By Emily Thomas
While a college degree is heralded as the only way to get a solid, profitable career in modern society, there’s no rule that you need to graduate to make it big in the world. In fact, there are lots of examples of successful, famous individuals who simply felt that college couldn’t satisfy their ambitions and dreams. And if anyone asks you to prove it, just point to these 10 incredibly successful and famous college dropouts.
- Brad Pitt: Brad Pitt is one of the most famous movie stars on the planet. People around the world have seen his movies and recognize his face, though he’s a college dropout, he’s also supremely rich. Pitt was born in Shawnee, OK, and attended the University of Missouri the early 1980s, studying journalism. Two weeks before he was set to graduate, Pitt dropped out of school and moved to Los Angeles to take acting classes. Today, he has two Academy Award nominations, a Golden Globe, and a career that doesn’t seem like it will ever end.
- Woody Allen: Writer, comedian, film director and actor Woody Allen is an American icon and a New York legend who has been influencing art and cinema since the 1960s. Known as a neurotic intellectual, Allen began his comedic career at just 16, when he began writing with Sid Caesar. He attended New York University, but was eventually expelled.
- Bill Gates: Bill Gates has been named the richest man in the world, and in 2009, The Wall Street Journal reported that Gates’ net worth had reached an estimated $40 billion. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, was a promising student with a very high IQ and even enrolled at Harvard. Gates had already started a company with Steve Allen as a teenager, and at Harvard, he continued to grow his network of the computer scientists and professionals who would eventually run Microsoft. Gates eventually dropped out to start his career, but in 2007, Harvard awarded him an honorary degree.
- Tom Hanks: Tom Hanks is one of the most respected men in Hollywood, and is an Academy Award winning actor, as well as a director, producer and writer. Hanks’ career box office totals reportedly exceed $3.3 billion, thanks to films like Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away, Philadelphia, and Forrest Gump. Hanks, who is distantly related to Abraham Lincoln, attended Chabot College and California State University – Sacramento, though he dropped out to intern for the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland.
- Ted Turner: Outspoken media mogul Ted Turner has founded multiple TV stations including CNN and TNT. He is considered to be one of the richest Americans and even donated $1 billion to UN causes. Turner, who was born in Cincinnati, OH, in 1938, attended a prep school as a boy in Tennessee and attended Brown University, studying classics, and later, economics. Turner, however, was eventually expelled after getting caught with a girl in his dorm room.
- Ellen DeGeneres: Ellen DeGeneres has been a pop culture icon for decades. She is a successful comedian, TV actress, film actress and talk show host and has even hosted the Academy Awards and Primetime Emmys. DeGeneres studied communications at the University of New Orleans, but she dropped out after one year to work at odd jobs in around the city while getting her start as a stand-up comedian.
- Steve Jobs: As co-founder and CEO of Apple, Inc., Steve Jobs is one of the most successful and respected executives in business and in the computer science industry. Steve Jobs grew up in California and attended Reed College in Portland, though he dropped out after one semester. Jobs continued to audit classes at Reed, and even credits a calligraphy class he attended as the inspiration for all of the fonts on Macintosh computers. Four years after enrolling at Reed, Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak founded Apple.
- Michael Dell: Dell CEO Michael Dell actually started his first computer company as a student at the University of Texas at Austin. His grandparents helped fund the company, and Dell dropped out of college to run his company, PC’s Limited. PC’s Limited ultimately became Dell, Inc.
- John Glenn: John Glenn is the first man to orbit the Earth and has enjoyed a successful career in the Navy, Marine Corps, space exploration, and U.S. politics. Glenn is also one of the most famous astronauts in U.S. history and was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978. As a young man, Glenn studied chemistry at Muskingum College in Ohio, where he earned his pilot’s license.
- Marisa Tomei: Academy Award-winning actress Marisa Tomei has enjoyed a successful TV, film and stage career since she started acting on soap operas in the 1980s. Tomei has appeared in and starred in My Cousin Vinny, Seinfeld, In the Bedroom, and The Wrestler, as well as many Broadway productions. The Brooklyn native attended the elite Edward R. Murrow High School in Midwood, NY, and went on to Boston University and then New York University, though she ultimately dropped out of college to pursue acting on As the World Turns.