Many A-list celebrities didn’t achieve success through traditional means. A college degree is a means used by many to increase their salary potentials and marketability. In Hollywood, however, the university path is less necessary.
Many Hollywood actors attended, for at least a time, prestigious universities. But, for a variety of reasons, such as pursuing their now-illustrious careers or simply not enjoying the college experience, they dropped out.
Generally speaking, college graduates are less likely to experience unemployment than their peers without a diploma, but these celebrities have definitely defied the odds. They’ve gone on to become some of the wealthiest, most successful people in the world without the help of a college education.
Curious about which of your favorite celebrities tried their hand at college, but eventually bowed out? Using Gracenote data, PrettyFamous compiled a list of 25 well-known stars who decided college didn’t align with their future plans.
#1. Gary Busey
Gary Busey attended Oklahoma State University on a drama scholarship. The theater major left school just one class short of graduating.
#2. Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone was a performing arts major at the University of Miami from 1967 to 1969. He was discouraged from pursuing acting by his teachers and defied them by dropping out to move to New York City.
#3. Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhall was a cultural studies and religion major at Columbia University from 1998 to 2000. Before graduating, he dropped out to concentrate on acting.
#4. Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt was a journalism major—with a concentration in advertising—at the University of Missouri from 1982 to 1986. The Sigma Chi fraternity member left two credits shy of earning his degree.
#5. Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon enrolled at Stanford University as a literature major in 1994. She didn’t stay long, leaving to pursue acting full-time after one year.
Madonna attended the University of Michigan on a dance scholarship. She left school midway, at the end of her sophomore year and moved to New York City to pursue a dance career.
#7. Vin Diesel
Vin Diesel was a literature major at Hunter College. He dropped out of school to pursue a film career.
#8. Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks was a theater major at California State University, Sacramento from 1976 to 1977. He dropped out to intern with the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival.
#9. Ashton Kutcher
Surprising for many, Ashton Kutcher was an engineering major at the University of Iowa. He left school after just one year to pursue modeling.
#10. Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck enrolled at the University of Vermont in 1990, but lasted just one semester. He and best friend Matt Damon went on to pursue the creation of “Good Will Hunting.” In 2013, he received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Brown University.
#11. Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Julia Louis-Dreyfus was a theater major at Northwestern University. She dropped out to pursue her acting career, but was awarded an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from the school in 2007.
#12. Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga gained early admission to New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts at age 17. She dropped out two years later to follow her dream of becoming the superstar she is today.
#13. James Marsden
James Marsden studied broadcast journalism at Oklahoma State University. He left midway through his studies to pursue a career in acting.
#14. Robert Redford
Robert Redford attended the University of Colorado on a baseball scholarship, but he had an alcohol abuse problem that inhibited his performance on the field. He left school in 1957 to travel Europe before becoming a major actor of the 1960s and ’70s.
#15. Salma Hayek
Salma Hayek attended the National University of Mexico as a political science major, but decided to leave school to take acting classes.
#16. Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez enrolled at Baruch College in 1987, but didn’t attend her classes. She eventually dropped out.
#17. Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan was a business major at the University of South Florida, where he took classes in finance and music. He dropped out to play music on a full-time basis.
#18. Pierce Brosnan
Pierce Brosnan dropped out of the Elliot School at age 16. He went on to graduate from the Drama Centre in London in 1976.
#19. Jessica Biel
Jessica Biel enrolled at Tufts University in the fall 2000. She attended school for three semesters, but left to return to work as an actress.
#20. Daniel Baldwin
Daniel Baldwin briefly attended Nassau Community College. He later earned a psychology degree from Ball State University.
#21. Bill Murray
Bill Murray attended Regis University and took pre-med classes. He left school during his sophomore year to join Second City, a famous comedy troop.
#22. Jenny McCarthy
Jenny McCarthy studied medicine and psychology at Southern Illinois University. She left after two years to pursue a modeling career.
#23. Zooey Deschanel
Zooey Deschanel attended Northwestern University for seven months, but dropped out to pursue her acting career. After the experience, she famously said her “specialness” was not appreciated at the school.
#24. James Dean
James Dean attended Santa Monica Junior College from 1950 to 1951. He dropped out to study acting.
#25. Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan enrolled at the University of Minnesota in 1959. The rocker eventually dropped out to move to New York City.
#26. Richard Gere
Richard Gere attended the University of Massachusetts on a gymnastics scholarship. The philosophy major left school after two years.
#27. Mariska Hargitay
Mariska Hargitay was a theater major at the University of California, Los Angeles. She left just shy of graduating to pursue an acting career.
#28. Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey attended The Julliard School from 1979 to 1981. The performing arts major dropped out after two years to follow his dream of becoming an actor.
#29. Steve Harvey
Steve Harvey earned a scholarship to Kent State University, where he was an advertising major. The radio and TV show host enrolled in 1977, but flunked out in his third year.
#30. Sean Combs
Sean Combs was a business major at Howard University. He dropped out to pursue a career in the music industry.
#31. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Joseph Gordon-Levitt studied french literature at Columbia University. He dropped out after three years to return to Hollywood.
#32. Sean Penn
Sean Penn took courses in auto mechanics and speech at Santa Monica Community College. The actor dropped out after one semester.
#33. Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis was a drama major at Montclair State College. He dropped out in 1977 when he was cast in an Off-Broadway play.
#34. Rebecca Romijn
Rebecca Romijn was a music major at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She left after one year to pursue a modeling career.
#35. Kristen Bell
Kristen Bell was a music and theater major at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She left school a few credits short of graduating to take a role in the Broadway musical “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”