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.
Hugh O’Brian, aka Hugh Charles Krampe, actor. He dropped out the University of Cincinnati and enlisted in the Marine Corps. After being discharged, he joined a little theater group in Los Angeles and a stock company in Santa Barbara. He went on to star on TV and in films.
Ric Ocasek, lead singer of the Cars. He dropped out of college and began performing with various bands before co-founding the Cars.
Sinead O’Connor, singer. She never attended college.
Joe O’Dea, co-founder of CEI Constructors and U.S. senator. He dropped out of college early because he wanted to get on with the business of making money.
Rosie O’Donnell, comedienne, talk show host. She dropped out of Dickinson College and Boston University.
Chris O’Dowd, actor. He studied politics at University College, got involved in acting and producing plays, but never graduated. He then attended drama school in London but never graduated there either.
George Alan O’Dowd, aka Boy George, singer, songwriter, fashion designer, photographer. He was a high school dropout and has never attended college.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were High School or College Dropouts, including Hugh O'Brian, Sinead O'Connor, Rosie O'Donnell, Chris O'Dowd, Boy George #college Click To Tweet
David Ogilvy, advertising copywriter and executive. He was thrown out of Oxford University at the age of 20 in 1931 during the Great Depression. He then began working as a lowly cook in a hotel restaurant and eventually became a world-class chef. He left that job to sell upmarket kitchen stoves, which led to a job in advertising.
Samuel Ohev-Zion, CEO, Blu Products. He dropped out of high school to sell VCRs and hair dryers in his father’s electronics store in downtown Miami, Florida. When his father’s business went under, he took what money he had and started up Telecel Latin America to sell smartphones throughout the Americas.
Mark Oliari, co-owner of Coins ‘N Things, the largest seller of gold to the U.S. government. After high school he went right into trading coins full-time and never looked back. Within a few years, his engineer father quit his job and joined his son.
Mary Oliver, poet. She studied at Ohio State University and then Vassar College, but she never graduated. She later dismissed her college education as a “pre-established collection of certainties.”
When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement. — Mary Oliver
Ashley Olsen, actress and fashion designer. She has not yet attended college.
Fred Olsen, billionaire oil driller, oil rig builder, renewable energy advocate, and owner of Timex, Fred. Olsen Energy, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Fred. Olsen Renewables, and Fred. Olsen Ocean; also world champion sailor. Instead of attending college, he worked on his family’s ships for two years. As he noted of that experience, “No diploma could come close to that education.”
My lack of a formal education is a terrific advantage. I’m not held back by academic constraints. I think more broadly; and worry about the engineering details later. — Fred Olsen
Mary-Kate Olsen, actress and fashion designer. She has not yet attended college.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. first lady, book editor. She dropped out of Vassar before eventually graduating from George Washington University.
Terry O’Neill, photographer. He dropped out of school at the age of 15 and began to work for an airline as a photographer. In time, he became one of the top celebrity photographers of the 60’s and 70’s.
Timmy O’Neill, climber, guide, comedian, percussionist, slackliner, mountain biker, class V paddler, BASE jumper, backcountry skier. He started climbing at the age of 19. He did not graduate from college.
Yoko Ono, artist, singer. She dropped out of Sarah Lawrence College.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were High School or College Dropouts, including David Ogilvy, Ashley Olsen, Mary-Kate Olsen, Timmy O'Neill, Yoko Ono #college Click To Tweet
David Oreck, multimillionaire founder of The Oreck Corporation that builds those wonderful vacuum cleaners. When the U.S. entered World War II, he quit college to enlist in the Army Air Corps. After the war, college seemed too tame to him, so he started working as a salesman at a Manhattan appliance distributor. That job eventually led him to founding his own company.
Dolores O’Riordan, singer, songwriter, member of the Cranberries. She joined the band when she was 18 years old. She never attended college.
Amancio Ortega, billionaire fashion retailer, Spain’s richest man (and one of the richest men in the world). He dropped out of high school at the age of 14 to run errands for mom-and-pop shirt stores.
Johnny Ortiz, food forager and chef. He dropped out of the University of New Mexico after one semester and headed to Chicago to get more experience as a cook.
George Orwell (aka Eric Blair), author of Animal Farm and 1984. Instead of attending university after graduating from Eton, he joined the Imperial Police and worked in Burma. When he returned, he worked in restaurant kitchens, slept in homeless shelters, and eventually documented the condition of miners. All the time, he was writing reviews, essays, novels, and a regular newspaper column. His Animal Farm has sold more than 10 million copies.
Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were High School or College Dropouts, including David Oreck, Dolores O'Riordan, Amancio Ortega, George Orwell, and others #college Click To Tweet
Aimee Osbourne, actress, singer. She did not finish high school.
Jack Osbourne, music manager, reality TV star. He did not finish high school.
John Michael “Ozzy” Osbourne, heavy metal singer, songwriter, and reality TV star. He left school at the age of 15.
Kelly Osbourne, reality TV star, actress, singer, fashion designer. She did not finish high school.
Joel Osteen, TV pastor and host of the most-watched inspirational TV show in the U.S. He dropped out of Oral Roberts University after one year to care for his mother (who was recovering from cancer). He has sold more than 4 million copies of Your Best Life Now.
Fred Otash, celebrity detective. He left home to join the Marines before joining the Los Angeles police department. Later became a detective to Hollywood celebrities.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were High School or College Dropouts, including Ozzy Osbourne, Kelly Osbourne, Joel Osteen, Fred Otash, Queen Latifah, and others #college Click To Tweet
Candace Owens, conservative activist and commentator. She left the University of Rhode Island after her junior year to work for Vogue magazine and to develop a website. For several years she work as the communications director for Turning Point USA.
Dana Elaine Owens, see Queen Latifah.
More: The College Dropouts Hall of Fame