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Who Were High School or College Dropouts

I'm a firm believer that most college students would be better off dropping out of school and investing the money they now spend on college. Then take the four years they would have spent on college and travel, work, play, and spend time with smart people talking about important things. It would be your choice on what's important, not a professor, not a dean, not a faculty committee.

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.

A survey conducted by Bloomberg in 2010 show that the school of hard knocks was the number one source (tied with the University of California) for CEOs of S&P 500 companies. Harvard was the #3 source (along with the universities of Texas, Missouri, and Wisconsin). The school of hard knocks features CEOs who never graduated from college.

Of the top 400 richest Americans in 2011, 27 graduated from high school but did not attend college. Another 36 were college dropouts.

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - XYZ

S. Daniel Abraham, billionaire founder of Slim-Fast. Joined the Army at the age of 18 and fought in Europe during World War II. Did not attend college.

Roman Abramovich, richest man in Russia, billionaire. Dropped out of college. He studied at the Moscow State Auto Transport Institute before taking a leave of absence from academics to go into business. He later earned a correspondence degree from the Moscow State Law Academy.

Abigail Adams, U.S. first lady. Home schooled.

Ansel Adams, photographer. Dropped out of high school.

Bryan Adams, singer, songwriter. High school dropout.

Calpernia Adams, transsexual showgirl. Never attended college. As she noted, “My parents thought that college leads you away from God, so they hadn't saved any money.”

Don Adams (born Donald James Yarmy), comedian, actor, game show host, voice talent. Most famous for his role in the Get Smart TV series, Adams dropped out of DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City to work as an usher before entering the Marine Corps during World War II. After a variety of jobs, he began working in television in 1954.

Sandy Adams, U.S. congressperson. Dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to join the Air Force. Later got her GED and attended the police academy before being hired as a deputy sheriff. She took night classes at a nearby college and finally received a college degree.

William Adams, aka Will.i.am, singer, songwriter, music producer, founder of the Black Eyed Peas, actor, entrepreneur. He formed his first group in high school. Never attended college.

Gautam Adani, commodities billionaire from India. Dropped out of college.

Adele, aka Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, singer and songwriter. Intended to go to college but got signed to a recording deal just after her high school graduation.

Sheldon Adelson, billionaire casino owner. Dropped out of City College of New York to become a court reporter. He made his first fortune doing trade shows.

Trace Adkins, country music singer and songwriter, actor. Studied at Louisiana Tech University but never officially graduated. Went to work on an oil rig instead.

Mortimer Adler, author, educator, editor. Left high school at the age of 15 to work. Later received his high school equivalency degree and attended Columbia University.

Ferran Adria, chef. Has been called the world's greatest chef. Did not finish high school.

Miguel Adrover, fashion designer. High school dropout.

Ben Affleck, actor, screenwriter. Left the University of Vermont after one semester; then dropped out of Occidental College to pursue acting.

Andre Agassi, tennis player, winner of 8 Grand Slam titles. Quit school in the ninth grade and turned tennis pro at the age of 16. His father would drive the kids to school but, instead, actually took them to local tennis courts to practice.

Dianna Agron, singer, dancer, actress. "I didn't take the typical path and go to college after high school. Instead, I saved up money from teaching dance classes and moved to L.A."

Christina Aguilera, singer, songwriter. Never finished high school.

Danni Ahse, multimillionaire businesswoman, adult entertainment website operator, model, producer, dancer. High school dropout who later earned an equivalency degree.

Danny Aiello, actor. Dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to join the army. Later received a high school equivalency degree.

Troy Aikman, Superbowl-winning football quarterback, TV sports commentator. In 2009, he finally graduated from UCLA, 20 years after leaving college to play in the National Football League. Aikman had promised his mother, when he left school just two courses shy of a degree, that he would return and finish. In 2009, at the age of 42, he finally fulfilled that commitment, earning A's in his last two courses, thus earning a bachelor's degree in sociology.

Malin Akerman, model, actress. Enrolled in York University (Toronto) but left after about a year to see what else was out there. She moved to Los Angeles to become an actress.

Dennis Albaugh, billionaire founder of pesticide company Albaugh Inc.  Earned a 2-year agriculture business degree from Des Moines Community College. Did not continue on to a 4-year degree.

Edward Albee, playwright. Dropped out of Trinity College after three semesters.

Jack Albertson, Oscar-winning actor. High school dropout.

Chuck Allen, banker, co-founder of the National Scholastic Surfing Association, and founder of the U.S. Amateur Snowboard Association. At the age of 19, he moved from Oklahoma to California and began working odd jobs until he was established enough to move on to a banking career.

Paul Allen, billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, founder of Xiant software, owner of Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers. Dropped out of the University of Washington to work for Honeywell. A year later he convinced Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard and move to Albuquerque, New Mexico to start up Microsoft.

Peter Allen, singer, songwriter, composer. High school dropout.

Rick Allen, rock star member of Def Leppard. High school dropout.

Woody Allen, screenwriter, actor, director, and producer. Was thrown out of New York University after one semester for poor grades. Also dropped out of City College of New York. As he admitted, “I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics final. I looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to me.”

Glen Allsopp, Internet marketer, founder of ViperChill. Dropped out of college at the age of 18 to move to Cape Town, South Africa to work as a social media manager.

Steven-Elliot Altman, author. Left school at the beginning of the 10th grade and ran away from home. Entered college at the age of 16 and earned a degree at 19.

Joy Alukkas, billionaire jeweler. Never attended college. Immediately after high school, he moved to the Gulf to open a jewelry store.

Dhirubhai Ambani, billionaire Indian businessman. High school dropout.

Wally “Famous” Amos, multimillionaire cookie entrepreneur, author, talent agent. Dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to join the U.S. Air Force.

Hans Christian Andersen, short story author, fairy tales. Left home at the age of 14 to find work. Later attended Copenhagen Univesity.

George "Sparky" Anderson, baseball player and manager. Did not attend college.

Paul Thomas Anderson, director of such movies as “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia.” He attended film school at New York University but quit after two days because one professor dissed “Terminator 2” and another gave him a C for a writing assignment.

Tom Anderson, co-founder of MySpace. A high school dropout.

Walter Anderson, publisher, editor. High school dropout who later earned an equivalency degree.

André 3000, see André Benjamin.

Mario Andretti, race-car driver, author. High school dropout who later earned an equivalency degree.

Anthony Andrews, actor. High school dropout.

Julie Andrews, Oscar-winning actress, singer, author. Dropped out of high school.

Jennifer Aniston, actress. Never attended college.

“Jennifer Aniston says getting a nose job was the best thing she ever did. But keep in mind, she didn't go to college, her marriage failed, her mom hates her, and she was in that Kevin Costner movie.” — Danielle Fishel, The Dish

Carmelo Anthony, basketball player. Left college after his freshman year to play in the NBA.

Shiri Appleby, actress. Went to the University of Southern California for a year and a half before acting in Roswell TV show. In 2010, she is working on her associate degree via the University of Phoenix and then intends to transfer to UCLA.

Christina Applegate, actress. High school dropout.

Edwin Apps, British artist. High school dropout.

Micky Arison, billionaire chairman of Carnival Cruise Line. Dropped out of the University of Miami.

Joan Armatrading, singer, songwriter. High school dropout.

Billie Joe Armstrong, front man for Green Day punk rock band. High school dropout. As he noted, “I finally realized that high school didn't make any sense for me then. So I quit.”

Louis Armstrong, jazz musician, singer. Dropped out of high school.

Peter Arnell, advertising executive. Never attended college. Talked his way into the advertising business after graduating from high school.

Eddy Arnold, country music singer and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was 11 when his father died, so he turned to singing at church picnics and other venues to support his family. By the age of 17, he was singing in nearby honky-tonks and made his first radio appearance. He debuted at the Grand Ole Opry in 1943. Between 1945 and 1983, 145 of his songs made the country charts, with 28 of them at #1. He sold more than 85 million records.

Cliff Arquette, aka Charlie Weaver. Comedian, entertainer. High school dropout.

Mathangi Arulpragasam, aka M.I.A., rapper. Did not attend college.

Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder, software programmer. Studied mathematics at the University of Melbourne but dropped out because other students were doing research for the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Brooke Astor, wealthy socialite, author, philanthropist. Dropped out of high school.

John Jacob Astor, multimillionaire businessman. America's first multimillionaire. High school dropout.

Chet Atkins, country singer, author. High school dropout.

Jane Austen, novelist. She and her sister attended schools in Oxford, Southampton, and Reading until the age of 11. After that time, their father taught them at home. Did not attend college.

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin, WWE champion wrestler, actor. Dropped out of the University of North Texas a few credits shy of a physical education degree. Took a job as a freight dockworker. Then enrolled in the Dallas Sportatorium wrestling school.

Gene Autry, singing cowboy, actor, songwriter, producer, businessman, author, baseball team owner. High school dropout.

Richard Avedon, photographer. High school dropout.

Willy Aybar, baseball player. High school dropout.

Dan Aykroyd, actor, comedian. Dropped out of Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

Dropouts with last names starting with B


“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.” — Sharon Daniels, author, The World of Truth

Schools teach children to obey. They espouse the things we—the ruling generation—want kids to know. No wonder most schools are pressure cookers where bored teachers meet bored children.... Modern education is a wasted investment. It doesn't deliver what we need the most: creative answers to the challenges of our times... It isn't a surprise that many of the people who've had the greatest influence on our times were—from the perspective of education—failures. — Jurriaan Kamp, Ode magazine editor

A reason to attend college: White males aged 50 years old who have no schooling beyond high school have mortality rates more than twice as high as those white males with college degrees. Will college help you live longer? Probably not by itself, but apparently there is some correlation.

When Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel, was asked by Newsweek magazine, “As a young man you worked summers in a slaughterhouse. What did you learn from that.” His answer? “To go to college.” Sometimes, college is a better alternative.

Drop out of school before your mind rots from our mediocre educational system. — Frank Zappa, musician, liner notes from the Freak Out album


As an alternative to a college education, check out UnCollege.org, which helps students to learn on their own.


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