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.
Jim Nabors, singer and actor. After high school, he worked as a typist while pursuing a stage career in New York City. Years later, he moved to Los Angeles to relieve his chronic asthma. He never attended college.
George Naddaff, founder of Boston Chicken and UFood Grill. He never attended college. As he put it, “School and I did not work out. So at age 17 and a half, I joined the Army.” And, when he got out of the Army, his dad said if you’re not going to college, you get a job. He did. The next day.
Divya Nag, responsible for CareKit and Research Kit at Apple. She dropped out of Stanford University to found a stem-cell research startup before joining Apple.
Robby Naish, windsurfing world champion. He was accepted at the University of California at Santa Cruz, but when he found out how much sponsors wanted to pay him to windsurf, he deferred attending for a year (and then another, etc.). He never attended college.
Ben Nash, founder of PCS Wireless. He dropped out of school when he discovered that he was really good at selling cell phones.
Walter Nash, prime minister of New Zealand. He dropped out of high school.
Christian Navarro, co-owner of Wally’s Wine & Spirits, wine sommelier. He “never went to school,” but still got a job at Wally’s as a floor sweeper before discovering his ability as a wine sommelier. He does not have a high school diploma.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Jim Nabors, Divya Nag, Ben Nash, Patricia Neal, Liam Neeson, David Neeleman, Noel Neill, Jack Nelson Click To Tweet
Patricia Neal, actress. After two years as a drama major at Northwestern University, she dropped out and headed to New York City where she performed summer stock before becoming a Broadway star at the age of 20.
David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue airlines. He dropped out of the University of Utah after three years.
Liam Neeson, actor. He attended university for one year before the troubles in Northern Ireland encouraged him to move elsewhere to pursue his desire to be an actor.
Fantastic Negrito, nee Xavier Dphrepaulezz, Grammy-winning delta blues guitarist. He ran away from home at the age of 12 and was involved in petty crime during his teens.
At age 12, I ran away from home and never saw my family again. I was living on the street. I was hustling for food, for water, trying to find an abandoned car to sleep in. I was hustling to that mentality of surviving. — Fantastic Negrito
Noel Neill, actress. At the age of 17, she landed a contract with Paramount Studios. She never attended college.
Jack Nelson, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Never attended college. After high school, he went to work for the Biloxi Daily Herald. Later he opened the Atlanta bureau of the Los Angeles Times and later became the Times bureau chief in Washington, D.C.
Robert Michael Nesmith, songwriter, musician, actor, novelist, and producer. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force before he graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas, Texas. He obtained his GED certificate while in the Air Force. After the Air Force, he enrolled in San Antonio College and won the college’s first talent competition before dropping out and moving to Los Angeles to pursue his music career. Besides being a member of The Monkees, he also wrote some top-selling songs, including Different Drum, Some of Shelly’s Blues, and Mary, Mary. When The Monkees TV series ended in 1968, Nesmith enrolled part-time at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he studied American and music history.
Richard John Neuhaus, theologian, Lutheran minister, Catholic priest, author, civil rights activist. He took pride in the fact that he never graduated from high school.
Deb Never, singer and songwriter, WeDidIt Collective. She had thought about quitting music and going to college, but a friend convinced her to more to Los Angeles to continue pursuing her music.
Don Newcombe, Major League baseball pitcher, the first African-American pitcher to start a World Series game. He pitched in the Negro leagues before signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946. He never attended college.
Gabe Newell, billionaire co-founder of Valve Corp, distributor of online games. He dropped out of Harvard University to become an early Microsoft employee. In 1996, he co-founded Valve to sell online games.
Donald Newhouse, billionaire publisher, Advanced Publications. He dropped out of Syracuse University.
Jim Newton, founder of TechShop (the nation’s first full-service gym for the tinkering crowd), science advisor for Discovery Channel’s MythBusters series. He dropped out of college.
Olivia Newton-John, singer, actress, author. She dropped out of high school.
Mike Nichols, comedian, director. He dropped out of the University of Chicago, found work as a radio announcer, and later moved to New York to study with Lee Strasberg before moving back to Chicago and teaming up with Elaine May to do improv and comedy sketches.
I didn’t finish college. I just stopped going to class, and I got a job on radio. I didn’t know anything. I couldn’t get a diploma in anything! — Mike Nichols
Jake Nickell, cofounder and CEO of Treadless.com. He never graduated from college.
Jean Nidetch, founder of Weight Watchers. After graduating from high school, she went to work for the IRS. After an embarrassing encounter in a supermarket where her friends thought she was pregnant, she started up the Weight Watchers program as a support group. She never attended college.
Xavier Niel, computer programmer, Internet billionaire, chairman of Free Mobile and Kima Ventures venture capital firm as well as 42’s founder. He has no college degree. Without a degree, he taught himself how to code and create software programs.
Connie Nielsen, actress. She left Denmark at 18 to pursue a career as an actress. She never attended college.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Jim Newton, Olivia Newton-John, Mike Nichols, Jean Nidetch, Connie Nielsen, Leonard Nimoy, Kristi Noem, Tig Notaro Click To Tweet
Florence Nightingale, nurse. She had no formal education, but she was home-schooled.
Leonard Nimoy, actor and director. He abandoned a scholarship at Boston college to pursue an acting career in Hollywood.
Kristi Noem, U.S. representative. She dropped out of college to carry on her dad’s farm after he died in a farm-based accident. 20 years later, she finally graduated from college (while carrying on a full-time role as a congresswoman for South Dakota).
John Nolte, Breitbart commentator. He never attended college.
I quit a steady job, got out of a blue city, and made it to rural North Carolina. And I did it with no college education, an average IQ, no financial backing from family, and a job that promised me no more than three months salary in a position where 90 percent washed out in three months. But I made it. Not because I’m special or privileged in any way. — John Nolte
Samin Nosrat, cookbook author and chef. She dropped out of the University of California at Berkeley to work at Chez Panisse.
Tig Notaro, comedienne. “I failed three grades and dropped out of high school.” She now performs at many colleges.
I spent four years in college. I didn’t learn a thing. It was really my own fault. I had a double major in psychology and reverse psychology. — B. J. Novak, author and comedy writer
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