In today’s day and age, we’ve been taught to follow the conventional route – study hard, get good grades in high school, get into a top college, graduate with a worthwhile degree, and this should hopefully propel you into your chosen career where you can begin to work immediately and start earning a pay check. That’s what I reckon most people would deem to be a pretty solid, comfortable life, and then once you’ve got a foot in the door, keep striving hard to build upon any early successes.
But for a lot of people it won’t necessarily work out like that. For some, college will end up being a huge waste of time, a financial strain, and some won’t even end up going. For others, they may have just followed this so-called conventional route, but then realized that the prospect of college life wasn’t what they wanted. In this situation, what do such people do? They drop out, perhaps to revaluate their lives, or to pursue other endeavours, and make use of other opportunities that may have come their way. It happens year in year out to people in colleges up and down the country, and in educational institutions around the globe. It’s also happened to quite a few now-celebs – evidently it all worked out for these guys. They strove to make the most out of their opportunities and make their dreams into reality, and that meant completing a college education just didn’t fall within their plans. Here are 15 celebs who ended up dropping out of college and who are still alive and kicking despite not being college educated. But when you’re earning the megabucks these stars are earning, who needs a degree?
15 Jake Gyllenhaal
Due to Jake Gyllenhaal’s family, it was inevitable that he was going to get into acting. He started out acting at the age of 11, but was also in that kind of filmy environment, with his film producer and film director mom and dad, and their deep ties in the movie industry, pretty much throughout his childhood. But, education was something that mattered to the Gyllenhaals, and so after graduating from high school, he went off to Columbia University. He also followed in his family’s footsteps in regards to his education, because his mom had also attended the same university, and his sister, Maggie, was, at the time, a senior at Columbia. But his heart just wasn’t in it. By that point, having been exposed to the acting world for his whole life, he’d gotten the acting bug and wanted to pursue getting into the profession and didn’t want to waste any time doing it. He dropped out after a couple of years, and the decision was certainly vindicated as he soon got a lead role in the movie, October Sky, considered to be his breakthrough performance.
14 Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga actually had quite a decent education growing up. She was raised in a pretty wealthy part of Manhattan, and although her parents weren’t exactly loaded, they worked damn hard to better themselves and give their kids a great upbringing. Consequently, Lady Gaga received her education at private schools, which is where she also learned to play the piano. Writing songs and performing soon took over her life, and she also started getting into acting, playing major roles in school productions. Her mom was pretty supportive when she told her she wanted to pursue acting or something to do with the performing arts, and urged her to apply for a training course at New York University's Tisch School of The Arts. She got in, learned a ton of stuff, but was eager to begin applying it all, so she dropped out during the second semester, and shortly after that, she did some work for Grandmaster Melle Mel, which served to catapult her career into the big time.
13 Sylvester Stallone
This might piss a lot of people off, but I’m going say that Sylvester Stallone, although he’s a great actor, doesn’t exactly seem like an intelligent actor. What I mean by that is that he’s not exactly someone who you’d deem to be versatile – you’re not going to see him in a romantic role any time soon. It’s all about hardcore action with Sly, and credit to him, he has stuck to what he knows best.
A lot of you have probably heard the story of Sly refusing to sell the script to Rocky unless he was cast as the lead. Of course, that was his big break, but before that he was dirt poor. He was even homeless for a period and had to sleep at a bus shelter, and all of this happened because he defied his teachers, ignored their warnings, and dropped out of the University of Miami in search of stardom in New York. It was most certainly a good decision.
12 Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is undoubtedly one of the most important figures in pop culture. He’s been around forever, since 1959 in fact - a year that marked the start of a remarkable career which has led to him winning the Nobel Prize in literature. It was the start of his career, and also the year he started university, but he soon realized that uni wasn’t really for him. It was still the start of his career, but he was already developing a fanbase from getting noticed when he played in various venues around his campus. He began putting greater importance on his folk music rather than rock, and this consumed his every waking moment during his first year at the University of Minnesota. Understandably, he wanted to give it his all, so after one year, he dropped out and went off to New York City to meet his musical idol Woody Guthrie. He also made a number of other contacts, and from that moment on, his musical career began to gain momentum.
11 Vin Diesel
Today, Vin Diesel is a megastar, someone who’s at the top of his game. He started out on the road to stardom quite young, as a child actor, acting in plays and stage productions. It’s actually quite an interesting story as to how that opportunity came about. He and his friends were messing around, broke into the theatre, and the manager, instead of calling the police, said they could act in his play. Thus, Vin Diesel the actor – or Mark Sinclair as he was known then – was born. Vin liked acting even at that young age, and continued taking part in performances as he grew up. He had gotten the acting bug good and proper, and went off to college to learn new skills. His course at Hunter College was creative writing studies, and that’s when he realized that he had a flair for screenwriting. He learned a lot, but was eager to put those skills to good use, which is why he eventually dropped out after writing, producing, directing, and starring in the film, Multi-Facial – the film essentially responsible for Vin first starting to get noticed.
10 Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon was born to very educated parents. Her dad was a doctor – the medical kind – and her mom earned a BS and Masters degree in nursing, and a Doctorate of education. Everyone, even at that young age, would’ve therefore probably expected Reese to follow suit and complete her education, at least to degree level. But Reese had other interests growing up and was keen to pursue them, not let them die down as she went about getting a degree just for the sake of getting a degree.
As a kid, Reese loved to read, so she went to Stanford University to study English literature. But around the same time, she had started getting involved in acting by getting movie and TV roles during her teenage years. So, like most do when faced with the prospect of achieving bigger and better things, she dropped out after a year and put all her eggs into one basket, deciding to focus on acting. Looks like it worked out!
Madonna had a pretty tumultuous time of it as a kid. She found it incredibly tough when her mom died, and she changed a lot because of that traumatic experience, going off the rails a bit, and resenting her dad massively when he remarried and had kids. She saw it like he was replacing her mom. Despite these troubled times, Madonna still studied hard and got good grades, because she wanted to better herself. After graduating high school, she convinced her dad to allow her to pursue dancing. She began taking ballet lessons, quickly got hooked, and with some encouragement from her dance teacher, decided to pursue dance as a career. That’s why, after a brief spell at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, she dropped out and relocated to New York – yet another star who left college to go to New York in search of stardom! – and make a go of things as a dancer.
8 Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan is a legend in the wrestling industry. He’s arguably the greatest wrestler who’s ever lived; greatest in terms of not only his wrestling ability, but his entire persona which led to him appearing on TV screens in commercials, as an actor, and all kind of stuff that has made him one of the most recognizable faces on the planet.
But before the Hulkster became a wrestling phenomenon, he was more into his music. Yes, the young Hulk Hogan was rocking it out in and around Florida; he played bass guitar for several rock bands in the state for over a decade, and was enjoying his time playing music gigs. He completed his time at community college, enrolled in a course at the University of South Florida, but his skills with the guitar meant that he was actually in demand on the music scene and a lot of work began coming his way. So he made the decision to focus solely on his music, he dropped out of uni, and joined forces with a couple of other musicians to form the band Ruckus, which ended up being very popular in Tampa Bay.
7 Kristen Bell
As a youngster, Kristen Bell was removed from the public school system by her parents. They pulled her out so she could attend Catholic school, and it’s a good thing she did because it was here she got a taste of acting and music for the first time. She took part in the drama and music clubs at the school, and even from that young age her talent was evident. She played the lead in a number of her school’s productions, loved every minute of it, and wanted to pursue it further and make it her profession. So, off she went to New York. She enrolled at New York University's Tisch School of The Arts, majoring in musical theatre, and at the same time Kristen began going to auditions. In her final year, when she was just a few credits shy of graduating, opportunity came knocking and she grabbed it with both her hands, dropping out of uni to appear in the Broadway musical The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
6 Patrick Warburton
Famous not only for his acting prowess, but for his massive frame and his deep booming voice, Patrick has qualities that mean he’s never been out of work. If he’s not appearing in front of the camera, he’s lending his voice to various cartoon characters and animated films, and his voice has been used in a ton of commercials over the years.
Patrick Warburton had a pretty good upbringing. His parents were high-flyers in their respective careers – his dad was an orthopaedic surgeon and his mom was an actress – and so Patrick, you’d think, had that hunger for success instilled in him from a young age.
Growing up, Patrick didn’t really know what he wanted to do. So, he did the conventional thing, went through the school system and then on to university. He actually studied marine biology at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California, but his college education was short-lived as he subsequently dropped out to pursue work in the modeling and acting industries.
5 Salma Hayek
Salma’s undoubtedly one of the hottest actresses we have on our screens today. After nearly three decades in the industry, she’s still killing it, and even though she has now creeped into her 50s, she’s still as beautiful as ever, a real head-turner.
Salma Hayek was born in Mexico into quite a well-off family. She was raised a devout Catholic, spent her early years in Mexico, before then moving to the States at the age of 12 to go to school, during which she lived with an aunt. But after finishing high school she wanted to be closer to family, and so moved back to Mexico. It was a good decision, because by this time she had blossomed into a beautiful young woman, and her face was getting noticed. She still went to university, Universidad Iberoamericana, and studied international relations, but soon dropped out and became known to the masses as a telenovela star in Mexico.
4 Sean Combs
Sean Combs, better known as Puff Daddy, Puffy, P. Diddy, and Diddy, is one of the most recognizable names in the music industry. His songs tend to all be super hits, but as his career has progressed, he has added plenty of other strings to his bow. He’s primarily a rapper, singer, and songwriter, but he’s also an actor, and is a keen entrepreneur, a very shrewd businessman. In fact, today he accumulated most of his wealth through non-music business ventures.
The young Sean Combs didn’t have a great time. He grew up in a pretty rough part of New York, and went through some awful things. His dad was shot and killed in his car when Sean was still a child. All these experiences made Sean want to better himself and make his dad proud. After graduating from high school, Sean went to Howard University to study business, but during his studies he got an opportunity to put his business mind to good use, and so he dropped out to become an intern at a record company.
3 Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen DeGeneres is one of the most loved women on the planet due to her success in a range of professions: acting, writing, comedy, producing, and probably what she’s most well-known for today, being a television host. But as a youngster growing up in Louisiana, Ellen had no real desire to get into any of these professions. It was actually while she was at university that she started to pay more attention to being a comic. Ellen studied at the University of New Orleans, where she majored in communication studies, but she never ended up graduating. In fact, she barely ended up making any headway into her studies, because after just one semester, she dropped out to start earning a pay check working at a law firm doing clerical work with her cousin. She also began waitressing, doing stand-up comedy at clubs and coffee houses, and a matter of years later, was already being spoken about as the funniest woman in America.
2 Oprah Winfrey
If Ellen’s up there as being one of the most loved women on the planet, Oprah’s got to be by her side, not only for being loved pretty much by everybody, but also for being an incredibly influential person.
Growing up, Oprah Winfrey and her family were dirt poor. She grew up in extreme poverty, and had a really tough time, not only due to the poverty, but everything that came along with it, the people she hung out with, and the experiences she went through. It’s therefore no surprise that when the opportunity came her way to get into the media industry, she snapped it up.
Oprah got a full scholarship to study at Tennessee State University where she studied communications. By this time, she’d already gotten a love for all things media, so when she got a job offer while still a sophomore at university, a job at a television station that would get her a foot in the door and allow her to kick-start her media career, it was a no-brainer, and so she dropped out to realize her dream.
1 Ryan Seacrest
From a young age, Ryan Seacrest knew what he wanted and put everything in place so that he could achieve his goals. He wanted to be involved in broadcasting, and so at university, while still in his teens, he decided to pack his bags and relocate to further his broadcasting career.
As a youngster, Ryan would be walking around the house with a mic in his hand, putting on shows and interviewing his toys. He had that passion for broadcasting, even as a child, and it didn’t die down as he went through high school. It was here he won an internship at a radio station, and it’s where he ended up getting schooled in the different aspects of radio production. He ended up getting his own radio show, which he continued when he went to the University of Georgia to study journalism. But he wanted to dedicated himself to his craft, so he dropped out to pursue a career in broadcasting full time.