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.
Andie MacDowell, Golden Globe-winning actress and model. She dropped out of Winthrop College during her sophomore year.
Allison Mack, actress. Right after high school, she began acting in Smallville. She never attended college. She later got involved in a sex cult and is still dealing with the fallout from that excapade.
John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods and developer of Conscious Capitalism. He dropped out of the University of Texas six times. He never took a business course. He never graduated despite having over 100 credits.
Harry Macklowe, billionaire real estate developer. He dropped out of college to become a real estate broker.
Steve Madden, shoe designer. He dropped out of college to sell shoes on Long Island.
Ivory Madison, comic book author and founder of the Red Room social network for authors. She dropped out of school at the age of 13. Eventually she went to law school without finishing high school or attending college.
Tianna Madison, see Tianna Madison Bartoletta.
Tony Magee, multimillionaire founder of Lagunitas Brewing Company. He studied music composition at North Illinois University but dropped out and moved to California.
Billy Magnussen, actor and musician. He left the University of North Carolina one credit short of a BFA in acting to pursue a career in acting in New York City.
Jessica Mah, founder of inDinero. She dropped out of high school at the age of 15 and launched inDinero at the age of 19. She later did graduate from the University of California at Berkeley in computer science.
Sri Ramana Maharshi, Indian guru. He used the money his brother gave him for college fees to begin his spiritual journey to Arunachala Hill. He did not graduate from college.
John Major, British prime minister. He was a high school dropout.
Zayn Malik, rock singer. He never attended college.
Jo Malone, multimillionaire founder of Jo Malone and Jo Loves cosmetology companies. She left school at the age of 14 after her mother had a nervous breakdown, so she could take care of her mother and younger sister. She never attended college.
Howie Mandel, comedian, game show host. He was expelled from Toronto’s Northview Heights secondary school for practical jokes gone too far. He finally got his GED in 2010.
Henning Mankell, author of 40 books. At the age of 16, he made a decision to go to the university of life. He left school and traveled to Paris to become a writer. During the next few years, he worked at a musical instrument shop, a merchant marine ship, and an African theater company.
Leslie Mann, actress and comedienne. After high school, she took a number of acting classes with Joanne Baron and then studied with the Groundlings improve troupe. She did not attend college.
Shirley Manson, singer. She dropped out of high school to sing backup for a few local bands in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Kate Mara, actress. She graduated from Fox Lane High School a year early and was accepted into the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, but she deferred attending the university to work as an actress. Her family owns the New York Giants (on her father’s side) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (on her mother’s side).
David Marcus, founder of mobile payment company Zong, CEO of Paypal. He dropped out of the University of Geneva to work at a bank to help support his family.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were High School or College Dropouts, including Bruno Mars, Penny Marshall, Leslie Mann, Alison Mack, Kate Mara, Howie Mandel #college Click To Tweet
Isaac Marion, author of Warm Bodies novel, installer of heating ducts, guard of power plants, supervisor of parental visits for foster children, etc. He did not attend college.
Laura Marling, singer, songwriter. She dropped out of school at the age of 16 and moved to London to pursue a music career.
Tracy Lauren Marrow, see Ice-T.
Bruno Mars, singer, songwriter, music producer. After graduating from high school, he moved to Los Angeles and signed with Motown Records. He later wrote songs for other singers and released a bestselling record with Elektra.
Penny Marshall, actress and director. She attended the University of New Mexico, met a football player, got married, and dropped out.
Clancy Martin, ethics professor, novelist. He dropped out of high school, but later graduated from college. Then he later dropped out of graduate school.
Dean Martin, singer, actor, comedian. He never finished high school.
Steve Martin, comedian, actor. He dropped out of Long Beach State College. He became disillusioned upon reading Wittgenstein’s view that “all philosophical problems can be reduced to problems of semantics.”
Craig Martineau, co-founder of EcoScraps. He dropped out of Brigham Young University to pursue his composting business.
Manuel Marulanda, aka Pedro Antonio Marin, leader of the revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The son of a peasant farmer, he had only a sixth-grade education.
Andrew Mason, co-founder of Groupon. He was offered $1 million by his partner to quit college and begin working on the daily deal website.
Cosimo Matassa, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame music recording engineer. He dropped out of college
Konosuke Matsushita, multimillionaire founder of Panasonic. At the age of 10, he was apprenticed to a hibachi store in Osaka, Japan.
Kim Matula, actress. Having acted since the age of 12, she landed an agent when she was 15. After graduating from high school, she studied film at the University of Texas at Arlington, but dropped out because her acting career was taking off.
Robert Maxwell, billionaire publisher. He dropped out of high school.
Colette May, co-founder of Kindle Communications. She did not graduate from college.
Elaine May, ne Elaine Berlin, comedienne, screenwriter, director, actress. She dropped out of high school in Los Angeles when she was 14 and married Marvin May when she was 16. Later, when her marriage broke up, she hitchhiked to Chicago to enroll at the University of Chicago. When she got there, she decided to simply show up at classes that interested her. Soon, she became involved in theater productions at the university where she met her comedy partner Mike Nichols. They later moved to New York City where they found success doing improv and sketches in clubs before finally splitting up
John Mayer, Grammy-winning singer and songwriter. He left the Berklee College of Music after two semesters to pursue a singing career in Atlanta, Georgia.
I’ve already won one of the biggest gambles of all time, which was to forgo an education so I could pursue a real all-or-none scenario. — John Mayer
Martina McBride, country music singer. After high school, she traveled around Kansas playing and singing with various bands. She did not attend college.
Bruce McCall, author and artist, New Yorker writer. When his family moved after his 10th grade at Malvern Collegiate high school in Toronto, Ontario, the principal of his new school wanted him to repeat the 10th grade. By lunchtime of the first day at the new school, he decided that his formal education was officially concluded. He dropped out that day.
Charles McCarry, CIA spy and spy novel author. He never went to college. After time in the Army, he became a speech writer for the U.S. labor secretary.
Jenny McCarthy, actress and talk show host. She is a college dropout.
Melissa McCarthy, actress. She dropped out of Southern Illinois University at the age of 20 and was living in Boulder, Colorado before moving to New York City where she tried stand-up comedy for six months. She then did off-Broadway plays. She finally moved to Los Angeles to act and be a comedienne with The Groundlings.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were High School or College Dropouts, including Craig McCaw, Red McCombs, Melissa McCarthy, Bruce McCall, Martina McBride #college Click To Tweet
Craig McCaw, billionaire founder of McCaw Cellular. He dropped out of college.
Billy Joe (Red) McCombs, billionaire founder of Clear Channel media empire, car dealerships, real estate investor. He dropped out of law school to sell cars in 1950. He owned his first automobile dealership by the age of 25.
Camila Alves McConaughey, model, founder of Women of Today lifestyle website, and co-owner of Yummy Spoonfuls, a kid-food company. She left her native Brazil at the age of 15 to become a model in the United States. She has not attended college.
Norma McCorvey, aka Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade. She never attended college and probably never finished high school.
Malachy McCourt, actor, author. He dropped out of school at the age of 13.
Mindy McCready, singer and songwriter. After high school, she headed to Nashville to become a singer. She never attended college.
Jake McDorman, actor. He left school at the age of 16 to move to Los Angeles to pursue acting.
James McEachin, actor, writer, record producer. When he was 18, he joined the Army and served in the Korean War. After the war, he served time as a policeman and then fireman. He later moved to California, becoming a record producer first and later an actor and writer.
Ann McGovern, author of Stone Soup and other children’s books. She dropped out of the University of New Mexico to marry her English professor. Three years later after their marriage fell apart, she moved to New York and eventually got a job in publishing.
Ewan McGregor, actor. Because he was miserable in school, he dropped out. He later took some acting classes before finding success as an actor.
Gardner McKay, actor, novelist. He dropped out of Cornell University after two years.
Jeff McKenna, mechanic. He passed on going to college to attend trade school.
I have friends from high school that are making half what I’m making, and they went and got a four-year degree or better, and they’re still $50-, $60-, $70,000 dollars in debt. There’s a huge need for skilled labor in this country. — Jeff McKenna, a $50,000 per year mechanic
Rod McKuen, poet, songwriter. He dropped out of school and ran away from home at the age of 11. As a teen, he worked many odd jobs, from farm laborer and lumberjack to rodeo cowboy and singer. He self-published his first book of poems, Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows. It sold tens of thousands of copies before Random House acquired the book. His poetry went on to sell over 60 million copies and his records sold over 100 million copies. His songs have been recorded by Madonna, Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Cash, among others.
Kenneth Wayne McLeod, Ponzi schemer. After graduating from high school, he went into the insurance business. He never attended college.
Kirt McMaster, founder and CEO of Cyanogen mobile. He dropped out of college in Canada to join a Silicon Valley startup.
Alexander McQueen, clothing designer. He was apprenticed at the age of 16 to Anderson & Sheppard tailors. He never attended college.
Steve McQueen, actor. He left reform school at the age of 16 and did many odd jobs before joining the Marines. He used the GI bill to study acting at Sanford Meisner’s Neighborhood Playhouse. He never attended college.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were High School or College Dropouts, including Steve McQueen, Leighton Meester, Herman Melville, Alexander McQueen, Ewan McGregor #college Click To Tweet
Leighton Meester, actress and model. She dropped out of high school after her junior year (but had enough credits to get her diploma). She moved to New York City at the age of 10 to start a career as a model. When she was 14, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an actress.
I was very passionate about pursuing my acting career; as opposed to the daily routine of high school, which bored me to death. It was a chore — I wasn’t in any after-school clubs. The only thing I did after school was go to auditions. — Leighton Meester (Seventeen magazine)
I think it is good to be in the moment. The universe is so vast and we are so tiny. Continuing to cultivate good energy is the only way to be of any use in life. Negative energy, being miserable—that is time-consuming and silly. — Leighton Meester
Hendrik Meijer, founder of Meijer grocery stores. He worked as a barber during the depression. He never attended college.
Herman Melville, novelist, Moby Dick. He was a high school dropout.
Karl Menninger, psychiatrist. He dropped out of Washburn College in Kansas after two years.
Tony Mendez, artist and CIA operative (the director of the Argo plot). He studied art at the University of Colorado for a very short time before dropping out because he didn’t have money.
Rosalia Mera, cofounder of the fast-fashion retail giant Zara. She left school to work as a seamstress before founding Zara with her then-husband Amancio Ortega.
Daniel Merriweather, singer and songwriter. He dropped out of high school.
Jerry Merryman, designed the first handheld calculator. He was hired by Texas Instruments even though he had no college degree.
C. Dean Metropoulos, billionaire investor, aka Mr. Shelf Space. He dropped out of a PhD program at Columbia University to get a real-world PhD at GTE. He is best known for investing in and reviving flagging retail brands like Pabst Blue Ribbon, PAM cooking spray, Bumble Bee tuna, Chef Boyardee, and Twinkies!
Ron Meyer, talent agent, co-founder of CAA, vice chairman at Universal Studios. He did two years in the Marines after dropping out of University and Venice High Schools. He then started as a messenger at the Paul Kohner Agency before becoming an agent himself.
Bret Michaels, rock singer, reality TV show star. He graduated high school with a GED degree. He has not attended college.
Jillian Michaels, fitness expert, reality TV star, book author. She dropped out of California State University at Northridge to be a bartender. When her boyfriend suggested she get a real job, she faked a college diploma to get a position at the ICM talent agency. Later she became a fitness trainer on NBC’s The Biggest Loser.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were High School or College Dropouts, including Lea Michele, Cesar Millan, Bret Michaels, Ron Meyer, Sheila Michaels #college Click To Tweet
Sheila Michaels, feminist, cabbie, restaurateur, social agitator, and advocate for the adoption of the Ms. moniker. She was expelled from the College of William & Mary during her sophomore year.
Alyson “Aly” Michalka, actress, singer, songwriter (part of duo Aly &AJ, now known as 78violet). She has not yet attended college.
Amanda Joy “AJ” Michalka, model, actress, singer, songwriter (part of duo Aly &AJ, now known as 78violet). She has not yet attended college.
Oscar Micheaux, producer, director, founder of Micheaux Pictures Corporation, novelist. He dropped out of high school, worked as a Pullman train porter, and then became one of the first black homesteaders in South Dakota. One of his novels written during his time as a homesteader drew the interest of Hollywood, but he decided to make the silent movie himself. He made over 44 films as a producer.
Lea Michele, aka Lea Sarfati, singer, actress. After high school, she worked on Broadway. A few years later, she went to Los Angeles and landed a role on the Glee TV series. She has not attended college.
James Middleton, founder of a cake kit company, brother of Kate Middleton of England. He dropped out of college.
Christin Milioto, Grammy-winning singer and actress. She dropped out of New York University to pursue her career.
Cesar Millan, the dog whisperer and reality TV show star. He has not attended college.
Ben Milne, founder of Dwolla, a web-based payment network. He dropped out of the University of Northern Iowa during his freshman year to design audio speakers and sell them online.
Trevor Milton, billionaire founder of Nikola Motor. He’s a college dropout.
Nicki Minaj, nee Onika Tanya Maraj, singer and songwriter. After graduating from high school, she worked as a waitress and other odd jobs while trying to land a record deal. She finally got her break after being featured in an underground rap DVD.
Liza Minnelli, Oscar-winning actress, singer. She was a high school dropout.
Hellen Mirren, Oscar-winning actress. She left home at the age of 17 to go to London to become a professional actress. She did not attend college.
Robert Mitchum, actor. He dropped out of high school. He left home to ride the rails, got arrested for vagrancy, and even worked on a chain gang. He escaped from the chain gang and soon met his one and only wife, Dorothy Spence.
Moby, author, rock star, tea-shop proprietor. He has sold more than 15 million albums. He is a college dropout.
Art Modell, NFL football team owner, Baltimore Ravens. He is a high school dropout.
Nirav Modi, billionaire jeweler. He dropped out of Wharton to work with his uncle in India.
Lincoln “Chips” Moman, guitarist and record producer. He left school at the age of 14 and hitchhiked to Memphis, Tennessee, to become a musician. As a producer, he revived Elvis Presley’s career in 1969.
Claude Monet, painter. He was an elementary school dropout.
Marilyn Monroe, aka Norma Jeane Baker, actress, greatest blonde of all time (according to at least one poll). She left high school to marry James Dougherty (primarily to avoid going back to an orphanage). She soon became one of the best comic actresses of all time. She never finished high school.
Richard Anthony Monsour, known professionally as Dick Dale (see the Ds).
Cory Monteith, actor, singer. He dropped out of school at the age of 16. He never attended college. Sadly, he died of a lethal combination of alcohol and heroin.
Gene Montesano, co-founder of Lucky Brands jeans and Civilianaire clothing. He started working at a retail clothing store at the age of 19. He has never attended college.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were High School or College Dropouts, including Michael Moore, Erin Moran, Cory Monteith, Marilyn Monroe, Claude Monet #college Click To Tweet
Alecia Moore, aka Pink, singer. See Pink.
Michael Moore, documentary filmmaker, book author. He dropped out of the University of Michigan in Flint after his freshman year. As he has noted, “I have a high school education.”
Ricardo Mora, restaurateur, telecom entrepreneur, and startup evangelist. He dropped out of college in El Paso, Texas, to open a cellphone store in Juarez.
Erin Moran, actress. As a child actress, she never attended college.
Arthur Ernest Morgan, flood control engineer, book author, college president, director of the Tennessee Valley Authority. He left high school after three years. He later attended the University of Colorado for six weeks.
Louis Morgan, multi-millionaire co-founder of Gymshark apparel. He dropped out of Aston University in England to grow his business.
Heather Morris, dancer, singer, actress. She dropped out of Arizona State University after two semesters to pursue a dancing career in Los Angeles.
Ed Morrisey, blogger at Captain’s Quarters and HotAir.com. “I never finished college. I attended three or four different colleges at different times for different reasons. I never did get a degree.”
Chris Morrison, co-founder of PLP Digital Systems (software company). Earns more than $500,000 per year. Dropped out of high school.
Matthew Morrison, actor and singer. He attended New York University for two years before landing a role in the Broadway production of Footloose.
Dustin Moskovitz, billionaire co-founder of Facebook social network. He dropped out of Harvard.
Kate Moss, multimillionaire model. She attended a little bit of college, but never graduated.
Stirling Moss, racecar driver. He was educated at several independent schools: Shrewsbury House School, Clewer Manor Junior School, and the linked senior school, Haileybury and Imperial Service College. By the age of 20, he was racing in Europe and he soon became a full-time driver on the Grand Prix circuit.
Mat Mowbray, co-founder of Zuru toy company. He and his siblings moved to China when they were young. Mat attended university for one year before going to China with his brother Nick to create a toy company.
Nick Mowbray, co-founder of Zuru toy company. He and his siblings moved to China when they were young. He attended university for one year before going to China with his brother Mat to create a toy company.
Get out there as early as possible. The world is moving so fast with artifical intelligence, social, and digital. And our education system is really quite linear in terms of what we are teaching our children. I think we need to start entrepreneurship lessons. Our education needs to keep up with the pace of the world. — Nick Mowbray
Syvia Moy, songwriter and singer. After high school in Detroit, Michigan, she went to New York City to pitch her songs.
Kathryn Bridget Moynahan, model, actress. She attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, but dropped out during her freshman year to pursue her modeling career. Since she had to borrow money from her parents to hit the big city, she agreed that if her career did not take off after a year, she’d go back to school. Her career took off.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were High School or College Dropouts, including Mozart, Bridget Moynahan, Kate Moss, Dustin Moskovitz, Matthew Morrison #college Click To Tweet
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, classical music composer and performer. In his early years, his father taught him music, languages, and other academic subjects. From the age of 6, he performed along with his older sister in cities all over Europe. He never attended high school or college.
Charlotte Kemp Muhl, singer, songwriter, model, member of the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger group. She moved to New York City alone at the age of 14 to become a model. She has not yet attended college.
Kate Mulgrew, actress, After high school, she went to New York to study under Stella Adler. By the age of 20, she was acting in the Ryan’s Hope soap opera.
Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress. He dropped out of the University of Houston to take a job at CNET Networks. He later co-founded WordPress, Automattic, Akismet, Polldaddy, Gravatar, Vault Press, and more online services.
Charles Munger, billionaire right-hand man to Warren Buffett in Berkshire Hathaway. He dropped out of the University of Michigan to join the Air Force as a meteorologist. He later did get a law degree from Harvard.
James Murdoch, billionaire former CEO of 21st Century Fox and founder of Lupa Systems investments. He left Harvard University to start Rawkus Entertainment, a rap music label.
David Murdock, billionaire real estate investor, chairman of Dole Foods. He has funded a $1.5 billion health research campus in North Carolina. He dropped out of high school in the 9th grade and began working at a gas station until he was drafted into the army in 1943. He never attended college. At one point he slept on a park bench in Detroit, Michigan, until he borrowed money to open a diner.
Justin Murdock, investor, son of David. He is a college dropout and goth musician.
Bobby Murphy, early employee at Snapchat. He dropped out of Stanford to work on Snapchat.
Ted Murphy, founder, Izea Entertainment, social media marketing company. He dropped out of Florida State University to start Think Creative ad agency.
Bill Murray, Golden Globe-winning actor, comedian. He dropped out of Regis University after being arrested for possession of marijuana.
Kacey Musgraves, Grammy-winning singer and songwriter. She had written three self-made albums before she left high school. She then moved to Austin, Texas, before eventually moving to Nashville, Tennessee, to work as a staff songwriter before making it big as a country singer.
Stan Musial, Hall of Fame baseball player. He turned down a college scholarship to pitch for a minor league baseball team.
Elon Musk, billionaire co-founder of Paypal, founder of SpaceX, chairman of Tesla Motors, founder of SolarCity, software engineer, entrepreneur. Graduating from Penn with a double major, he enrolled in a PhD program at Stanford University but dropped out after two days without ever attending class. As he has noted, “I find universities a very slow place to learn things.”
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!Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were High School or College Dropouts, including Bill Murray, Stan Musial, Kate Mulgrew, Bobby Murphy, David Murdock #college Click To Tweet