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Famous, Rich, and Successful People
Who Were High School or College Dropouts

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.

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Nic Dahlquist, Android developer at Snapchat. Took a leave of absence from Stanford University to work at Snapchat.

John Daly, professional golfer. Dropped out of the University of Arkansas to launch his career as a professional golfer.

Claire Danes, actress. Attended Yale University where she did all the rebellious things - getting drunk and partying - that she'd missed out on as a teenager. She left after two years to return to acting, but did say that “College was just so essential for my sense of self and my development.”

Sharon Daniels, author, The World of Truth. “Eventually I came to conclude that I could not find real knowledge in academic life, only hierarchies of knowledge that led, ultimately, to more hierarchies, not to more knowledge. I began to see university learning as limited, human, and relative. What was seen as absolutely up-to-date did not consider the infinite and timeless.”

Jim Danielson, founder of Makt Systems. Dropped out of Purdue University for at least two years to work on developing an electric motor that can be retrofitted into any car. Funded $100,000 by Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal, via his college dropout project.

Fred N. Davis III, political advertising copywriter and director. Attended drama school in college but never graduated. Left school to take over his family's PR business in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Sammy Davis, Jr., singer, actor, comedian. Never finished high school.

Rosario Dawson, actress and political activist. Did not graduate from college, but she did take precalculus and calculus at the Cooper Union and a civil-engineering course at Columbia. She is a firm believer in the value of education.

Dorothy Day, journalist, socialist, political activist, pacifist, anarchist, suffragist. Co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on a scholarship, but dropped out after two years to move to New York City to become a social activist.

James Dean, actor. Attended Santa Monica College but transferred to UCLA where he dropped out during his sophomore year to pursue a career as an actor.

Jimmy Dean, singer, songwriter, actor, multimillionaire founder of Jimmy Dean Foods. Dropped out in the 9th grade to join the Merchant Marines at the age of 16. Later joined the Air Force at the age of 18. After getting out of the Air Force, he and his band, the Texas Wildcats, developed a following in Washington state.

Darwin Deason, billionaire entrepreneur, founder of ACS. Left his hometown the day after graduating from high school for Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he got into data processing. Later took over MTech, which he sold in 1988.

Paula Deen, restaurant owner, TV chef, bestselling cookbook author. Did not attend college. After high school, she married at the age of 18 and soon learned how to cook great meals.

Ellen DeGeneres, comedienne, actress, talk show host. Dropped out of the University of New Orleans. As she noted in an interview with Us Magazine, "I didn't go to no college."

John Paul DeJoria, billionaire co-founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems hair care products and founder of Patron Spirits tequilla, Gustin Energy, DeJoria Diamonds, and other companies. Joined the U.S. Navy right out of high school. After the Navy, he spent time doing many odd jobs, sometimes living out of a car, before finding work selling hair care products.

I learned sales and marketing from knocking on a hundred doors a day. You quickly discover that you'll get 99 slammed in your face before you make a sale. (quoted in The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg)

Michael Dell, billionaire founder of Dell Computers, among top ten wealthiest Americans. Founded his company out of his college dorm room. Dropped out of the University of Texas at the age of 19 to run the company.

Dom DeLuise, comedian, actor. Graduated from high school, but never attended college. Instead, he began acting at the Cleveland Play House.

Leonardo Del Vecchio, founder of Luxottica. Did not attend college. Began as an apprentice to a tool and dye maker of molds for auto parts and eyeglass frames. Started Luxottica at the age of 23. Now world's largest maker of sunglasses and prescription eyewear.

Patrick Demarchelier, fashion photographer. His stepfather gave him a Kodak camera when he was 17. He started working at a photography store right away and never attended college.

Mike Demarais, founded Handprint 3-D printing company. Dropped out of college.

Patrick Dempsey, actor, Dr. McDreamy, juggler, race car driver. Dropped out of high school in Lewiston, Maine, to travel as a juggler, unicyclist, and singer. He went on to a stage-acting career and finally stardom on TV.

Robert De Niro, Oscar-winning actor, producer. Dropped out of high school.

Felix Dennis, multimillionaire magazine publisher, Maxim, Blender, and others. Left home before his sixteenth birthday and dropped out of art college.

I got rich without the benefit of a college education or a penny of capital but making many errors along the way. I went from being a pauper, a hippie dropout on the dole, living in a crummy room without the proverbial pot to piss in, without even the money to pay the rent, without a clue as to what to do next... to being rich. — Felix Dennis, magazine publisher, How to Get Rich

Gerard Depardieu, actor. Dropped out of elementary school.

Johnny Depp, actor. Never finished high school.

Zoey Deschanel, actress. Attended Northwestern University for a brief time, but then dropped out to do movies.

Richard Desmond, billionaire publisher. Dropped out of high school.

Richard DeVos, billionaire co-founder of Amway (now Alticor), owner of Orlando Magic basketball team. Served in the Army after high school. Founded Amway along with his best friend Jay Van Andel.

Cameron Diaz, model and actress. Moved from modeling in her teens to acting in her 20s. Did not attend college.

Maria Diaz, CEO and founder of Pursuit of Excellence. Dropped out of college as a recent widow to work three jobs and care for her son. Later worked for Jenny Craig. Then set up a coaching practice that led to founding Pursuit of Excellence.

Melonie Diaz, actress. Dropped out of New York University to pursue acting. At the age of 29, she still had the intention to complete her degree, but hadn't done so yet.

Leonardo DiCaprio, actor. At the age of 14, he signed with an agent and began doing commercial work as well as acting. He complete high school with a tutor, but put off college. As he has noted, "Life is my college now."

Charles Dickens, bestselling novelist. Left elementary school to work in a factory after his father was thrown into debtors' prison. Although he had little formal education, his early poverty drove him to succeed.

Cintia Dicker, model. Discovered at the age of 14 in a shopping mall. Within hours, she was on her way to becoming a major model.

Bo Diddley (Ellas Otha Bates), rock & roll singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Never attended college.

Barry Diller, billionaire, Hollywood mogul, Internet maven, chairman of IAC/InterActive Corp (owner of Ask.com, Ticketmaster, CitySearch, Evite, LendingTree.com, etc.). The son of a wealthy real estate developer, he attended Beverly Hills High School but dropped out of UCLA after four months to work in the mail room of William Morris.

George Dillman, martial arts champion and book/DVD author. After high school, he serve in the U.S. Army for 12 years. Then opened a karate school.

Joe DiMaggio, baseball player, husband of Marilyn Monroe. High school dropout.

Walt Disney on success

Walt Disney, producer, director, screenwriter, animator, developer of Disneyland. Winner of 26 Oscars and 7 Emmy awards. While attending McKinley High School, he also took night classes at the Chicago Art Institute. He dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to join the army. Rejected because he was under aged, he joined the Red Cross and was sent to war in Europe. Upon his return from war, he began his artistic career.

Snoop Dogg, rapper and actor. Never attended college. “A lot of people like to fool you and say that you're not smart if you never went to college, but common sense rules over everything. That's what I learned from selling crack.”

Laurann Dohner, erotic romance novelist. Has made the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. Dropped out of high school during the 11th grade. Has not attended college.

Charles Dolan, billionaire founder of HBO which he traded to Time Inc. for Cablevison cable provider. Also owns Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks, and the New York Rangers. Dropped out of college.

Thomas Dolby, musician, composer, music producer. Dropped out of high school.

Eliza Doolittle, aka Eliza Caird, singer and songwriter. Landed a songwriting publishing deal when she was 16. Has not attended college.

Jack Dorsey, billionaire founding CEO of Twitter, co-founder and CEO of Square. Dropped out of New York University and bounced betweens jobs before landing at Odeo, the forerunner of Twitter.

Kim Dotcom, aka Kim Schmitz, aka Kim Tim Jim Vestor, aka Kimble. Cofounder of MegaUpload and Mega.co.za. Did not attend college.

Robert Downey, Jr., actor. Dropped out of Santa Monica High School during his sophomore year (another source says his junior year).

Drake, rapper, actor. Dropped out of high school when he landed a role in the Canadian TV series, Degrassi: The Next Generation. Graduated from high school at the age of 26. As he noted, it was "one of the greatest feelings in my entire life."

Betsy Drake, actress, novelist. Dropped out of high school to model and act. Much later in life, she enrolled at Harvard where she earned a master's degree of education in psychology.

Francis Drake, British admiral and explorer. Home schooled.

Michael Clarke Duncan, actor. Dropped out of Alcorn State University when his mother became ill. Worked as a ditch digger and bouncer to support her. He later moved to Los Angeles and became a bodyguard before finding success as an actor.

Dominique Dunne, actress. Went to the University of Colorado to study acting, leaving after one year to pursue her career as an actress.

Eliza Dushku, actress. Moved from Boston to Los Angeles at the age of 17 to act. Has not yet attended college.

Tom Dwan, millionaire online poker player. Dropped out of Boston University. He started with a $50 investment and built it into millions playing poker online.

Bob Dylan, singer and songwriter. Dropped out of the University of Minnesota and moved to New York City to seek out his idol Woody Guthrie. Has honorary degrees from Princeton University and St. Andrews (Scotland).

Trent Dyrsmid, founder of Dyrand Systems. Did not attend college.

Dropouts with last names starting with E

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