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.
Shawn Fanning, developer of Napster. He dropped out of Northeastern University when 19 to move to Silicon Valley to further develop Napster. He made the cover of Time and Fortune at the age of 19, months before he dropped out of school!
Dennis Farina, police officer, actor. He served three years in the U.S. Army and then joined the Chicago Police Department before becoming an actor. He never attended college.
David Farragut, U.S. admiral and military hero. At the age of nine, he was commissioned a midshipman in the United States Navy. He never attended high school or college.
Perry Farrell (aka Peretz Bernstein), musician, Jane’s Addiction, Porno for Pyros, and Satellite Party; also producer and founder of the Lollapalooza music tour. He never attended college.
Terry Farrell, actress, model. She dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to become a model in New York City. She is most famous for her role as Jadzia Dax in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Michael Fassbender, actor. He attended drama school in London but dropped out at the age of 20. He did odd jobs, some modeling, some acting until he gain mainstream success as an actor.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts, including Dennis Farina, Terry Farrell, Michael Fassbender, Shawn Fanning, William Faulkner, John Favreau, and others. Click To Tweet
William Faulkner, Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning novelist. He dropped out of high school after his second year. He also later attended the University of Mississippi but dropped out after three semesters.
John Favreau, comedian, actor, screenwriter, director, and producer. He made his way west after dropping out of college to become a stand-up comedian. He broke out big as the screenwriter and director of Swingers.
David Feherty, golfer and TV show host. He dropped out of school at the age of 17 to play golf.
Robyn Rihanna Fenty, see Rihanna.
Arash Ferdowsi, millionaire co-founder of DropBox.com. He dropped out of MIT to start up DropBox.com.
Fergie, aka Stacy Ann Ferguson, singer, songwriter, fashion designer, actress. She was a straight A student and cheerleader in high school. But she went on a drug and sex spree after turning 18, while touring with Wild Orchid. She never attended college.
Craig Ferguson, late night talk show host. As he noted recently, “Economists are saying that a college degree may not be necessary to succeed in life. Look at me, I didn’t go to college and here I am. Seriously kids, go to college.”
Patrick Leigh Fermor, travel writer. He was expelled from King’s School in Canterbury. He left school at the age of 18 to walk across Europe (which he then wrote about in two books).Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts, including Fergie, Craig Ferguson, Enzo Ferrari, Mel Ferrer, Sally Field, Debbi Fields, Millard Fillmore, and others. Click To Tweet
Enzo Ferrari, founder of the Scuderia Ferrari Grand Prix motor racing team and later the Ferrari car manufacturer. He grew up with little formal education.
Mel Ferrer, actor, director, producer, one-time husband of Audrey Hepburn. He dropped out of Princeton to get into acting.
Tilman Fertitta, billionaire owner of Landry’s restaurants and Golden Nugget casinos. He dropped out of Texas Tech University and the University of Houston.
Sally Field, Oscar-winning and Emmy-winning actress. She never attended college.
Debbi Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies. She founded the company when she was a 21-year-old mother with no business experience. She did not graduate from college.
Laurent Fignon, professional bicyclist, two-time winner of the Tour de France. He left the University of Villetaneuse to join the army. He never finished college.
Millard Fillmore, U.S. president. With six months of formal schooling, he studied law while a legal clerk for a judge and a law firm.
Of the 44 people who served as president of the United States, 8 never went to college.
David Filo, billionaire co-founder of Yahoo! He dropped out of the Stanford University PhD program to create Yahoo!
Travis Fimmel, actor and model. He was accepted at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, but deferred attendance to begin traveling overseas. He never attended college.
Carly Fiorina, CEO, Hewlett-Packard, presidential candidate. She disappointed her parents by dropping out of the UCLA law school after one semester.
Elio Fiorucci, fashion designer, founder of Love Therapy. He left school at the age of 14 to work in his father’s shoe shop.
Paul Fireman, multimillionaire owner of Reebok. He dropped out of Boston University to take over his family’s sporting-goods business.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts, including Travis Fimmel, Carly Fiorina, Paul Fireman, Bobby Fischer, Carrie Fisher, Eddie Fisher, Ella Fitzgerald, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and others. Click To Tweet
Harvey S. Firestone, industrialist and founder of Firestone Tire. After graduating from Columbiana High School in Ohio, he worked for a buggy company before starting his own company making rubber tires for carriages. Ten years later he started Firestone Tire and Rubber Company to make tires for automobiles.
Artur Fischer, inventor of the expanding screw anchor and many other inventions. He left school at the age of 13 to apprentice with a locksmith.
Bobby Fischer, Grandmaster chess player. He was a high school dropout.
Carrie Fisher, actress and author. She quit school at the age of 15 to start acting full-time.
Eddie Fisher, singer and actor. He never attended college. He began his singing career while still in high school.
Ella Fitzgerald, singer. She dropped out of high school.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, novelist. He dropped out of Princeton University.
Bobby Flay, TV chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author. Bored with high school in New York, he dropped out at the age of 17 to work as a line cook at the Joe Allen Restaurant. Allen was so impressed with Flay’s talent that he paid to send him to the newly opened French Culinary Institute. Two years later, Flay graduated from the institute and began his career as a chef. He has never attended college.
Mick Fleetwood, musician (Fleetwood Mac) and actor. He dropped out of school at the age of 15 to become a drummer.
Fannie Belle Fleming, aka Blaze Starr, stripper, burlesque performer, and entrepreneur. At the age of 15, she hopped a bus to Washington, D.C. and began working in a doughnut shop before being persuaded to become a stripper.
Sean Flynn, actor, photojournalist. Son of Errol Flynn, Sean left Duke University after his freshman year to star in The Son of Captain Blood. He later became a famous photojournalist covering the Vietnam War where he apparently died (MIA and still unaccounted for).Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts, including Bobby Flay, Mick Fleetwood, Blaze Starr, Sean Flynn, Caleb Followill, Nathan Followill, and others. Click To Tweet
Charles Foley, inventor of the Twister party game and 96 other inventions. He dropped out of school after the eighth grade and served in the Michigan Air National Guard before getting a job in a design studio.
Caleb Followill, rock musician, Kings of Leon. He was homeschooled. He has not yet attended college.
Nathan Followill, rock musician, Kings of Leon. He was homeschooled. He has not yet attended college.
Danielle Fong, cofounder of Lightsail Energy. One day, when she was in junior high school in Nova Scotia, she realized that the “doors were unlocked and I could just walk away.” She did. After dropping out from junior high school, she enrolled in a local college. By the age of 17, she enrolled in a PhD program at Princeton University. Again she dropped out to become an entrepreneur.
I noticed that my professors, who were brilliant people, were spending most of their time applying for grants. I thought it would be more efficient to make my fortune first and then invest it in energy research. — Danielle Fong, from an interview in Forbes magazine
Dave Fontenot, developer of the Playbook social-networking app. He dropped out of the University of Michigan.
B.C. Forbes, multimillionaire founder of Forbes magazine. He dropped out of school at the age of 14 to set type at a local newspaper.
Harrison Ford, actor. After dropping out of Ripon College, he worked as a carpenter for almost ten years before finding success as an actor in American Graffiti, Star Wars, and other movies.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts, including B C Forbes, Harrison Ford, Henry Ford, George Foreman, Claire Forlani, Charles Forman, John Forsythe, and others. Click To Tweet
Henry Ford, billionaire founder of Ford Motor Company. He received only a modest rural education. He left his home on the farm to work as an apprentice machinist for James Flower & Brothers in Detroit, Michigan. Later he ran a sawmill and became a chief engineer for Edison Illuminating Company before starting the Ford Motor Company.
Henry Ford II, CEO, Ford Motor Company. He dropped out of Yale University.
George Foreman, heavyweight champion boxer, author, designer of the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine. He quit school in the ninth grade, but did get his GED. He never attended college.
Claire Forlani, actress. She briefly attended London’s Arts Educational School. At the age of 19, she headed to Los Angeles to become an actress.
Charles Forman, founder of iminlikewithyou social networking website. He left home when he was 18 to work in Korea and Japan as a programmer.
Ken Forsse, inventor of Teddy Ruxpin. He joined the Walt Disney Co. right out of high school and worked his way up from the mailroom to become a model maker and animator. He helped create It’s a Small World and other Disney attractions before founding his own company and creating Teddy Ruxpin.
John Forsythe, actor. He won an athletic scholarship to the University of North Carolina but he left after three years to pursue a career in show business. He started out as an announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers and then, noting that he liked to eat in the winter, left to pursue acting.
Sutton Foster, Tony award-winning actress, singer, and dancer. She attended Carnegie Mellon University for one year and then left to pursue a theatrical career full-time.
Andrew Fox, Internet entrepreneur, multi-millionaire. He was a high school dropout.
Megan Fox, actress. She tested out of high school via correspondence and moved to Los Angeles. She landed a role in a movie after only two months. She has never attended college.
Michael J. Fox, actor, founder of the Michael J. Fox Foundation to find a cure for Parkinson’s. He dropped out of high school during his senior year and moved to Los Angeles to seek work as an actor. He got his GED when he was in his 30s.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts, including Megan Fox, Michael J Fox, Jeff Foxworthy, Dick Francis, James Franco, Aretha Franklin, Benjamin Franklin, and others. Click To Tweet
Jeff Foxworthy, comedian, author, and actor. He dropped out of Georgia Tech.
Dick Francis, novelist, jockey. He dropped out of school at the age of 15 because his father, as noted by the London Times, felt “that a day’s hunting or show jumping was more valuable” than formal schooling.
James Franco, actor, book author. He dropped out of UCLA after his freshman year to pursue acting (and work the late shift at McDonald’s). Nine years later he re-enrolled at UCLA and later completed his degree. He then pursued graduate programs in film (New York University), fiction writing (Columbia University), and digital media (Rhodes Island School of Design).
Justin Frankel, multimillionaire software programmer, developer of WinAmp and Gnutella, founder of Cockos Inc. He attended the University of Utah for two quarters, but then dropped out. A few months later, he released the first version of WinAmp, a free MP3 player.
Aretha Franklin, singer. She dropped out of high school (after having two children by the age of 15) and went to New York where she signed with Columbia Records.
Benjamin Franklin, inventor, scientist, inventor, diplomat, author, printer, publisher, politician, patriot, signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. He dropped out of Boston Latin. He was home schooled with less than two years of formal education. He left school at the age of 10 to become an apprentice printer.
Joe Frazier, heavyweight boxing champion. He never finished high school. He left home at the age of 15 to go to New York City.
Stan Freeberg, humorist, comic, commercial writer. After graduating from high school, he turned down scholarships to Stanford and the University of Redlands to take a bus to Hollywood to pursue his career as a voice talent for cartoons.
Daniel Friedman, founder of Thinkful online coding classes. As a Thiel Fellow, he skipped college to start his company.
Donald Friese, billionaire CEO of C.R. Laurence. He enlisted in the U.S. Army right after high school. He has never attended college.
Markus Frind, software programmer, multimillionaire founder of the Plenty of Fish dating website. He graduated from technical school with a two-year degree in computer programming. He did not attend any further higher education.
Robert Frost, poet. He dropped out of Dartmouth College.
Eden Full, founder of Roseicollis Technologies. She dropped out of Princeton University for at least two years to work on her solar panel design (which was funded with $100,000 by Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal, via his college dropout project).
R. Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome, visionary, philosopher, poet, architect, futurist. He was expelled from Harvard twice (one involving some chorus girls). He never completed college.
J. B. Fuqua, industrialist, philanthropist. He never attended college, but learned about business by checking out books from the Duke University library through the mail. He later donated $36 million to support a business school at Duke.
“Unwelcome news for educators: Net worth of Forbes 400 members known to have graduated from college is around $625 million. The average for those who never attended college: $652 million.” — Forbes magazine, 1990
If you know of any other famous, successful, or rich people who did not graduate from high school and/or college, please comment below. Thanks!