College is a great way to improve your life but it’s not for everyone. With hard work and determination you can be successful even without a college degree. These 100 people made names for themselves without going to college at all and prove that it’s possible to get a real world education outside the ivory tower.
Millionaires & Billionaires
College will improve your lifetime earning potential, but it didn’t make a difference for these people.
- John D. Rockefeller, Sr.: This high school dropout was the first American billionaire.
- 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.
- Mark Zuckerberg: This young billionaire started Facebook on summer vacation.
- Sheldon Adelson: Sheldon Adelson dropped out of City College of New York before earning enough credits for a degree.
- Stanley Ho: The King of Gambling left college after a couple years.
- 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.
- Frank Lloyd Wright: Frank Lloyd Wright left high school behind to work in the University of Wisconsin’s Engineering department.
- William Eggleston: William Eggleston attended Vanderbilt and the University of Mississippi without graduating from either.
- Ansel Adams: Photographer Ansel Adams was educated through homeschooling and grammar school.
- Christina Aguilera: Christina was pulled out of high school because of kids who were jealous of her fame.
- Ray Charles: Beloved musician Ray Charles left school at 15 after his mother died.
- Andre Benjamin: More commonly known as Andre 3000, Andre Benjamin earned a high school equivalency degree.
- Eminem: Eminem’s education ended in high school.
- Cher: Cher’s career began at the age of 17.
- Louis Armstrong: Louis Armstrong dropped out of the Fisk School for Boys at 11, and joined a quartet of boys.
- Tom Petty: Tom Petty dropped out of high school at 17 to join the band Mud Crutch.
- Glen Campbell: By 18, Glen Campbell was on tour as part of the Western Wranglers.
- Sheldon Harvey: Sheldon Harvey left high school to care for his wife and son, and later attended community college without graduating.
- Coco Chanel: Her work is studied in colleges, but Coco Chanel did not attend one.
These respected entrepreneurs did it all without a degree.
- 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.
- Jack Taylor: Jack Taylor founded Enterprise Rent-A-Car, although he dropped out of college in World War II.
- Mike Hudack: Mike Hudack never went to college, but he founded blip.tv.
- Paul Allen: Paul Allen dropped out of Washington University to co-found Microsoft with Bill Gates.
- W. Clement Stone: W. Clement Stone dropped out of elementary school, although he later too high school night courses and some college.
- Debbi Fields: Mrs. Fields turned her chocolate chip cookie recipe into a successful food franchise.
- Sir Richard Branson: Richard Branson dropped out of high school, but he went on to successfully publish "Student" magazine.
- Larry Ellison: Before starting Oracle Corporation, he dropped out of both the University of Illinois and University of Chicago.
- Arthur Ernest Morgan: Engineer Arthur Ernest Morgan learned the practice by apprenticeship.
- Ted Turner: Ted Turner was rejected by Princeton and Harvard.
- Bill Gates: Bill Gates is one of the richest people in the world, but he was a college dropout.
- John Carmack: The cofounder of id Software John Carmack dropped out of University of Missouri.
- Michael Dell: The founder of Dell dropped out of college when his dorm room business began grossing about $80,000 per month.
- David Karp: Although David Karp dropped out of the Bronx High School of Science at 15, he founded Tumblr.
- Milton Hershey: Milton Hershey started his own chocolate company with only a 4th grade education.
- 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.
- Ralph Lauren: Ralph Lauren studied business for two years before dropping out of college.
- Ty Warner: Toy tycoon Ty Warner dropped out of Kalamazoo College to sell stuffed animals.
- Steve Jobs: Steve Jobs attended only one semester of college.
These athletes skipped over college in favor of an athletic dream.
- Rashard Lewis: Rashard Lewis left behind Alief Elsik high school to be drafted into the NBA.
- Kevin Garnett: Kevin Garnett has played in the NBA for more than 14 years since skipping college.
- Andre Agassi: Tennis player Andre Agassi quit school in 9th grade to go to the tennis courts.
- LeBron James: LeBron James skipped college to go straight into the NBA and sign an endorsement deal with Nike.
- Dwight Howard: After being drafted as a first pick, Dwight Howard decided not to go to college.
- Kobe Bryant: Kobe Bryant was drafted straight out of high school into the Charlotte Hornets.
- 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.
- John Travolta: John Travolta started his movie career at the age of 16 when he dropped out of high school.
- Julie Andrews: Julie Andrews, Oscar winning actress, singer and author dropped out of high school.
- Pierce Brosnan: Before his stage acting career, Pierce Brosnan left school at 16.
- Kevin Bacon: Kevin Bacon skipped college to go to New York and study drama.
- Ellen Burstyn: Ellen Burstyn left home at 18 before her Broadway debut.
- Johnny Depp: Johnny Depp dropped out of high school to become a movie star.
- Ellen DeGeneres: Ellen DeGeneres only studied one year at the University of New Orleans to work odd jobs while getting started as a comedienne.
- Raymond Burr: Actor Raymond Burr claimed to attend Stanford and Columbia, but he never actually went to college.
- Steve Martin: Steve Martin dropped out of college at 21.
- James Dean: After earning the role of Malcolm in Macbeth, James Dean left UCLA in pursuit of full-time acting.
- 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.
- Brad Pitt: Brad Pitt left the University of Missouri two weeks before graduation to take acting classes in LA.
- Chris Rock: Comedian and actor Chris Rock was a high school dropout at the age of 17.
- Halle Berry: Halle Berry moved to Chicago immediately after high school to start her modeling and acting career.
- Nicholas Cage: Although he dropped out of Beverly High School at 17, Nicholas Cage has become one of the most powerful people in Hollywood.
- Michael J. Fox: Michael J. Fox’s education did not extend past high school.
- Jim Carrey: Golden Globe winner Jim Carrey left high school at 16.
- Tom Hanks: Tom Hanks dropped out of college to be an intern at the Great Lakes Theater Festival.
- Michael Caine: Michael Caine, Oscar winning actor, dropped out of high school.
- 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.
- Jack London: Author Jack London quit school after learning about his family’s past.
- William Blake: Poet and artist William Blake was educated at home by his mother.
- William Faulkner: This Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist dropped out of both high school and the University of Mississippi.
- Jack Kerouac: Kerouac left his athletic scholarship at Columbia University behind after he cracked his tibia.
- Robert Frost: Beloved poet Robert Frost dropped out of Dartmouth College.
- 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.
- Simon Cowell: Simon Cowell didn’t go to college, but rather started in a mailroom for a music publishing company.
- William Hanna: Cartoonist William Hanna dropped out of college at the beginning of the Great Depression.
- Aaron Brown: Aaron Brown dropped out of the University of Minnesota to sign up for active duty in the Coast Guard.
- Quentin Tarantino: This successful moviemaker dropped out in 9th grade.
- Sammy Cahn: Oscar-winning songwriter Sammy Cahn dropped out of high school.
- David Geffen: David Geffen dropped out of Brooklyn College and the University of Texas.
- James Cameron: He’s gone on to become an Oscar winning director, producer, and screenwriter, but James Cameron dropped out of California State University.
- Peter Jennings: Peter Jennings attended the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, but he did not graduate from either.
- Rachael Ray: With no formal training in college or culinary arts, Rachael Ray has become a star in the food and entertainment industry.
- Jim Clark: Jim Clark’s education didn’t get past prep school.
- Woody Allen: Woody Allen had false starts at NYU and City College of New York before becoming a full-time writer.
- 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.
- Barry Diller: The founder of Fox, Barry Diller, was a college dropout.
- 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.
- Henry Ford: Ford left home at 16 to apprentice as a machinist.
- Steve Wozniak: The Woz dropped out of college to design calculators at Hewlett-Packard.
- Thomas Edison: Thomas Edison only went to school for a few months, but his mother taught him at home.
- 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.
- George Washington: George Washington only went to school until he was 14 or 15.
- Andrew Jackson: Even without a college degree, Andrew Jackson was an American President, Congressman, and more.
- Patrick Henry: Patrick Henry attended local schools and was tutored by his father, but he never went to college.
- 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.
- Zachary Taylor: Instead of going to college or studying on his own, Zachary Taylor served in the military.
- Millard Fillmore: Millard Fillmore had only six months of formal schooling.
- Benjamin Franklin: The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin received less than two years of formal education.
- 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.
- Harry S. Truman: This American President’s formal education ended with high school.
- 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.
- Grover Cleveland: Grover Cleveland was unable to go to college, instead having to work when his father died.