now worth close to $285 million.
8. Russell Simmons – $325 Million
A legend in the hip-hop community, Russel Simmons only attended the City College of New York in Harlem for a brief period of time before dropping out to pursue business interests. Simmons joined his friend Rick Rubin in founding the Def Jam music label in 1983, and together they grew the business. Simmons also launched fashion label Phat Farm, which has become a staple in the hip-hop community as well. With a net worth around $325 million, Simmons is seen as one of the richest figures in hip-hop.
7. Tom Hanks- $350 Million
Award-winning actor, director, and writer, Tom Hanks has a reputation for being a really nice guy. He is also a millionaire, and one of the highest grossing actors in film history. Before he became a huge movie star, he studied theater at California State University. He ended up dropping out to intern at the Great Lakes Theatre Festival in Cleveland. He interned for 3 whole years, learning everything there is to know about theater production. Now, thanks to films like Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump, and The Da Vinci Code, Hanks has a net worth around $350 million.
6. Tiger Woods- $600 Million
College is often part of the road to becoming a professional athlete, at least for team sports, like football and basketball. But golf doesn’t always work that way. Tiger Woods has been ranked the number 1 golfer in the world various times throughout his career, and is one of the highest paid athletes in the world as well. He attended Stanford for two years on a golf scholarship, but he was already winning titles at that point, and decided to drop out and turn pro. He has won 14 major golf tournaments, and his current net worth is around $600 million.
5. James Cameron- $700 Million
Canadian writer and director, James Cameron has the distinction of being the director of the two biggest box office films of all time, Titanic, and Avatar.
He was enrolled in a community college studying physics and English, but dropped out after one year. He worked as a truck driver, and spent time writing and teaching himself special effects. After seeing Star Wars in 1977, he realized he could combine art and science, and decided to enter the film industry. Besides being an Academy Award-winning director, he has also contributed to the field of deep sea exploration, and developed underwater filming technology. All with only one year of community college under his belt.
4. Oprah Winfrey- $3 Billion
Dubbed the “Queen of all Media”, Oprah Winfrey has also been ranked the richest African American of the 20th Century, and currently North America’s only black billionaire. She grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi, before getting a job in radio when she was 19. She was attending Tennessee State University on a full scholarship, but she was already finding success in broadcasting, so she dropped out to start her own production company. Oprah was a millionaire by the age of 32, but when TSU asked her to make a commencement speech in 1987, she decided to finish off the one credit she left unfinished, and became a college graduate.
3. Steve Jobs- $10.2 Billion
Microsoft has always been in direct competition with Apple. Steve Jobs started Apple in 1976 with his friend Steve Wozniak, who had the technological expertise that Jobs didn’t. Jobs was enrolled at Reed College in Portland for only 6 months before he dropped out and started pursuing more creative interests. While Wozniak built the first Apple computer on his own, it was Jobs who built the business. He was fired from the company in 1985, but after working for Pixar for awhile, he returned to Apple as CEO in 1996 and helped build it into the company it is now. When he died of cancer in 2011 he was worth an estimated $10.2 billion.
2. Mark Zuckerberg- $34.8 Billion
One of the creators of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, famously conceived of and launched the site while attending Harvard for psychology and computer science. He was already considered somewhat of a programming prodigy when he started school, and he immediately started working on his own websites out of his dorm room. He dropped out of school in his sophomore year to keep working on Facebook, and despite lawsuits accusing him of stealing the idea, he became a billionaire thanks to the site’s success by the age of 23. He is now the chairman and CEO and has an estimate net worth of around $34.8 billion.
1. Bill Gates- $79.3 Billion
Bill Gates is one of the most well known businessmen in the technology industry in the world. The founder of Microsoft is consistently ranked in Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest people, and is currently worth around $79.3 billion. Gates was in his sophomore year at Harvard when he dropped out to start his own computer software company with his friend Paul Allen, which became Microsoft. Gates was smart (he scored a 1590 on his SATs) and ambitious enough without a college degree to make the personal computer what it is today, so graduating from Harvard couldn’t have possibly made him any more money than he made on his own.
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