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.
Sean Rad, co-founder of Tinder. He dropped out of USC to start the Orgoo email service (which failed) and later the Adly marketing company (which he sold for several million dollars).
Daniel Radcliffe, actor. On being asked if he planned to go to college, he replied, “No, I don’t. I am continuing my education. I have two weekly tutorials with a friend of mine.”
Stewart Rahr, billionaire founder of Kinray pharmacy distributor, philanthropist. He graduated from New York University but later dropped out of law school in 1975 to take over the family pharmacy.
Laura Ramsey, actress. She graduated from Laconia High School in Rosendale, Wisconsin. She then moved to Los Angeles. After a little gypsy living, she started waiting tables on Sunset Boulevard, where she was discovered by a talent agent and was cast in a reality documentary.
Lew Ranieri, financier, the father of mortgage-backed bonds. He dropped out of college.
Emily Ratajkowski, model. She dropped out of UCLA after one year to model full time.
Royal Richard “Jim” Rathman, race-car driver. He never attended college. He became a renowned drag racer while still a teenager, receiving 48 traffic tickets before he was 18. He took the name of his older brother Jim so he could compete in major races at the age of 20 (claiming to be the age of his brother at 24).
James Arthur Ray, inspirational author and speaker. He dropped out of junior college to work as a telemarketer.
Rachael Ray, TV chef, cookbook author. She dropped out of Pace University after two years to work and save money.
Usher Raymond IV, quadruple platinum singer. He won the Star Search male teen vocalist competition when he was 18. He was signed to a music label immediately thereafter.
Robert Redford, actor, producer, director, founder of the Sundance Institute. He was booted from the University of Colorado after three semesters for drinking too much. He then spent a year in France trying to find success as a painter. He returned to New York where he studied drama and landed his first acting role in the theater.
Keanu Reeves, actor. He dropped out of high school to pursue acting.
Carl Reiner, actor and comedian. At the age of 16, he was working as a mechanic when he heard about free acting classes provided by the Works Progress Administration. He never attended college.
Kamilla Reid, book author. She is a high school dropout.
James Remar, actor. He did not attend college.
Louis Renault, founder of the Renault Auto Company. He failed the exams for the Ecole Centrale. But with the financial backing of his brothers, he founded his first auto factory.
Lynda Resnick, billionaire co-founder of POM Wonderful; also co-owner of Fiji Water, Teleflora, and Halos mandarin oranges. A child actress, Lynda dropped out of Los Angeles City College to start an advertising agency at the age of 19. She and her husband are one of the country’s largest producers of pomegranates, pistachios, almonds, and mandarin oranges.
Silvestre Reyes, U.S. representative from Texas. He received a two-year degree from El Paso Community College.
Burt Reynolds, actor, number-one box-office attraction for five straight years (1978-82). He dropped out of Florida State University after automobile accident injuries ended his football career. He then took some classes at Palm Beach Junior College where during an acting class his teacher pushed Reynolds into acting.
Dane Reynolds, world class surfer, video documentarian. He dropped out of school at the age of 16 to surf, something he called “kind of a stupid decision.”
Ryan Reynolds, actor. He moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19 to become an actor. He never attended college.
Trent Rezner, musician, Nine Inch Nails. He dropped out of Allegheny College after one year to pursue a career in music.
Charlie Rich, Grammy-winning country and blues singer and songwriter. He dropped out of the University of Arkansas to join the Air Force.
Marc Rich, billionaire commodities investor, built Philbro into the world’s largest commodities firm, founded Marc Rich & Co. He dropped out of New York University to take a job in the mail room of Philipp Brothers on Wall Street.
Keith Richards, rock star, Rolling Stones. He was expelled from high school. He has never attended college.
Rihanna, nee Robyn Rihanna Fenty, the richest female singer in America, actress. At the age of 15, she formed a singing trio in Barbados. At the age of 16, she went to live with songwriter Evan Rogers and his wife in Connecticut. Also at the age of 16, she signed a singing contract with Def Jam records. She has not yet attended college, but she is already worth over $600 million!
I’m turned on by guys who are cultured. They don’t have to have a single degree, but they should speak other languages or know things about other parts of the world or history or certain artists or musicians. I like to be taught. — Rihanna
Amber Riley, singer, actress. She has not attended college.
Kelly Ripa, actress and talk show host. She moved to New York City at the age of 19 to pursue a career as an actress. She did not attend college.
I always wanted to be a teacher. I just didn’t have the devotion to go to school. — Kelly Ripa
Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll (see Shakira).
Krysten Ritter, model and actress. Spotted by a model agent at the age of 15 while shopping in a Pennsylvania mall, She started modeling that next summer at the age of 16. She moved to New York after high school to model in commercials. She has never attended college.
Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity. He barely graduated from high school. He has not attended college.
Leandro Rizzuto, billionaire founder of Conair. He dropped out of St. John’s University to help his family sell hair products. He then founded Conair with a $100 investment and the invention of a hot-air hair roller invention.
Margot Robbie, actress. A month after graduating from high school in Australia, she cold-called the casting director of the top soap opera in Australia. She kept calling until he offered her a role. She has not yet attended college.
Dan Robbins, inventor of Paint-by-Number kits. He skipped his high school graduation to join the Signal Corps, serving in Europe during World War II. After the war, he began working for Palmer Paint where he invented the Paint-by-Numbers kits. He never attended college.
Chris Roberts, game developer and movie producer.
Emma Roberts, actress. Because of her work schedule as a young actress, she switched to being home-schooled. As she noted, “My friends joke that I’ve only been to high school in a movie.” She has been accepted at Sarah Lawrence College, but has not yet attended.
Julia Roberts, actress. After high school, she headed to New York City where she pursued an acting career (while selling shoes and working at an ice cream stand). She has never attended college.
Kevin Roberts, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency. He got kicked out of Lancaster Royal Grammar School in Lancaster, England after getting his girlfriend pregnant. He left school rather than abandon her.
Nora Roberts, nee Eleanor Marie Robertson, multimillionaire book author. She got married right after graduating from high school. She has never attended college. Because she has been so prolific as a book author, she also writes under the pseudonyms of J.D. Robb, Jill March, and Sarah Hardesty. She was the first author inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. Her novels have spent over 1,000 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
Pernell Roberts, actor (Bonanza and Trapper John). He attended Georgia Tech and the University of Maryland, but at both schools, as he noted, “I distinguished myself by flunking out.”
Britt Robertson, actress. She was homeschooled. In her early teens, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an actress. She has not attended college.
Frank Robinson, hall of fame baseball player. After graduating from high school, he signed with the Cincinnati Reds baseball team and spend three years in the minors before moving up to the major leagues.
Andrew Robl, millionaire online poker player. He started playing poker during high school but turned professional after the second semester of his freshman year at the University of Michigan.
Alex Rocco, actor. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade to be a bookie. His big acting breakthrough was in The Godfather movies.
Nevaldo Rocha, billionaire founder of the Guararapes Confeccoes fashion empire. He never attended high school.
Chris Rock, comedian, actor. He dropped out of high school in the 10th grade to pursue comedy as a career. He later got a GED and then studied broadcast journalism for a year at a community college.
John D. Rockefeller Sr., billionaire founder of Standard Oil, philanthropist. History’s first recorded billionaire, he dropped out of high school two months before graduation. Later, he took some courses at a local business school.
Dorothy Rodham, mother of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her mother had promised to fund her college education but then reneged on the commitment, so she never attended college.
Alex Rodriguez, multi-millionaire baseball player, sports analyst, and founder of A-Rod Corp. (which owns 8,500 apartments, a construction firm, and fitness centers). He signed a baseball contract with the Seattle Mariners right out of high school.
Never having gone to college is a source of great insecurity for Rodriguez, so during his time off, he took classes—at Columbia (value investing) and the University of Miami (marketing). — The Hollywood Reporter
Michelle Rodriguez, actress. She was expelled from five different schools during high school for fighting and for questioning her teachers. She dropped out of high school but later earned her GED. She briefly attended business school before quitting to pursue her career as an actress. She never attended college.
Sarah Roemer, actress and model. She began modeling at the age of 15 after she was discovered at a local 7-Eleven where she was buying coffee. When she was 17, she moved to New York City to pursue modeling and acting.
Seth Rogen, actor, comedian, and screenwriter. He dropped out of high school to act in the Freaks and Geeks TV series. Before getting the acting job, he cut high school on many days.
I think, honestly, if you have a career in mind that isn’t academically oriented, then high school is probably not going to lead you to what you want to be. — Seth Rogen
Roy Rogers, aka Leonard Slye, singing cowboy, actor. He dropped out of high school. As he noted, I did pretty well “for a guy who never finished high school and used to yodel at square dances.”
Will Rogers, humorist, author, actor, entertainer. He was a high school dropout.
Jim Rohn, motivational speaker and book author. He left college after one year. He started his professional life as a human resource manager for Sears.
Kjell Inge Rokke, billionaire Norwegian businessman. Because he had dyslexia, he dropped out of school in the ninth grade. He has no secondary or college education. He started out as a fisherman at the age of 18.
Ray Romano, actor, Everybody Loves Raymond. He went to college for seven years but never graduated.
I would get my student loans, get money, register and never really go. It was a system I thought would somehow pan out. — Ray Romano
Rebecca Romijn, actress, model. She deferred her studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz to pursue a modeling career in Paris, France.
George Romney, automotive executive, Michigan governor, presidential candidate. He spent only a year at the University of Utah.
Mickey Rooney, actor, child star. He never attended college.
Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. president. He attended school only for a few months; he was tutored at home. Teddy eventually graduated from Harvard University but he did not complete his law degree at Columbia University.
Juan Luis Lagunas Rosales, Mexican YouTube video star. He dropped out of high school at the age of 15. Soon after, he became famous for his YouTube videos of drinking until blacking out. In 2017, he was killed after insulting a drug lord in a YouTube video.
Kevin Rose, founder of Digg.com, TechTV host. He dropped out of the University of Las Vegas during his sophomore year to code software. He wrote his first software program in the second grade and was building his own machines by the beginning of high school. He started Digg with $1,200 and launched the site out of his bedroom.
Edmund Ross, journalist and U.S. senator. Whe he was eleven, he was apprenticed to a newspaper and never looked back. He never attended high school or college. His votes were essential in stopping the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson after the U.S. Civil War.
Barney Rosset, book and magazine publisher, film producer and distributor. He dropped out of several colleges. He then served as an Army photographer in China during World War II.
Alexander Rossi, motorsports driver. He graduated high school at the age of 16 to pursue a full-time career as a driver. He has not attended college.
Renzo Rosso, billionaire co-founder of Diesel jeans. He joined Italian fashion manufacturer Moltex at the age of 20 and owned 40% of the business by the age of 22. He renamed the company Diesel in 1978.
Emmy Rossum, actress, singer. She attended Columbia University for half a semester, but then dove headlong into acting in three movies.
Alvin Roth, systems engineer, game theorist, book author. He dropped out of Van Buren High School (Queens, New York) during his junior year. His explanation: He was understimulated. He applied to college and graduated with an engineering degree from Columbia University and a doctorate in operations research from Stanford University.
Asher Roth, hip hop artist, I Love College hit song. He dropped out of West Chester University after being signed.
André René Roussimoff, aka André the Giant, wrestler and actor. He dropped out of school after the 8th grade.
Karl Rove, presidential advisor. He left the University of Utah after two years to work for the college Republicans.
Kelly Rowland, singer. She has not yet attended collage.
I wanted to be a psychiatrist, but I made my first million at 18 years old. That’s when I figured I would do well enough for myself. — Kelly Rowland
Frederick Henry Royce, multi-millionaire co-founder of Rolls-Royce, automotive designer. He dropped out of elementary school.
Daniela Ruah, actress. She has not attended college.
Jennifer Rubio, co-founder of Away luggage. She studied supply-chain management at Penn State before dropping out because she enjoyed working so much during her college’s co-op programs. She soon became a social media consultant and later head of social media for Warby Parker.
Michael Rubin, billionaire founder of e-commerce company GSI Commerce and Kynetic (including ShopRunner, Rue La La, and Fanatics). He dropped out of Villanova University after six months to continue to operate several ski shops he had opened as a teenager.
He admits, “If I had to do it over again, I would have gone to college. I missed out on that. The business responsibilities weighed hard on me in my late teens and early 20s.”
His mother noted that “Michael is the poster child for college is not for everyone.”
Phillip Ruffin, billionaire casino operator and real estate investor. He dropped out of Washburn University to run a burger business with friends. When he sold his interest in the business for $29,000, he invested in convenience stores, oil, and real estate. Eventually he got into casinos. The best day of his life? August 10, 2007. The day he put $1.24 billion into his checking account.
The advice I would give to young people? Quit your job. Don’t work for anybody. You really can’t make any money working for someone else (quoted in The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg).
Jane Russell, actress. Howard Hughes discovered her when she was 19 and cast her in the western movie, The Outlaw. She did not attend college.
Leon Russell, aka Charles Russell Bridges, singer, rock musician. He moved to Los Angeles, California from Oklahoma at the age of 17. He never attended college.
Rene Russo, model, actress. After a year at Burroughs High School in Burbank, California, she dropped out. At the age of 17, she took a job inspecting lenses in an eyeglass factory, but was soon discovered by a model agent.
Where’s the outrage for the pressure that we put on a seventeen-year-old to borrow $100,000? So much of that pressure comes from their mom and dad; it’s well-intended, but it’s kind of tragic. And where’s the outrage for the guidance counselors, who continually say the best path for the most people just happens to be the most expensive. And the politicians and the lobbyists who exacerbate the same myth and the employers who still insist on only interviewing people with a four-year degree. We set the table in a pretty self-evident way, and when we scratch our heads … you’re exactly right: the cost of tuition is increasing faster than inflation but also faster than health care, faster than real estate, faster than food, faster than energy. Never before in the history of Western Civilization has anything so potentially important become so egregiously expensive. So, college is expensive because we’ve freed up an unlimited pile of free money and told an entire generation they were doomed to fail if they didn’t borrow it, and that’s happened in every single tax bracket, not just the top one. … We’re obsessed, not really with education, you know. What we are obsessed with is credentialing. And so people are buying diplomas. And they’re buying their degrees. It’s a diploma dilemma, honestly. It’s expensive. It is getting worse. It’s not just the kids holding the note. It is us. — Mike Rowe, college graduate and former host of the Dirty Jobs reality show on the Discovery Channel
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!