Celeb Dropout

We Don't Need No Education: 25+ Celebs Who Are a College Dropout


| LAST UPDATE 11/03/2021

By Manny Ray

Many of our favorite celebs dreamed of the day they'd be recognized in Hollywood. So, when their moment finally arrived, everything else was pushed aside: Including school or college. Find out which of these successful stars are also dropouts.

Ben Affleck

This A-list actor went to the University of Vermont because of an "unrequited love for this high school girlfriend," he told Paper Magazine. But things didn't work out quite the way Affleck hoped.

Ben Affleck, Celebrity dropoutsBen Affleck, Celebrity dropouts
Pablo Cuadra / Contributor via Getty Images

"Two weeks after I got there, I called her room," he continued. "And some guy answered the telephone! 'Who is this guy?' 'He's helping me study,' she says. Sure." The romance didn't work out, but odds are it was for the better. Ben dropped out and pursued a successful acting career.

Lady Gaga

Before there was the legendary Lady Gaga, there was Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. Stefani attended Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. "I loved NYU, but I thought I could teach myself about art better than the school could," Gaga said in Elle Magazine's Women in Music issue.

Lady Gaga, Celebrity DropoutsLady Gaga, Celebrity Dropouts
ROBYN BECK / Contributor via Getty Images

So after just a year at the highly-regarded university, Germanotta dropped out. "I really felt New York was my teacher and that I needed to bite the bullet and go it alone." Considering Gaga's $320 million net worth, as reported by Celebrity Net Worth, we'd say NY gave her a fairly good education.

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Ashton Kutcher

In the mid-90s, Kutcher began studying engineering at the University of Iowa. The star dropped out when a modeling scout discovered him. In a full-circle moment, Ashton gave the commencement speech at his would-be alma mater's 2020 graduation and advised students not to be afraid of straying from their original plan.

Ashton Kutcher, Celebrity DropoutsAshton Kutcher, Celebrity Dropouts
Steve Granitz / Contributor via Getty Images

"The only thing that provided me with an opportunity to be where I am today was a willingness to throw out the master plan," Kutcher said. "I didn't throw out the hard work. I didn't throw out the morals. I didn't throw my goals. I didn't throw my ambition... I just threw out the master plan." It looks like plan B came in clutch.

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Mila Kunis

Unlike other celebrities, Kunis attended college after her rise to fame. The That '70's Show star went to UCLA when filming on the sitcom wrapped up and later transferred to Loyola Marymount. Mila is "pretty damn sure" that she never went to class and was ultimately encouraged to drop out by her mom and dad!

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Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / Contributor via Getty Images

"I was actually a pretty good student. My problem was that I didn't know what I wanted to study," Kunis explained. "Then I realized and spoke to my parents, and I said, 'I do love what I do [acting], and I want to pursue it.' They were like, 'Oh why don't you just drop out.'" #ParentGoals

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Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake is the son of director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner. After the actor was cast for the leading role in October Sky, his father made him promise to go to school eventually. Jake enrolled at an Ivy League and kept his word. Well, kind of.

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Alessandra Benedetti - Corbis / Contributor via Getty Images

"I dropped out of Columbia University in 2000 after two years of studying Eastern religions and philosophy to concentrate on acting," Gyllenhaal said. "But I have always wanted to finish my degree." College-certified or not, it's safe to say the Oscar nominee turned out just fine.

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Alicia Keys

Before ditching school, Alicia was at the top of her class. "I was sixteen when I graduated as valedictorian. I went to a performing arts high school," the singer shared. She was accepted to Columbia University on a scholarship but eventually had a change of heart.

Alicia Keys, Celebrity DropoutsAlicia Keys, Celebrity Dropouts
Steve Granitz / Contributor via Getty Images

Keys was approached by Columbia records and knew it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The artist ultimately chose "the record business over college," as she explained. Alicia has 15 Grammy Awards to make up for the degree she never got. This girl is definitely on fire!

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Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt dropped out of the University of Missouri's School of Journalism only two weeks shy of graduating! "It just came to the time of graduation, and everyone - all my friends were committing to jobs - and I just realized I was not ready for that yet... I packed up my car... and I moved out to L.A.," said the Hollywood icon.

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Rachel Luna / Stringer via Getty Images

When asked why he never finished the two remaining weeks, Brad explained, "I just felt I was done; I was done with it. I knew where I wanted to go. I had a direction." As reported by Celebrity Net Worth, Pitt's $300 million net worth indicates he did just fine even without those last few college credits.

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Kanye West

West's renowned album College Dropout says it all. The rapper briefly attended both the American Academy of Art and Chicago State University before leaving to focus on music. But in 2015, Kanye received an honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Kanye West, Celebrity DropoutsKanye West, Celebrity Dropouts
Taylor Hill / Contributor via Getty Images

While accepting his speech, West reflected on how a college degree may have made his career easier. "When I went out on that mission to create other space - apparel, film, performance - it would've been easier if I could have said I had a degree at the Art Institute of Chicago," Kanye said. Well, now he does!

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Ben Stiller

Stiller may be the son of late comedians/actors Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, but it looks like the actor didn't want to rely on his family connections to make it in Hollywood. Stiller enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles's film school in 1983, but dropped out about 9 months later.

Ben Stiller, Celebrity DropoutsBen Stiller, Celebrity Dropouts
Anthony Harvey / Contributor via Getty Images

Stiller went on to create his own MTV show, The Ben Stiller Show. The star became a household name with the release of There's Something About Mary, and we can't imagine a world without the hilarious Zoolander. According to Celebrity Net Worth, all of Ben's projects have amassed him a net worth of about $200 million.

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John Mayer

When John Mayer enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, he had no formal musical training, and his GPA showed it. "They were pronounced like 'd-d-d-f-f-f-f-f' - like static," the singer said of his grades at the school. "So I had to kind of totally burn that bridge because I didn't know what I was doing."

John Mayer, Celebrity DropoutsJohn Mayer, Celebrity Dropouts
Christopher Polk / Staff via Getty Images

Mayer dropped out and moved to Atlanta, where he started writing songs. The artist performed solo because he couldn't find a band. About two years after his stint at college, John began recording his major-label debut, Room for Squares. Well, safe to say things turned out just fine.

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Ryan Gosling

Before becoming one of Hollywood's biggest stars, Gosling went to Lester B. Pearson High School in Canada. Ryan dropped out to pursue acting at the age of 17. While the teenager hoped to make it on the big screen, his career began on television as he starred in Disney's 1993 The All New Mickey Mouse Club.

Ryan Gosling, Celebrity DropoutsRyan Gosling, Celebrity Dropouts
Stephane Cardinale - Corbis / Contributor via Getty Images

Gosling is not the only celebrity to come out of the children's show, with the likes of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake launching their careers on the series, too. Ryan went on to star in The Notebook and Crazy, Stupid, Love. Celebrity Net Worth reports the actor boasts a net worth of about $70 million. Not bad!

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Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter

In 2019, Forbes estimated that Jay-Z's business empire was worth $1 billion, making him "one of only a handful of entertainers to become a billionaire - and the first hip-hop artist to do so." But before becoming the wealthy entrepreneur he is today, Carter dropped out of his Brooklyn high school.

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Earl Gibson III / Contributor via Getty Images

Despite his unquestionable success after dropping out, the producer encourages others to value school. "Education is super important," Jay-Z said in a 2019 press conference. "I don't have a high school diploma or a college diploma, but still for me to articulate, I had to have some form of schooling to articulate my thoughts."

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Harry Styles

Styles was a student at the Wilmslow High School in Cheshire, U.K. when he auditioned for The X Factor at the age of 16. When One Direction skyrocketed to fame, Harry didn't have time to focus on his education. The star dropped out and never went back to finish school.

Harry Styles, Celebrity DropoutsHarry Styles, Celebrity Dropouts
Dimitrios Kambouris / Staff via Getty Images

Even though One Direction later split, we doubt the singer has any regrets about dropping out. Styles has recorded two solo albums, has three Grammy nominations, was on the cover of Vogue, and starred in two major films. Oh, did we mention Celebrity Net Worth reports Harry's net worth to be about $80 million?

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Jennifer Lawrence

At 14 years old, The Hunger Games star discovered her love for the arts and decided to drop out of middle school. "I struggled through school. I never felt smart," Lawrence told 60 Minutes. After getting her hands on some scripts, Jennifer knew acting was "Something that I could be confident in."

Jennifer Lawrence, Celebrity DropoutsJennifer Lawrence, Celebrity Dropouts
Kevork Djansezian / Stringer via Getty Images

So Lawrence got her parents' approval to leave school and never returned to earn a high school diploma or GED. The actress calls herself "self-educated" and has no regrets about her decision. With a $160 million net worth, as estimated by Celebrity Net Worth, we wouldn't either!

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At the young age of 16, Riri left her high school in Barbados. She walked away with no diploma in hand but a record deal with Def Jam instead. Not long after, Rihanna's debut single, Pon de Replay, rocked airwaves everywhere. The rest, as they say, is history.

Rihanna, Celebrity DropoutsRihanna, Celebrity Dropouts
Karwai Tang / Contributor via Getty Images

World-renowned Harvard University didn't seem to mind the star's lack of formal education. The Ivy League gave Rihanna their Humanitarian of the Year award in 2017. She has also been nominated for 33 Grammy Awards and has won nine of them. It's safe to say Riri is doing just fine without a high school degree.

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Robert Downey Jr.

Growing up with a famous film director as a father, Robert Downey Jr. was exposed to the Hollywood lifestyle at a young age. After his parents divorced, Robert moved with his dad, Robert Downey Sr., to L.A., where he attended Santa Monica High School, but he only lasted two years.

Rober Downey Jr. Celeb Drop OutRober Downey Jr. Celeb Drop Out
Getty Images via Ian Gavan

Robert's father gave him an ultimatum; "Either show up [to school] every day or quit and get a job." So, he chose the latter and dropped out at age 16 to pursue acting. Robert moved back to New York and co-starred with Sarah Jessica Parker in the drama Firstborn, and the rest was history.

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Tracy Morgan

After giving high school a try, comedian Tracy Morgan decided it wasn't for him, and he never looked back on that decision. "I'm glad I dropped out of high school," he revealed. Otherwise, "I wouldn't be where I'm at. I would have had a net," he added. Morgan landed his first TV role as the Hustle Man on the show Martin

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Getty Images via Alberto E. Rodriguez

Eventually, he became a member of the Saturday Night Live cast, then 30 Rock, and many others. Today, Morgan's still pleased with his decision to drop out of school, as it forced him to work harder. "I'm glad I didn't have anything to fall back on, man, because that made me go for my dreams that much harder."

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Seth Rogen

For a while, Seth Rogen did his best to pursue a career in comedy while also focusing on academics, but he realized that high school was just taking up too much of his time, so he took a different turn. "I dropped out of high school and went and worked on a TV show," he revealed. "We were writing a script all throughout high school."

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Getty Images via Mike Marsland

"It's not like I dropped out of high school and did nothing," Rogen joked. "I think, honestly, if you have a career in mind that isn't academically oriented, then high school is probably not going to lead you to what you want to be." Things certainly worked out for Seth with roles in SuperbadKnocked Up, and other hilarious films.

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Chris Rock

Chris Rock didn't have the easiest childhood, being the oldest of seven children and getting picked on at school. In 10th grade, he decided to drop out of school and earned his GED while working odd jobs to make some extra cash. He eventually took classes at community college with a dream of becoming a comedian.

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Getty Images via Kevin Winter

So, he eventually performed at an open mic night, and the audience was absolutely blown away, so Chris continued with standup. And everything went up from there; His appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show led to him becoming a regular on Saturday Night Live, and later, he even got his own show, The Chris Rock Show.

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Jake Paul

YouTuber Jake Paul first rose to fame when his videos on Vine with his brother, Logan Paul, went viral. During his junior year of high school, he took a leap of faith and moved from Cleveland to L.A. to pursue an entertainment career, which led to his role on Disney's Bizaardvark

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Getty Images via Roy Rochlin

"Basically, I realized that this is what I truly love, so that's why I moved to Los Angeles," Paul revealed. And he was determined to make a career out of social media, saying, "I want to be the Dr. Dre of social media." Paul earned himself a net worth of around $17 million according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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"I actually dropped out of high school, but I don't know if a lot of people know that," Drake revealed. "I never really got like a great school experience." At age 15, the rapper left school to star in Degrassi: The Next Generation but eventually earned his GED at age 25.

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Getty Images via Amy Sussman

In October of 2012, Drake raved about getting his diploma, even though he'd already established himself in Hollywood. "97% on my final exam. 88% in the course. One of the greatest feelings in my entire life," he shared. "As of tonight, I graduated high school." Now that's certainly admirable, don't you think?!

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Daniel Radcliffe

Daniel Radcliffe, known for his role as Harry Potter, began starring in the saga when he was just 10-years-old, so he never really attended a traditional school. He worked with tutors on set for the most part, but he never completed high school, as he was already a thriving Hollywood star.

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Getty Images via Dave J Hogan

Radcliffe said that he "figured university is something you do to find out what you want to do, and [he] knew what [he] wanted to do, and [he] was already doing it." Plus, his untraditional childhood helped him build confidence. "I think, on the whole, I wouldn't have half the confidence that I have," Radcliffe revealed.

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Before making his mark on the music industry, Marshall Bruce Mathers III struggled immensely with high school; He failed his freshman year three times. So, he decided to try something else and put all of his energy into music. He immersed himself in Detroit's hip hop scene, and his future started looking a little brighter.

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Getty Images via KMazur

And before he knew it, Eminem became a musical icon, and his academic struggles were just a thing of the past. His alter ego, Slim shady, was born in the late 90s, and it was clear that the rapper was absolutely unstoppable. Even with some challenges along the way, Eminem became extremely successful.

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Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio has been gracing our screens for quite a while, as he was a child actor. He'd planned to finish high school and then get a college degree, but his Hollywood career got in the way, and he dropped out of high school after landing a role in the Oscar-nominated film, What's Eating Gilbert Grape at age 15.

Leonardo DiCaprio Celeb Drop OutLeonardo DiCaprio Celeb Drop Out
Getty Images via Kevork Djansezian

DiCaprio eventually got his GED and explained that "life is my college." After all, navigating his way through the wrath of Hollywood can certainly teach some life lessons. Given his success as an actor, it looks like Leo was right to follow his instinct and pursue acting.

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Mark Wahlberg

After getting into some trouble during his childhood, Mark Wahlberg dropped out of high school in ninth grade, but he already knew he wanted to be a Hollywood hotshot. He started his own music group, called Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, and then made his acting debut in the show Out All Night in the early 90s.

Mark Wahlberg Celeb Drop OutMark Wahlberg Celeb Drop Out
Getty Images via Callaghan Walsh

And things went up from there, as Wahlberg became an incredibly successful actor, producer, and entrepreneur. However, he still wanted to get his high school diploma. And at age 42, Mark shared, "It's been both humbling and challenging, but I'm happy to report that I am officially a high school graduate."

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Kate Moss

The ever so stunning Kate Moss has been strutting down the runway since her teenage years. After being discovered by Storm Model Management, Moss dropped out of high school, as the demanding career would require her to travel the world, which didn't leave much time for academics.

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Getty Images via Laurent Viteur

Kate explained that she was eager to travel, but "I hadn't even thought about what I wanted to do when I left school because I was only 14 when I started modeling." But dropping out of school turned out to be beneficial for Moss, as she got to live out her dream of traveling and became a style icon.

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Jim Carrey

Long before he rose to fame as an actor and comedian, Jim Carrey grew up in poverty in Ontario, Canada, and he and his siblings worked in a factory to bring home some extra cash. And when his mother became ill, he dropped out of school to help take care of her.

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Getty Images via Kevin Winter

"We lived in a van for a while, and we worked all together as security guards and janitors," he revealed. After the Carrey family moved to Toronto, Jim began performing at local comedy clubs, and this opened a new window of opportunity for him. Before he knew it, Carrey made his mark on Hollywood.

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Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods was born to be a star on the golf course, but things didn't exactly go as he'd planned when he attended Stanford University. He had several conflicts with the NCAA that made it challenging to continue playing by their rules. Tiger's father encouraged him to consider other options.

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Getty Images via Andrew Redington

"This is the perfect opportunity for Tiger to say, 'Kiss my yin, yang' and leave school," said his father. So, Woods dropped out of Stanford after two years and became one of the world's greatest golfers. However, even with his success, "I wish I would have gone one more year at Stanford," Tiger later shared.

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Matt Damon

Unlike many of the other accomplished celebrities on this list, Matt Damon graduated from high school and then attended Harvard University. He even began writing Good Will Hunting for a playwriting class and had every intention of graduating college before pursuing a full-time film career. 

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Getty Images via Kevork Djansezian

But he often skipped class for auditions, and by his senior year, he was missing a few credits, so Damon dropped out and never got his Harvard diploma. But that didn't stop him from succeeding; Matt landed his first acting role in Mystic Pizza in 1998 and eventually became an extremely profitable actor, producer, and writer.

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Oprah Winfrey

Before Oprah Winfrey became an extremely influential talk show host, producer, author, and philanthropist, she could only dream of a career in media. Oprah was on the speech team during high school and worked for a local radio station to get her foot in the door, and then attended Tennessee State University.

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Getty Images via Kevin Winter

During her sophomore year, Winfrey received a job offer from a TV station as a news co-anchor and decided to risk it all and take it. And things only went up from there; But in 1987, Oprah returned to Tennesse State University to complete her degree after her father emphasized the importance of a college education.

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