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.
Buddy Hackett, nee Lenny Hacker, comedian and actor. After graduating from New Utrecht High School, he joined the U.S. Army during World War II. Following the war, he began working in night clubs and acting in theaters before making it big as a comic and actor.
Joan Hackett, actress, model. She left school when she was a senior to become a model and later an actress.
Gene Hackman, Oscar-winning actor. Discharged after six years in the Marines, he entered college as a journalism major but after six months he dropped out for good. Since then he’s earned an Academy Award for best actor (The Conversation) and an Academy Award for best supporting actor (Unforgiven).
Aviv Hadar, CEO of Think Brilliant web-development studio and the tech brains behind SoulPancake. He dropped out of college.
Bill Hader, comedian, actor, writer, director, and producer. He dropped out of Scottsdale Community College in Arizona and move to Los Angeles to build his career in the entertainment industry.
Bella Hadid, model. She attended Parsons College to study photography but dropped out after a semester to work full time as a model. She has not graduated from any college.
Gigi Hadid, model. Following high school, she moved to New York City. She studied criminal psychology at The New School in 2013 but dropped out to focus on her modeling career. She has not graduated from any college.
Thomas Haffa, billionaire German media mogul. He dropped out of high school.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Buddy Hackett, Joan Hackett, Gene Hackman, Bella Hadid, Gigi Hadid, Merle Haggard, Larry Hagman, Jerry Hall, Joyce C Hall Click To Tweet
Merle Haggard, country singer and songwriter. He was in and out of reform school as a teenager. By the age of 17 he was married. By 21 he was sentenced to six years in prison. He formed a prison band after hearing Johnny Cash sing at the prison. He never attended college.
Larry Hagman, actor and director. He attended Bard College for one year but then dropped out to begin acting at Margo Jone’s theater in Dallas, Texas. He went on to star in the Dallas soap opera (twice) as well as I Dream of Jeannie.
Jerry Hall, supermodel. A few weeks before her 17th birthday, she flew to Paris to pursue a modeling career. She later married rock stars Bryan Ferry and Mick Jagger. She never attended college.
Joyce C. Hall, multi-millionaire founder of Hallmark. He started selling greeting cards at the age of 18 while living at a YMCA in Kansas City. He did not attend college.
Bruce Halle, billionaire founder of Discount Tire Company. During the Great Depression, he delivered newspapers, cut grass, and dug graves. He later served in the Marines. He did not attend college.
Josh Halloway, actor. He did not attend college.
Keith Gordon Ham, aka Swami Bhaktipada. He became an American leader in the Krishna movement before being expelled for “moral and theological deviations.” He dropped out of graduate studies at Columbia University to become one of the first American disciples of Hare Krishna.
Dorothy Hamill, Olympic ice skater. She did not attend college.
Tamika Hamilton, congressional candidate. After high school, she joined the Air Force. She did not go back to college. She ran for the U.S. Congress in 2020 but lost to the incumbent.
Harold Hamm, billionaire oil wildcatter, Continental Resources, Hiland Holdings. He left home at the age of 17 and got married, but finished high school a year later. He became a gas jockey before becoming a wildcatter. He later took college classes in geology, chemistry, and mineralogy but never graduated from college.
Armie Hammer, actor. He was kicked out of one high school for burning it’s name on the grass outside the school. He did not graduate from college although he attended UCLA for a time.
I tried college at UCLA. I gave it a fighting effort, and I just couldn’t do it. — Arnie Hammer
Another time he noted: “I didn’t care about college. I knew I wanted to make movies.”
George Hamilton, actor, graduated from the Hackley School in New York. He never attended college but immediately began acting.
Chelsea Handler, TV host, producer, comedienne, bestselling author. She dropped out of community college (after about “10 minutes”) and moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19 to pursue a career as an actress. She waited tables for the first six years until she got a spot on the Girls Behaving Badly prank show.
Taylor Handley, actor. He began acting as a teenager. He moved to Los Angeles after high school graduation to pursue acting full-time. He has not yet attended college.
Tom Hanks, Oscar-winning actor. He graduated from Chabot Community College in Hayward, California. He then attend CalState University but dropped out after about a year to work as an intern at the Great Lakes Theater Festival.
William Hanna, cartoonist, Hanna-Barbera. He briefly attended college but dropped out at the beginning of the Great Depression.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Josh Halloway, Swami Bhaktipada, Dorothy Hamill, Armie Hammer, Chelsea Handler, Tom Hanks, William Hanna Click To Tweet
Sean Hannity, radio and TV talk show host. He spent three years in college, but when the money ran out, he dropped out of school and went into the construction business.
Beck Hansen, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist. He dropped out of high school to pursue his musical career.
Isaac Hanson, member of the Hanson pop band. He never attended college.
Taylor Hanson, member of the Hanson pop band. He never attended college.
Zac Hanson, member of the Hanson pop band. He never attended college.
Matt Harding, game designer, world traveler, YouTube dancing viral star. He never attended college. As he notes in his bio (http://www.wherethehellismatt.com/about): Matt was a mediocre student and never went to college. When he got older, he was pleased to discover that no one cares.
Check out one of his viral videos below (with over 1.78 million views in 4 days). His YouTube channel has had over 80 million total views.
Elizabeth Hardwick, literary critic and co-founder of The New York Review of Books. She graduated from the University of Kentucky but dropped out of a Columbia University doctoral program.
Mariska Hargitay, actress. After being crowned Miss Beverly Hills at the age of 18, she started getting small acting jobs but didn’t really break through until her 30s. She attended UCLA but left before graduating to pursue her acting career.
Angie Harmon, actress and model. After graduating from high school, she headed to Europe to work as a model. She has never attended college.
Martha Matilda Harper, business entrepreneur, founder of the Harper Hair Salons. At the age of seven, she was sent to work as a domestic servant. She worked as a servant for 22 years before saving enough money to start a hair salon. She never attended college.
Valerie Harper, actress. At the age of 16, she joined the corps de ballet at Radio City Music Hall. After getting a few chorus parts in Broadway musicals, she moved to Los Angeles where her career finally took off when she got the part of Rhoda in The Mary Tyler Moore show.
Armir Harris, founder of Shofur. A refugee from Albania, he attended high school for a year and a half but got his high school diploma via the Keystone home-schooling organization. He attended Boston University for a time but dropped out when he could no longer afford it. He then moved to Los Angeles and attended UCLA but left before graduating (3 credits shy of a degree). He became a U.S. citizen in 2015.
Ciara Princess Harris, crunk & B singer, songwriter, and actress. She signed with LaFace Records at the age of 16. She has not yet attended college.
Hunter Harrison, CEO of CSX as well as other railroad companies. He dropped out of Memphis State early in his sophomore year after working a summer job he liked on the Frisco Railway.
Kevin Hart, comedian and actor. He dropped out of community college at the age of 19 to pursue stand-up comedy.
Lorenz Hart, lyricist. At the age of 21, he had everything he needed from Columbia University academics, so he left college without a degree and began translating song lyrics.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Sean Hannity, Beck Hansen, Mariska Hargitay, Angie Harmon, Ciara, Kevin Hart, Lorenz Hart, Lucy Hart, Melissa Joan Hart Click To Tweet
Lucy Hart, actress. When she was 15, she moved with her mother from Tennessee to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an actress. She has not yet attended college.
Melissa Joan Hart, actress, singer, director, producer, candy store operator. She started acting at the age of 3. She appeared in hundreds of commercials before getting the job of acting in the Sabrina TV show. She attended New York University for two years but deferred further studies when she got the TV show.
Larry Harvey, co-founder of the Burning Man festival. He dropped out of Portland State University and moved to San Francisco to become a hippie vagabond and odd-jobber before starting the Burning Man festival with a friend in 1986.
Sheldon Harvey, Navajo artist, winner of the Best of Show at the 2008 Santa Fe Indian Market. He dropped out of high school to care for his wife and son. He later convinced the people at Dine Community College to let him attend even though he had not graduated from high school. He took classes there but apparently did not graduate.
When I dropped out of school, no one in my family thought it was the end of the world. My grandparents were from the old school, traditional people who didn’t think an education was necessary to make your way in the world. — Sheldon Harvey
Maddie Hasson, actress. She dropped out of high school but later got her GED. She has not attended college.
Anne Hathaway, actress, The Princess Diaries. She began acting professionally at the age of 16. She briefly attended Vassar and New York University, but did not graduated from either.
Rutger Hauer, actor. He dropped out of school to join the Dutch merchant navy. After leaving, he went to acting school but soon dropped out to join the army. Alas, the army and Hauer did not fit well. Declared mentally unfit, he was discharged and soon started a career as an actor. He did not attend college.
Leif Hauge, inventor. He never finished college.
Louise Hay, self-help author and founder of Hay House. Of other famous women authors, Levine Breaking News has noted, “They did not change the spiritual landscape of America and several of its Western allies. They were not pregnant at 15 and they did not lack high-school diplomas.” Louise Hay did.
Amber Heard, actress. She got her GED and quit a Catholic high school during her junior year to move to New York to be a model. Finding modeling unrewarding, she moved to Hollywood to become an actress. At 17, she landed a small role in the movie Friday Night Lights. She has not attended college.
Amanda Hearst, billionaire heiress, model. She dropped out of Boston College to pursue modeling.
William Randolph Hearst, newspaper publisher and movie producer. He was thrown out of Harvard for poor grades (apparently due to heavy partying).
Anne Heche, actress. After graduating from high school, she moved to New York and landed a job as an actress in a soap opera.
Richard Heckmann, billionaire investor, CEO of U.S. Filter, founder of Heckmann Corporation. He went to college in Hawaii but did not graduate. He later attended the Harvard Business School small-company management program.
I went to Vietnam in ’65 and was assigned to the 33rd Air Rescue Squadron. When I came back in ’66, I wasn’t in any mood to go back to school. I got a job selling insurance. — Richard Heckmann
Lucas Hedges, actor. He quit college to become a full-time actor after earning an Oscar nomination for Manchester by the Sea.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Maddie Hasson, Anne Hathaway, Rutger Hauer, Louise Hay, Amber Heard, Richard Heckmann, Lucas Hedges Click To Tweet
Levon Helm, rock singer, member of The Band. He left home at the age of 17 to play music. He never attended college.
Katherine Helmond, actress. She attended Bob Jones University for a short time but then moved to New York City to find work as an actress.
Ernest Hemingway, journalist, author, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. After graduating from high school, he worked for The Kansas City Star for a few months and then left for World War I as an ambulance driver. He never attended college.
Sherman Hemsley, actor. He dropped out of high school and served in the Air Force for four years before returning home to work in a post office while trying out for acting jobs in his spare time. He eventually found success as George Jefferson in All in the Family and The Jeffersons TV shows.
Christina Hendricks, model and actress. At the age of 18, she moved to New York to become a model. She has not yet attended college.
Diane Hendricks, billionaire co-founder of ABC Supply, the largest supplier of roofing and siding materials to contractors. She never attended college.
Kenneth Hendricks, billionaire co-founder of ABC Supply, the largest supplier of roofing and siding materials to contractors. He dropped out of high school, never attended college, and eventually joined the family roofing company.
Kevin Hendricks, roofing store operator. He skipped college to go into the roofing business. His high school graduation present was $100, a nail bag, and a roofing hammer. Later, he turned a money-losing store into ABC Supply’s biggest profit center.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Levon Helm, Katherine Helmond, Ernest Hemingway, Sherman Hemsley, Christina Hendricks, Jimi Hendrix Click To Tweet
Jimi Hendrix, rock ‘n roll guitarist. He was a high school dropout.
Lance Henriksen, actor. He dropped out of the eighth grade and ran away from home. He barely learned to read. After a stint in the Navy, he did odd jobs such as picking fruit and shrimping. As he began acting, he taught himself to read.
Patrick Henry, Virginia governor, revolutionary patriot. Home schooled, he later studied on his own and became a lawyer.
John Henton, actor, comedian. He never finished at Ohio State University.
I never ended up going back to Ohio State. I just wanted to be a comedian, you know, and I was getting a good response. — John Henton
Ty Herndon, country music singer. After graduating from Austin High School in Decatur, Alabama, he moved to Nashville to pursue a career in country music. He attended Belmont University for a few classes but has not yet completed college.
Werner Herzog, movie producer. He attended a few classes at the University of Munich. He later got a scholarship to Duquesne University but dropped out after only a few days of classes.
Howard Hesseman,, actor, DJ, and comedian. He spent a little time at the University of Oregon but soon dropped out and headed down to San Francisco to learn improvisational comedy.
John Hewitt, CEO of Jackson Hewitt. He is a college dropout.
Frederick “Toots” Hibbert, Jamaican singer. At the age of 18, he headed to Kingston, Jamaica, and began singing with the trio soon to be called the Maytals. They had a number of ska hits before finding worldwide success with reggae.
Montero Lamar Hill, see Lil Nas X.
Tony Hillerman, mystery novelist. In 1943, he dropped out of college to enter the army. He later returned to college to get his degree and also earn a master’s degree.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Lance Henriksen, John Henton, Werner Herzog, Tony Hillerman, Paris Hilton, Cheryl Hines, Jordan Hinson, Adolph Hitler Click To Tweet
Paris Hilton, model, realty show star, singer, professional celebrity, socialite, fashion designer. She was expelled in her senior year from the Canterbury Boarding School for violating school rules. She later earned her GED. She has not yet attended college.
Orion Hindawi, co-founder of Tanium. He was ten credits short of graduating from the University of California at Berkeley when he left to work at BigFix for his father.
Cheryl Hines, actress and director. She never attended college, but she did have a short stint in beauty school.
Taavet Hinrikus, cofounder and CEO of Transferwise. As an undergraduate, he spend so much time building websites for others that he began skipping classes. He then started to work for Skype and got kicked out of college.
Jordan Hinson, actress. Home-schooled, she graduated from high school at the age of 15. She has not yet attended college.
Al Hirschfeld, caricaturist. While young, he took weekend classes at the School of Fine Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. At age 16, he was working in the art department of movie producer Samuel Goldwyn. He never attended regular college.
Adolph Hitler, Nazi leader. He did not graduate from high school. For some people, staying in school might actually be good for them.
Stanley Ho, billionaire casino operator, King of Gambling. He dropped out of college.
Lillian Hochberg, founder of Lillian Vernon catalog. She did not attend college. She started her catalog out of her home.
Amanda Hocking, multi-millionaire self-publisher, novelist, blogger. She has only a few months of college.
I went to college, but I only went to my writing class, so I dropped out after a semester. A few years later, I went to college again, but I only went to my English class, so I dropped out after a semester. — Amanda Hocking
Eric Hoffer, longshoreman, philosopher, and author. A self-educated philosopher, he was at various times a dishwasher, lumberjack, gold prospector, migrant farm worker, and longshoreman. He is the author of The True Believer, Working and Thinking at the Waterfront, and Reflections on the Human Condition. He never attended college.
Dustin Hoffman, two-time Oscar-winning actor. He enrolled at Santa Monica College, caught the acting bug after taking an acting class for an easy grade, then left after a year to join the Pasadena Playhouse. He worked odd jobs such as fragrance tester, coat checker, typist, and lei stringer between building a career as an actor.
Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos. As a sophomore, she left Stanford University’s School of Engineering to build Theranos around her patents and vision for healthcare. Her company failed when it was discovered that her patents and ideas didn’t work.
Ernest Holmes, founder of the Science of Mind churches and author of The Science of Mind. He ended his formal schooling when he was fifteen.
Katie Holmes, actress. Her acceptance letter for Columbia University came a week after she did the pilot for the Dawson’s Creek TV show. She spent the next six years acting in the TV series. She now admits that going to college as a celebrity would be very difficult. “But,” she says, “Maybe I could hire a cute professor to home-school me.”
Odetta Holmes, singer, songwriter, actress, and human rights activist. She studied music at night at Los Angeles City College, but did not graduate.
George Hotz, founder of Comma.ai and the first person to unlock the iPhone. He dropped out of Carnegie Mellon University.
Jan Hooks, comedienne and actress. She left college to pursue acting. She became a star on the Saturday Night Live TV show.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Amanda Hocking, Eric Hoffer, Dustin Hoffman, Ernest Holmes, Katie Holmes, Jan Hooks, Dennis Hopper, Bob Hoskins Click To Tweet
Lucien O. Hooper, financial columnist for Forbes magazine. He was a Harvard University dropout.
Dennis Hopper, actor. He did not attend college, but did study acting at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego and the Actors’ Studio in New York City. When people asked him what school he went to, he would reply “Warner Bros.”
Jay Catherwood Hormel, multi-millionaire president of Hormel Foods, inventor of Spam. He left college to work for his father’s company.
Heidi Horten, billionaire. She met her husband in a hotel bar when she was 19. She never attended college. She inherited most of her wealth when her billionaire husband died.
Bob Hoskins, actor. He left school at the age of 15 and drifted from job to job as a bouncer, fire-eater, and window cleaner before finding success as an actor.
George Hotz, hacker, developer of a self-driving automobile. He briefly attended the Rochester Institute of Technology and later Carnegie Mellon University. But he never graduated from any college.
Whitney Houston, Grammy-winning singer and actress. At the age of 19, she was discovered singing in a New York City supper club by Clive Davis, who immediately signed her to a contract with Arista Records. Her first album, and the next six, all went multi-platinum. She is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most awarded female artist of all time. Her soundtrack for The Bodyguard is the bestselling soundtrack album of all time. She never attended college.
Terrance Howard, actor. He studied briefly at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, but dropped out to try acting to please his mother.
Kirby Howell-Baptiste, actress. She dropped out of drama school after two semesters. “I hated it and left after two semesters.”
Lewis Howes, Internet marketer, founder of The School of Greatness podcast, bestselling book author, sports star. He attended Principia College and Capital University and was an All-American football player and decathlete. He left college early to play professional football in the Arena Football League.
Hugh Howey, millionaire novelist, self-publisher, and bookseller. He dropped out of college. He was working in a North Carolina bookstore when he began writing and publishing a series of science fiction novellas called Wool.
Al Howie, ultramarathoner. He skipped university to live a hippie lifestyle in Europe before moving to Toronto, Ontario, Canada to start running.
Andrew Hsu, founder of Airy Labs. As a Thiel Fellow, he skipped college to start his company.
Vanessa Hudgens, actress and singer. She was home-schooled during high school. She has not attended college. Homeschooling was great for her: “It was nice to stay away from all the drama. I’m not good with catty girls. I’m too laid-back.”
Saul “Slash” Hudson, rock musician, Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver. He quit school at the age of 16 and began practicing guitar for as much as 12 hours a day. Four years later, he helped form Guns N’ Roses.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Whitney Houston, Terrance Howard, Hugh Howey, Vanessa Hudgens, Slash, John Hughes, D.L. Hughley, Charlie Hunnam Click To Tweet
Dorothy Pitman Hughes, American feminist, child-welfare advocate, activist, public speaker, author, and small business owner. She moved to New York City from Georgia in 1957. She and her siblings first worked as a singing group. In the 1960s, she worked as a salesperson, house cleaner, and nightclub singer. She began her activism by raising bail money for civil rights protesters. She later organized the first shelter for battered women in New York City and co-founded the New York City Agency for Child Development and the Women’s Action Alliance.
John Hughes, director, producer, and screenwriter. He dropped out of Arizona State University in his junior year.
Mark Hughes, multi-millionaire founder of Herbalife. He dropped out of high school after the 9th grade. He launched Herbalife at the age of 24.
D. L. Hughley, sales manager, actor, comedian. He never finished high school. He got his job as a sales manager by paying “a guy I knew at Cal State Long Beach $100 to tell personnel that I was just a few credits short of graduating from college.”
H. Wayne Huizenga, billionaire founder of WMX garbage company, builder of Blockbuster video chain, owner of Miami Dolphins. He skipped college to join the Army. Later he dropped out of Calvin College after three semesters. He started his business in 1962 with a used garbage truck.
Charlie Hunnam, actor. He came to the United States from England at the age of 18 after being discovered in a shoe store. He never attended college.
Haroldson Lafayette Hunt, billionaire oilman. With only a fifth grade education, he worked as a farmhand until he invested $50 in an Arkansas oil field.
Helen Hunt, Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress. She graduated from Providence High School in Burbank, California. She then attended UCLA for one month before dropping out.
Tab Hunter, actor. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard at the age of 15 but was soon tossed out because of his age. Soon, he met a Hollywood agent that convinced him to try acting. He never attended college.
Ryan Hurd, country singer and songwriter. He never attended college.
Nipsey Hussle, born as Ermias Asghedom, rapper. As a teenager he began selling mixtapes in parking lots. He never attended college.
John Huston, Oscar-winning director, actor. He was a high school dropout.
Gary Hustwit, author and publisher, Incommunicado Press. He dropped out of San Diego State.
John Hutchison, discoverer of the Hutchison Effect. He had no formal schooling after the 8th grade although he was privately tutored in radio astronomy, chemistry, and physics.
Lauren Hutton, supermodel, actress. She attended Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans while working at a bar. When she met Steve McQueen and got into acting, she dropped out of college.
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!
More: The College Dropouts Hall of Fame