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.
Andrew Jackson, U.S. president, general, attorney, judge, congressman. Orphaned at 14, he was home schooled. By the age of 35 without formal education, he became a practicing attorney.
Of the 43 people who served as president of the United States, 8 never went to college.
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson III, rapper, entrepreneur, producer, actor, book author, amateur boxer. He dropped out of high school in the 10th grade. He began dealing drugs at the age of 12. And he began rapping professionally at the age of 21.
As he later noted, “If I had a choice, I would’ve been a college kid. I would’ve majored in business.”
Reggie Jackson, baseball player. He attended Arizona State University for two years before he was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics.
Bradley Jacobs, billionaire founder of XPO Logistics. He dropped out of Bennington College to start up Amerex Oil.
Jane Jacobs, author, political activist, urban planner. After high school, she worked at a variety of office jobs and as a freelance writer. She studied for two years at Columbia University’s extension school, but did not graduate.
For the first time I liked school and for the first time I made good marks. This was almost my undoing because after I had garnered, statistically, a certain number of credits I became the property of Barnard College at Columbia, and once I was the property of Barnard I had to take, it seemed, what Barnard wanted me to take, not what I wanted to learn. Fortunately my high-school marks had been so bad that Barnard decided I could not belong to it and I was therefore allowed to continue getting an education. — Jane Jacobs
Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall children’s book series. He never attended college. At the age of 15, he signed up to be a merchant seaman and then went on to work as a truck driver, boxer, longshoreman, folk singer, and bobby. He was in his 40s when he wrote his first story. His Redwall books have sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts, including Jane Jacobs, Micky Jagtiani, 50 Cent, Andrew Jackson, Reggie Jackson, T.D. Jakes, Kevin James, Lebron James, Sam Jain Click To Tweet
Joshua Jadon, book cover designer. He attended Central Michigan University for two months before dropping out to pursue book cover design full-time.
Micky Jagtiani, billionaire retailer, Landmark International. After flunking several exams, he dropped out of accounting school in London. He then started out cleaning hotel rooms and driving a taxi. Eventually he started a retail business in the Middle East.
Sam Jain, founder of CheapOair. He attended the University of Delhi in India for a year and a half before dropping out and moving to the U.S. to work at his father’s jewelry export business. He later started the FareBuzz travel agency and eventually CheapOair.
T. D. Jakes, pastor, bestselling novelist. He dropped out of high school.
Betty Mattas James, CEO, James Industry. She named the Slinky toy. She was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame. She attended Pennsylvania State University but left when she married Richard James, who later invented the Slinky. More than 300 million Slinkies have been sold.
Etta James, singer, queen of R&B. She signed as a recording artist when she was still a teenager. She never attended college.
Josh James, multimillionaire co-founder of Omniture. He dropped out of Brigham Young University during his final semester to co-found MyComputer.com, which became Omniture.
Kevin James, aka Kevin George Knipfing, comedian and actor. He attended the State University of New York at Cortland but dropped out of college after his junior year (after taking a course in public speaking) to perform stand-up comedy.
LeBron James, billionaire basketball player, NBA superstar. He left high school a year early to play in the NBA. He has not yet attended college. He became the first professional basketball player to build a fortune worth more than a billion dollars.
P. D. James, mystery novelist. Her greatest regret is “that I didn’t go to university.”
Thomas Jane, actor. He dropped out of football at Thomas Wootton High School in Rockville, Maryland to pursue acting. He eventually received his high school degree, but never attended college.
Jim Jannard, billionaire founder of Oakley and inventor of the Red One digital camera. He dropped out of USC School of Pharmacy to found Oakley.
Jay-Z, aka Shawn Carter, see Jay-Z (under Z).
Melissa Jefferson, see Lizzo.
Alex Jeffreys, Internet marketing millionaire. He never attended college. He hated school.
Brandon Jennings, basketball player. He was the first high school player to skip collage and jump straight into pro basketball in Europe.
Claudia Jennings, model and actress. At the age of 10, she enrolled at Marquette University to study dramatic arts. But she soon dropped out to pursue a career as a model and actress. Known as the Queen of the Drive-In for such classics as Gator Bait and Truck Stop Women, she also starred in a number of mainstream movies and TV shows. She died in an auto accident at the age of 29.
Peter Jennings, news anchor, ABC’s World News Tonight. After failing the 10th grade, he left high school at 16 to work as a bank teller. He later attributed his failure in high school to boredom and laziness.
Chris Jericho, aka Chris Irvine, WWE world champion wrestler, actor, author, radio and TV host, rock musician. He never attended college.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts, including PD James, Thomas Jane, Brandon Jennings, Claudia Jennings, Peter Jennings, Chris Jericho, Derek Jeter, Jewel, Steve Jobs, among others Click To Tweet
Derek Jeter, baseball player, set a New York Yankee record as their all-time hit leader. He chose to become a professional baseball player rather than attend college.
Jewel, see Jewel Kilcher (under K).
Steve Jobs, billionaire co-founder of Apple Computers and Pixar Animation; Disney’s largest shareholder. He dropped out of Reed College after six months and went to India before returning to Silicon Valley. As he said, “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and how college was going to help me figure it out.”
Billy Joel, singer and songwriter. He was a high school dropout.
John Johannesson, founder of Bauger Group fashion retailing group. He finished Commercial College in Iceland (the equivalent of something between high school and junior college in the U.S.) and then launched a discount grocery with his father.
Jon Lech Johansen, software programmer, developer of DoubleTwist. At the age of 15, he wrote a program to decrypt commercial DVDs. He dropped out of high school to continue working on additional anti-DRM software programs.
Daymond John, entrepreneur and TV star. He did not go to college.
I didn’t know anybody, didn’t have a famous last name, didn’t have access to capital, and didn’t go to college. Many people would’ve said one of those things could have held me back, and none of those held me back. — Daymond John
Andrew Johnson, U.S. president, vice-president. He never attended college.
Of the 43 people who served as president of the United States, 8 never went to college.
Bruce Johnson, cosmetologist and owner of Avatar Salon & Wellness Spa. He dropped out of the University of Maryland 26 credits shy of an engineering degree to study cosmetology. Now his clients include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
I wasn’t loving engineering. I was just doing it. … I don’t think I would have been as stimulated by a career in engineering. I wanted to be happy and successful. You’re not supposed to leave college. It was a struggle. But my heart was in this. — Bruce Johnson
Caryn Elaine Johnson, see Whoopi Goldberg.
Dakota Johnson, actress. She has not attended college.
If it were up to me, I would’ve left school. But my parents wanted me to finish, which was ironic because the first half of my life was traveling and never going to school and being with a tutor. — Dakota Johnson
Kenny Johnson, founder of Dial-A-Waiter restaurant delivery service. He dropped out of Wichita State University.
Willis J. Johnson, billionaire founder of Copart, a dealer in damaged cars. He was drafted into the army during the Vietnam War. After serving, he worked for a time at a Safeway grocery store in Spokane, Washington, before returning to California to work in his father’s wrecking yard. Eventually, he bought his own wrecking yard outside of Sacramento. He never attended college.
David Cay Johnston, reporter who won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting. He never received a college degree yet was a lecturer at the Syracuse University College of Law.
Samuel Jonas, chief operating officer, IDT. He dropped out of Rutgers and Ramapo College.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts, including Billy Joel, Daymond John, Andrew Johnson, Alex Jones, Miranda July, January Jones, Davy Jones, Leslie Jones, among others Click To Tweet
Alan Jones, founder of Check Into Cash, former CEO of Credit Bureau Services. He dropped out of Tennessee State University to work at his father’s credit agency.
Alex Jones, radio show host, documentary movie producer, founder of InfoWars.com and PrisonPlanet.tv. He briefly attended Austin Community College in Austin, Texas, but dropped out early. He has been criticized for not having a degree.
Brian Jones, president of Fox Business Network. He dropped out of the University of Oklahoma to work so he could send money to his mother and brother. Later in 2009, he finally received a degree from Fordham University (so he could teach elementary school when he retires).
Davy Jones, singer and actor. He dropped out of high school to train as a jockey.
January Jones, model, actress. She left home three days after graduating from high school to go to New York to become a model. She later became an actress as well.
Jeremy Jones, snow boarder, film star. He did not attend college. Instead, he moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to pursue his passion as a snowboarder.
John Paul Jones, patriot, navy admiral. He was home-schooled. He went to sea early in life.
Leslie Jones, actress, comedienne. She dropped out of Colorado State University in the middle of her sophomore year when she killed it in a comedy competition. It took her another six years of odd jobs to make it as a comedienne.
Quincy Jones, musician, composer, music producer, music executive, and more. He attended the Berklee College of Music but left when he got the opportunity to tour with Lionel Hampton’s band as a trumpeter, arranger, and pianist.
Molly Jong-Fast, novelist. She went to Barnard, Wesleyan, and New York University for a semester each. She never finished college.
Michael B. Jordan, actor, director. He was home-schooled but was allowed to play basketball at Newark Arts High School where he graduated. He never attended college.
Miranda July, author, actress, sculptor, filmmaker, and multimedia performer. She studied film at the University of California, Santa Cruz, but dropped out to move to Portland, Oregon.
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!