You don't have to go to college to be a success. Even if you go for awhile, you don't have to graduate to be a success. Here are just a few of the people who have become famous and/or successful without graduating from college and/or high school.
David Baazov, multimillionaire CEO of PokerStars and Cadillac Jack. Bored at school, he dropped out at the age of 16. After telling his parents he was through with school, they kicked him out of their house. He later reconciled with them.
Jimmy Santiago Baca, poet, activist, and filmmaker. At a young age, he ran away from the orphanage and lived on the streets, spending some time in juvenile detention centers. Before he was imprisoned for seven years for a narcotics conviction (a charge he's denied), he was functionally illiterate. During his time in prison, he taught himself to read and write, eventually earning a GED. Baca has written ten books of poetry, a memoir, a book of essays, a book of short stories, a play, and a screenplay for the 1993 film Bound by Honor.
Kevin Bacon, actor, singer, songwriter. High school dropout. At the age of 17, he moved to New York City to pursue a career as an actor. As he noted in an interview in Elle magazine, dating older women "was the closest thing I had to a college education. I will always be grateful."
Pearl Bailey, singer, actress. She dropped out of high school.
Mickey Baker, rhythm and blues guitarist. He fled home at the age of 15 by riding the rails to New York City where he worked many odd jobs while learning to play the guitar. He did not finish high school.
Ireland Basinger Baldwin, model, actress. She left Sierra Canyon School to be homeschooled. She has not yet attended college.
William Baldwin, actor. He attended George Washington University for three years. He then transferred to New York University but dropped out to take an acting job on a network soap opera.
Lucille Ball, actress, comedienne, producer. Co-founder of Desilu Studios. Late bought out her husband's share to become the first woman to own and run a production studio. Dropped out of high school.
Steve Ballesteros, golfer. Turned pro at the age of 16. Did not attend college.
Steve Ballmer, billionaire chief of Microsoft. Graduated from college, but dropped out of the Stanford MBA program to join Microsoft.
Hubert Howe Bancroft, historian, bookseller. High school dropout.
Tallulah Bankhead, actress. At the age of 15, she won a magazine beauty contest and eventually persuaded her father to let her go to New York City to pursue an acting career. Never attended college.
Azealia Banks, singer. Dropped out of high school. Her song 212 was viewed by more than 7 million people on YouTube.
Tyra Banks, supermodel, actress, TV host, and TV producer. Was all set to attend Loyola Marymount University but deferred college when she received an offer to be a model in Paris, France.
Brigitte Bardot, actress, model, author, animal rights activist. High school dropout.
Etta Moten Barnett, singer, actress. Dropped out of high school to get married, but six years later attended and graduated from the University of Kansas.
Ronald Baron, billionaire money manager, founder of Baron Capital. Dropped out of George Washington University law school to pursue a career on Wall Street.
Roseanne Barr, actress, comedienne, producer, director. High school dropout.
Fantasia Barrino, singer, actress, American Idol winner, reality TV star. Dropped out of high school, but finally earned her GED in 2010.
Drew Barrymore, actress, producer, and director. High school dropout. Never attended college.
John Bartlett, author and publisher, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. Did not attend college, but ended up owning the University Bookstore at Harvard University.
Donald Barthelme, bestselling short story author, college professor, museum director, newspaper reporter. “After experimenting with college, journalism, and marriage in Houston, he got sick of the provinces and lit out for New York City at 31.” (Time magazine). Although he continued to take classes at the University of Houston after serving in the army, he never received a degree.
Bill Bartman, billionaire businessman, author. High school dropout.
Count Basie, bandleader, pianist. Dropped out of high school.
Shirley Bassey, singer, author. High school dropout.
Eike Batista, billionaire mining executive. Studied metallurgy at the University of Aachen, Germany. Dropped out of college. Now one of the 10 richest men in the world.
Joesley Batista, chairman of JBS SA, the world's largest meat producer. Dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to manage a family-owned slaughterhouse.
José Batista, former CEO of JBS SA, the world's largest meat producer. Dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to manage a family-owned slaughterhouse.
Wesley Mendonça Batista, CEO of JBS SA, the world's largest meat producer. Dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to manage a family-owned slaughterhouse.
Heinz-Georg Baus, billionaire founder of the German home-improvement retail chain Bauhaus AG. Was a carpenter before opening his first home improvement store.
Meredith Baxter, actress. Never attended college.
Andrew Beal, billionaire banker and real estate investor. Dropped out of college.
Billy Beane, baseball player, general manager, and statistician. Turned down a scholarship to Stanford to play as a professional baseball player.
Warren Beatty, Oscar-winning director, actor, producer, and screenwriter. Dropped out of Northwestern University after his freshman year to attend Stella Adler's Conservatory of Acting. Beatty is one of the few people ever to receive Oscar nominations in the Best Picture, Actor, Directing and Writing categories from a single film (he did it twice for Heaven Can Wait and Reds).
Bob Beaumont, inventor of the CitiCar electric car, Served in the Air Force and briefly studied business afterwards.
T. Bubba Bechtol, comedian and radio show host. Transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi his junior year but left soon thereafter. As he notes, “There was one course I was looking for that wasn't in the curriculum catalog: How to Make Money. So I left.” Nonetheless, he was inducted into the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Hall of Fame in 2005.
Beck, see Beck Hansen.
Glenn Beck, radio and TV political commentator, bestselling book author. Enrolled at Yale University for one class but quickly dropped out because he "spent more time trying to find a parking space" than in class.
I am not anti-college.... There is such a thing as getting an education other than through the gates of a university that are charging our children $100,000 to $150,000 to $250,000 just to be able to have a certificate that doesn’t necessarily mean anything to them.... I’m not anti-education. I am anti-massive debt. I am anti-giving our children’s souls over to these universities.
Boris Becker, tennis player. Did not complete high school or attend college.
Kate Beckinsale, actress. Dropped out of Oxford University after three years to pursue her acting career. Starred in Nothing But the Truth, Much Ado About Nothing, Snow Angels, Winged Creatures, Van Helsing, Whiteout, and the Underworld series.
Natasha Bedingfield, singer. Dropped out of college after her freshman year to pursue a music career. Her Unwritten album debuted at #1 in England.
Anne Beiler, multimillionaire co-founder of Auntie Anne's Pretzels restaurants. High school dropout.
Art Bell, radio talk-show host, author. Dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to join the U.S. Air Force.
Jean-Paul Belmondo, actor. Did not do well in school. High school dropout.
Brian Benben, actor. Started acting in off-off Broadway at 17. Attended Ulster County Community College for two years. Did not graduate from college.
André Benjamin, aka André 3000, rapper, singer, songwriter, actor, member of OutKast. Dropped out of high school but later earned a high school equivalency degree.
Tony Bennett, aka Anthony Benedetto, singer, artist. Attended New York City's High School of Industrial Art but dropped out at the age of 16 to support his family.
Jack Benny, actor, comedian, violinist. Dropped out of high school.
Robert Bergman, portrait photographer. Dropped out of the University of Minnesota.
Irving Berlin, Oscar-winning songwriter, composer. When his father died when he was 8 years old, he had to work to survive. Wrote such long-lasting hits as God Bless America, White Christmas, There's No Business Like Show Business, etc.
Carl Bernstein, Watergate reporter, Washington Post. Never finished college. Started as a copy boy at the Washington Star at the age of 16.
Yogi Berra, baseball player, coach, and manager. Quit school in the eighth grade.
Claude Berri, Oscar-winning French director, actor, screenwriter, and producer. High school dropout.
Chuck Berry, rock singer. High school dropout, left in the 11th grade. Received high school equivalency degree at the age of 37. Attended cosmetology school for awhile when younger.
Halle Berry, Oscar-winning actress. After high school, she moved to Chicago to pursue a career in modeling. Did not attend college.
Patrizio Bertelli, billionaire co-founder of Prada fashion house. Dropped of engineering school to produce leather belts and handbags.
Luc Besson, French director, screenwriter, and producer. Dropped out of high school. Never attended college.
Jessica Biel, actress. Attended Tufts University for about a year and a half.
In an interview in Glamour magazine, she said that leaving college was one the toughest choices she ever made: "I do still have a desire, a pang in my heart, when I think about it and the fact that I didn't spend my four years with my friends."
Swami Bhaktipada, see Keith Gordon Ham.
Manoj Bhargava, billionaire founder of 5-Hour Energy. Dropped out of Princeton University and returned to India to spend 12 years as a monk. Later developed the formula that made him rich.
Joey Bishop, actor, comedian. Never finished high school.
William Bishop, actor. Enrolled at West Virginia University but got involved in summer theater and left college to tour with a Tobacco Road theater production. Later went to Hollywood and signed an MGM contract.
Elliott Bisnow, cofounder of Summit Series. Left the University of Wisconsin to co-found a newsletter company with his father.
Robert Bisson, founder, EarthWater Global. Had about four years of college spread over seven universities, but he never earned an undergraduate degree.
Clint Black, Grammy-winning country singer, songwriter, record producer, actor. Dropped out of Stratford High School in Houston, Texas to play in his brother's band.
Karen Black, actress, screenwriter, producer, singer, songwriter. Left high school to get married. Soon divorced and entered Northwestern University at the age of 16. Left college at 17 to pursue an acting career in New York City.
Narvel Blackstock, guitarist, music manager. Dropped out of high school in the 11th grade.
Jayson Blair, newspaper reporter who fabricated and plagiarized news stories. Did not graduate from college.
Dan Blake, co-founder of EcoScraps. Dropped out of Brigham Young University to pursue his composting business.
Norman Blake, guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Did not finish high school.
William Blake, poet, artist. Never attended school, educated at home by his mother.
Bobby “Blue” Bland, blues singer. Dropped out of high school and moved to Memphis, Tennessee, to sing in a gospel group.
Barbara Jean Blank, aka Kelly Kelly, model, wrestler, wrestling diva. Dropped out of college to become a wrestling diva.
Mary J. Blige, Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress. Dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade.
Timonthy Blixseth, billionaire founder of Yellowstone Club. Skipped college, failed as a professional songwriter. Made his first fortune as a timberland investor. At the age of 15, he bought 3 donkeys for $75 and resold them a week later as pack mules.
Orlando Bloom, actor, Left high school at the age of 16 to study acting. Later won a scholarship to the British American Dramatic Academy.
Zak Boca, co-founder of SingleHop, a web hosting company. Dropped out of college during the first year to work on their first web hosting company, MidPhase.
Humphrey Bogart, Oscar-winning actor. Flunked out of prep school at Andover.
Peter Bogdanovich, director, screenwriter, actor, author. High school dropout. Began studying acting with Stella Adler when he was only 16.
Michael Bolton, Grammy-winning singer, songwriter. High school dropout.
William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid, aka Henry McCarty, outlaw legend. Orphaned as a teenager, he never finished high school.
Cher Bono, see Cherilyn Sarkisian (under S).
Sonny Bono, singer, actor, songwriter, U.S. congressman. Dropped out of high school.
Daniel Boone, explorer, frontier leader. Home schooled.
Scott Borchetta, musician, music promoter. Did not attend college.
Bjorn Borg, tennis player. Joined the professional tennis circuit when he was 14. Never finished high school or attended college.
Ernest Borgnine, actor. Joined the navy when he was 18, then served in World War II. Began acting after he returned from the war. Did not attend college.
Alain Bouchard, billionaire co-founder of Alimentation Couche-Tard convenience store chain (including the Circle K stores in the U.S.). Never attended college. Began working at the age of 19 in one of his brother's stores.
Clara Bow, actress. Dropped out of college to become an actress.
David Bowie, singer, songwriter, actor, record producer. Sold 136 million records. May not have graduated from high school. Did not attend college.
Boy George, see George Alan O'Dowd.
Ray Bradbury, award-winning science fiction author. Never went to college because his parents couldn't afford to send him. So he sold newspapers on Los Angeles street corners during the day and educated himself at libraries at night. “I never went to college. I went to the library.” He graduated from the library at the age of 28.
Stan Brakhage, experimental filmmaker. Dropped out of Dartmouth College after a few months to make films.
Russell Brand, comedian and actor. After high school, he attended two drama schools in London but got kicked out of both of them.
Marlon Brando Jr., Oscar-winning actor. Expelled from Libertyville High School for riding his motorcycle through the school. Later attended Shattuck Military Academy but was also expelled from there. Was invited to come back, but he decided not to finish school.
Buck Brannaman, horse whisperer, rancher. At the age of 17 he began working with the great horseman Ray Hunt. Did not attend college. He was the inspiration for Robert Redford's movie The Horse Whisperer.
Richard Branson, billionaire founder of Virgin Music, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Mobile, and other Virgin enterprises, balloonist. Left Stowe School when he was 16. Never attended college.
Ralph Braun, founder of BraunAbility, inventor of battery-powered scooters and wheelchair lifts. Attended college at Indiana State for a year, but dropped out.
Jacques Brel, Belgium singer, songwriter, actor, and director. Did not finish high school. Never attended college.
Jeff Bridges, Oscar-winning actor, singer. Joined the Coast Guard Reserve rather than attending college.
Sergey Brin, billionaire co-founder of Google. Dropped out of Stanford Ph.D. program in computer science to start Google in 1998 working out of a friend's garage. He eventually finished the Ph.D. program so at this point he's no longer a college dropout.
Christie Brinkley, aka Christie Lee Hudson, model, actress, political activist. After graduating from high school in Los Angeles, she moved to the Left Bank of Paris, France.
Gabriel Bristol, founder of Intelicare Direct call center business. He dropped out of high school after a bullying incident. Later he started rooming with a friend who got him a job in a call center and fell in love with the work.
Joseph Brodsky, Nobel prize-winning Russian poet and essayist, Poet Laureate of the U.S. from 1991 to 1992. Left school at the age of 15 and tried to enter the School of Submariners, but was not accepted.
Edgar Bronfman Jr., billionaire heir to the Seagram liquor fortune. Skipped college to pursue a career as a songwriter and movie producer, but soon began running the Seagram corporation.
Charles Bronson, actor. He was 10 when his father died, and he went to work in the coal mines to help support the family.
Gary Brooker, singer, songwriter, founder of Procol Harum rock band. Did not finish high school.
Louise Brooks, actress, dancer, model, showgirl. Began dancing at the age of 16. Never finished high school.
Pierce Brosnan, actor. He left school in England at the age of 15 to draw and paint. He also did odd jobs like washing dishes, cleaning houses, and driving a cab. But, as he noted, “Once I found the world of theater, I was off to the races!”
Helen Gurley Brown, author, copywriter, and editor. Studied briefly at Texas State College for Women before money ran out and she had to drop out. She returned to Los Angeles to finish business school and start work as a secretary. She then went on to become the highest-paid woman in advertising on the West Coast. When her first book, Sex and the Single Girl, became a bestseller, she soon was offered the editorship of Cosmopolitan, where she remained for 32 years.
Herbert Brown, Nobel Prize-winning chemist. Dropped out of high school to support his family. Later return to school and graduated from high school and college.
James Joseph Brown, mining engineer, husband of Unsinkable Molly Brown. Self-educated.
Margaret “Molly” Brown, socialite, philanthropist, social activist, survivor of the Titanic. High school dropout.
V. V. Brown, singer. After attending a top-line prep school, she left England at the age of 18 to got to Los Angeles to make an album. Later returned to England but never went to college.
Carla Bruni, folk singer, songwriter, model, and first lady of France. After graduating from high school, she went to Paris to study art and architecture, but left school at the age of 19 to pursue modeling.
Joy Bryant, model, singer, surfer, snowboarder. Dropped out of Yale University to become a Victoria's Secret model and, later, the face of CoverGirl.
Bebe Buell, singer. Did not go to college. Went to New York to become a model but became a singer and rock star paramour (and mother of actress Liv Tyler).
Peter Buffett, musician, author, son of Warren Buffett. Dropped out of Stanford University to make music.
When I turned 19, I received my inheritance. ... My inheritance came to me around the time I was finally committing to the pursuit of a career in music. ... I decided to leave Stanford and use my inheritance to buy the time it would take to figure out if I could make a go of it in music.
Warren Buffett, billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. Dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania after two years. But later he did get his bachelor's degree and MBA.
Stuart Burguiere, radio talk show host, producer. He slacked his way through high school and did not attend college. Here's what he has to say about college:
We’re damning our children to hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Before they work a day in their life - and they spend over half the time there in recreation. It’s insanity.
Gisele Caroline Bündchen, Brazilian multimillionaire supermodel. High school dropout. Left home at the age of 14 to begin her modeling career. Moved to New York City at the age of 16 to continue her career as a model. "Reading things is so important to me—things that can open up your mind. You need to feed your mind."
Solomon Burke, singer, the King of Rock and Roll, preacher, actor, entrepreneur. Never attended college.
Ronald Burkle, billionaire supermarket owner and investor, Yucaipa. Dropped out of California State Polytechnic University and returned home to work in a Stater Brothers grocery store. Had started early stocking shelves; joined union local as a box boy at age 13.
Mark Burnett, TV producer, Survivor and other reality shows. Joined the British Army at the age of 17. Never attended college.
Abner Burnett, singer, guitarist. High school dropout who later earned an equivalency diploma.
George Burns, Oscar-winning actor, comedian. Elementary school dropout.
Pete Burns, singer, songwriter, member of Dead or Alive rock band, reality TV star. Elementary school dropout.
Ellen Burnstyn, Oscar-winning actress. Dropped out of high school.
Raymond Burr, actor. Dropped out of high school.
Terry Butters, singer, pianist. High school dropout.
Robert Byrd, U.S. senator. Graduated from high school but could not afford to attend college.
David Byrne, singer and songwriter, member of Talking Heads rock band. Dropped out of the Rhode Island School of Design after one year to form the Talking Heads. He also attend the Maryland Institute College of Art for one year only.
Rose Byrne, actress. Started taking acting classes at the age of 8. Got her first big acting break at the age of 18. Has not yet attended college.
James Francis Byrnes, U.S. representative, U.S. senator, Supreme Court justice, U.S. secretary of state, South Carolina governor. At the age of 14, he left St. Patrick's Catholic school to apprentice in a law office. Never attended college or law school.
Drop out of school before your mind rots from our mediocre educational system. — Frank Zappa, musician, liner notes from the Freak Out album
Copyright 2015 by book marketing expert John Kremer
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