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.
Haim Saban, billionaire producer of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV show. He also owns stakes in Univision and Paul Frank Industries. He was kicked out of agricultural boarding school and soon joined the Israeli army. He never attended college.
William Safire, columnist for the New York Times. Dropped out of Syracuse University to take a job as a researcher for a column.
Morley Safer, broadcast journalist, CBS News. He attended Harbord Collegiate Institute secondary school and briefly attended the University of Western Ontario before dropping out to become a newspaper reporter.
Edmond Safra, billionaire banker, philanthropist. He was a high school dropout.
Rosa Salazar, actress. She left home as a teen to pursue a comedy career. She has not attended college.
J.D. Salinger, novelist, Catcher in the Rye (with over 60 million copies sold so far). Briefly attended Ursinus College and New York University before publishing short stories in Collier’s and Esquire.
Gemita Samarra, model, actress, stuntwoman. She left school at the age of 16 and has not returned.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Rosa Salazar, J D Salinger, Marlene Sanders, William Safire, Morey Safer, Harlan Sanders, Jose Saramago, Silvio Santos Click To Tweet
Colonel Harlan Sanders, multimillionaire founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). He was an elementary school dropout but later earned a law degree via correspondence course.
Marlene Sanders, actress, news anchor, news executive. She dropped out of college after a year to start her acting career.
Noah Sandoval, chef and restaurateur (Oriole in Chicago). He dropped out of high school early and then left culinary school after two months. He worked at a prosthetic leg company before becoming a chef.
Sankaralingam, social and political reformer, founder of Land for Tiller’s Freedom. A member of the high caste in India, he quit college to join Gandhi’s movement for India’s freedom.
Silvio Santos, billionaire TV host, the first-ever Brazilian celebrity billionaire. He started out as a street vendor in Rio de Janeiro. Apparently he never attended college.
Jose Saramago, Nobel Prize-winning novelist. He graduated from trade school and then studied literature mostly on his own.
Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer. He dropped out of community college in Phoenix, Arizona, and began working in a video store.
Brandon Sargent, co-founder of EcoScraps. He dropped out of Brigham Young University to pursue his composting business.
Cherilyn Sarkisian, aka Cher, singer, Oscar-winning actress. She dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and started taking acting lessons. At 16, she moved out of her house. Soon she met Sonny Bono and they formed Sonny and Cher, created many hits, and starred in The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.
David Sarnoff, radio and TV producer. He was a high school dropout.
William Saroyan, Oscar-winning screenwriter, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. He was a high school dropout.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Ted Sarandos, Cher, David Sarnoff, William Saroyan, Vidal Sassoon, Rebecca Schaeffer, Maria Schneider, Ari Sason Click To Tweet
Ari Sason, helped his brother Joshua Sason found investment company Magna Group. He dropped out of the University of Buffalo to work out of his home to help his brother.
Vidal Sassoon, multimillionaire founder of Vidal Sassoon hairstyling salons and hair-care products. He dropped out of high school.
Rebecca Schaeffer, actress and model. She began modeling at the age of 16 and after graduating from college, she went to New York to model and act. She never attended college.
Micah Schaffer, director of operations at Snapchat. He has not yet attended college.
Bobby Schilling, U.S. Congressman. He went to college but did not finish.
Norbert Schemansky, Olympic gold medalist weight lifter. He started weight lifting at the age of 15. He never attended college.
Al Schneider, founder of Schneider National freight company. He had an eighth-grade education.
Maria Schneider, actress. She left home at the age of 15 to pursue a career as a model. At the age of 19, she was cast in the movie, Last Tango in Paris.
Nick Schorsch, billionaire founder of American Realty Capital Properties. He dropped out of college and never returned to finish.
Randy Schroeder, multi-millionaire network marketer and salesman, stockbroker, and inspirational speaker. The youngest person ever to be featured in Forbes, he never went to college.
Richard Schulze, billionaire founder of Best Buy. After high school and the Air National Guard, he sold electronics for his father’s distribution company and later opened a car-stereo shop. He never attended college.
Ryan Seacrest, multimillionaire radio and TV host, producer. He turned a high school internship at a local radio station into his own show. At 19, he dropped out of the University of Georgia and headed to Hollywood to build a career in radio and TV.
Seal, aka Seal Henry Olusugun Olumide Adeola Samuel, R&B singer and songwriter. He received a two-year associate’s degree in architecture. He struck out on his own at the age of 15.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Richard Schulze, Ryan Seacrest, Seal, Ke$ha, Kyra Sedgwick, Tom Selleck, Drew Sementa, Doug Selsam, Maurice Sendak Click To Tweet
Ke$ha Rose Sebert, singer and songwriter. She quit high school weeks before graduating and passed on a scholarship to Barnard College to go to Los Angeles to break into the music business.
Kyra Sedgwick, actress. She briefly attended Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Southern California before dropping out to act full time.
Tom Selleck, actor. He left USC three classes short of a degree to become a contract player for 20th Century Fox.
I started out at about $35 a week, so it was a pretty big risk to leave college to do that. But it’s like my dad always said: Risk is the price you pay for opportunity.
Doug Selsam, inventor of The Sky Serpent wind generator and heavy metal guitarist. He attended the University of California at Irvine, but never graduated.
Drew Sementa, founder, Premier Payment Systems. He left the University of Central Florida after his junior year to join a dot-com.
Maurice Sendak, bestselling children’s book author and illustrator. He never attended college. He had a number of odd jobs before landing a job as a window dresser at the FAO Schwartz toy store in New York City. His first book illustrations were published when he was 19 years old.
Amanda Seyfried, actress. She walked out of Fordham University on her first day of classes in 2004. As she notes, “You can learn more on your own.”
Rishi Shah, CEO of Outcome Health. He is a college dropout.
William Shakespeare, playwright, poet. He had only a few years of formal schooling.
Shakira, aka Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, Grammy-winning singer and songwriter who has sold more than 50 million albums. She attended a modeling school for awhile. While she never attended college, she founded Pies Descalzos to provide educational opportunities to thousands of Colombia’s poorest children and Barefoot, a nonprofit organization to provide schooling opportunities for millions of children around the world.
Adam Shankman, dancer, choreographer, director, producer, reality show judge. He dropped out of Julliard to return to Los Angeles to pursue a choreography career.
George Bernard Shaw, playwright, author. He was a high school dropout.
Charlie Sheen, actor. He never finished high school.
Martin Sheen (Ramon Gerard Estevez), actor. He never attended college until he went for a few months in 2006.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Amanda Seyfried, William Shakespeare, Shakira, Adam Shankman, George Bernard Shaw, Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen Click To Tweet
Blake Shelton, country singer, reality competition panelist. He left home right after high school and went to Nashville to try to make it as a country singer. He never attended college.
Jean Shepard, country music singer. While in high school, she formed a band, the Melody Ranch Girls. Later she was signed to Capitol Records and started a successful career in country music. She never attended college.
Sam Shepard, aka Samuel Shepard Rogers III, playwright, actor, screenwriter, director. He briefly studied agriculture at Mt. San Antonio College in California but dropped out to join the Bishop’s Company touring group.
Robert Sherman, Oscar-winning songwriter. At the age of 17, he enlisted in the Army. After World War II, he returned to write a novel but was soon encouraged to partner with his brother Richard in writing songs.
Yasumitsu Shigeta, billionaire founder of mobile phone distributor Hikari Tsushin and a medical insurance provider. He dropped out of college.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Blake Shelton, Sam Shepard, Robert Sherman, Jean Shepard, Edgar Sia, Alan Sillitoe, Joel Silver, Russell Simmons Click To Tweet
J. Earl Shoaff, the Millionaire Maker. He never graduated from high school.
Walter Shorenstein, billionaire real estate investor, Shorenstein Properties. He dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania and began buying commercial property after serving in the military during World War II.
Edgar Sia, billionaire real estate developer. He dropped out of college to start a restaurant which later expanded to more than 300 locations.
Dan Sidles, U.S. Marine and mountaineerer. He spent one year in community college before joining the Marines.
Alan Sillitoe, novelist. He left school at the age of 14 to work in a bicycle plant.
Joel Silver, movie producer. He attended the New York University film school but did not graduate (according to Hollywood Reporter although Wikipedia says he did graduate).
Russell Simmons, multi-millionaire co-founder of Def Jam records, founder Russell Simmons Music Group, creator of Phat Farm and Baby Phat fashions, founding partner of UniRush Financial Services, creator of Global Grind website, bestselling author, movie and TV producer. He left City College of New York at the age of 20 (after four years) to begin promoting local rap music acts (which he eventually signed to his music label) and producing records. He never graduated from college.
Harper Simon, musician son of singer/songwriter Paul Simon. He enrolled at the Berklee College of Music but quit before graduating.
Maggy Simony, author of Traveler’s Reading Guide. She never attended college.
John Simplot, billionaire potato king. He dropped out of 8th grade and left home at the age of 14. He sorted potatoes and raised hogs before saving enough money to buy his first potato field. He made his first million by the age of 30.
Ashley Simpson, actress and singer. When she turned 18, she move out of her parent’s house. She has not yet attended college.
Jessica Simpson, singer and actress. She left high school at the age of 16 to pursue a singing career. She later got her GED, but has never attended college.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Harper Simon, John SImplot, Ashley Simpson, Jessica Simpson, Frank Sinatra, Isaac Singer, Derek Silvers, Alexander Skarsgård Click To Tweet
Frank Sinatra, singer, Oscar-winning actor. He never finished high school.
Isaac Merrit Singer, sewing machine inventor, multimillionaire founder of Singer Industries. He dropped out of elementary school.
Derek Silvers, founder of CD Baby and MuckWork, professional musician, entrepreneur. He attended Berklee College of Music for three years, but it is not clear if he graduated or not (he’s very sparse with his online biographies).
The unquestioned college path deserves to be challenged. — Derek Silvers
Alexander Skarsgård, actor, director. After high school, he did national service in an anti-terrorism unit. He then attended Leeds Metropolitan University in England for six months, but didn’t study much. Instead, he “had a blast.” He later took a theater course at Marymount Manhattan College before continuing to pursue his acting career.
Jim Skinner, CEO of McDonalds for 8 years. He never graduated from college.
Dor Skuler, serial web entrepreneur (Zing, Safend, CloudBand, and Intution Robotics). He never got a college degree but learned a lot about being an entrepreneur at Unit 8200 of the Israeli armed forces.
Slash, see Saul Hudson.
Boyan Slat, inventor, founder of The Ocean Cleanup. He dropped out of college to found a non-profit group to clean up the oceans.
Christian Slater, actor. He dropped out of high school and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting.
Alfred E. Smith, governor of New York and presidential candidate. He left school at the age of 14 to help his family after his father died. He would later joke that he received his FFM degree from the Fulton Fish Market in New York City.
Daniel Smith, early employee at Snapchat. He dropped out of Stanford to work on Snapchat.
Dylan Smith, multi-millionaire co-founder of Box.net. He dropped out of Duke University and headed to Silicon Valley to build the business.
Elinor Smith, aviatrix, the Flying Flapper. By the time she was 17, she was ferrying passengers on short hops from Roosevelt Field in Long Island. By 18, she had her own sight-seeing business. She never attended college.
Marilynn Smith, golfer. She quit college to become a pro golfer.
O. Bruton Smith, billionaire. He never attended college.
I didn’t attend college, but still had a good time. I think I probably had more fun than any human deserves a right to have. — O. Bruton Smith
Patti Smith, poet, visual artist, songwriter. She dropped out of teacher’s college to start life as an artist in New York City.
Ryan Smith, chief marketing officer, Qualtrics. He was two credits shy of an undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University when he quit to work for his family’s business. Ten years later he earned enough credits to graduate.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Christian Slater, Daniel Smith, Elinor Smith, Patti Smith, Shepard Smith, Will Smith, Walter L Smith, Duke Snider, Phoebe Snow Click To Tweet
Shepard Smith, news anchor. He dropped out of the University of Mississippi two credits shy of graduating.
Walter L. Smith, president of Florida A&M University. He dropped out of high school but later earned an equivalency diploma at the age of 23.
Will Smith, Grammy-winning rapper, actor. He did not attend college. As the Fresh Prince, he and DJ Jazzy Jeff released their first album before he finished high school. They received the first Grammy for a hip-hop act. Due to the success of that first album, Smith decided to forgo college for show business.
The things that have been most valuable to me I did not learn in school. Traditional education is based on facts and figures and passing tests—not on a comprehension of the material, and its application to your life. … I know how to learn anything I want to learn. … Give me the book, and I do not need somebody to stand up in front of the class. — Will Smith
Edwin “Duke” Snider, Hall of Fame baseball player. He went into the military after high school and then signed a minor league baseball contract. He never attended college.
Phoebe Snow, singer, songwriter. She dropped out of college to perform in clubs and coffeehouses. Frank Sinatra said of her: “She is the best singer in the history of the world.”
Edward Snowden, NSA leaker. He never finished high school but did earn a GED. He then dropped out of Army training after breaking his legs. He attended community college but dropped out rather quickly.
I don’t have a formal education, and that’s held me back in a lot of ways. In terms of just wanting to have some kind of formal education, it’s difficult to go back and get one later on.
Daniel Snyder, billionaire owner of Snyder Communications and Red Zone Capital, owner of the Washington Redskins. He dropped out of the University of Maryland to start a marketing business.
Lynsi Snyder, billionaire owner of In-N-Out Burger. She never graduated from college.
Josh Sommer, founder, Chordoma Foundation. He dropped out of Duke University to co-found the Chordoma Foundation to fund research on this rare bone cancer.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Edward Snowden, Daniel Snyder, Tony Soprano, Kevin Sorbo, Shannyn Sossamon, Angelo Sotira, Michael Sorkin Click To Tweet
Tony Soprano, fictional character on HBO’s The Sopranos. He took a semester and half of college.
Kevin Sorbo, actor, director, producer, and model. He left Moorhead State University in Minnesota early to pursue a career in acting.
Michael Sorkin, co-founder of iGo3D. He left college to found iGo3D, a 3D printer distributor. He never liked college. As he said, “I was frustrated. I wanted to build things.”
Shannyn Sossamon, actress, dancer. She left her hometown of Reno, Nevada, the day after graduating high school and headed to Los Angeles to pursue dance.
Angelo Sotira, multimillionaire founder of DMusic and deviantART. Founding DMusic while he was still in high school, he never attended college.
Kevin Spacey, actor, producer. He dropped out of Julliard after two years to act professionally.
James Spader, actor. He dropped out of high school.
I left high school with the option of returning whenever I wanted. The high school was tremendously gracious in that way. They said, Any time you want to come back, we’ll welcome you. Maybe I should take them up on it. I’d probably make great use of it.
Britney Spears, singer, actress, youngest woman to have five albums debut at #1 on the Billboard list. She dropped out of high school.
Jamie Lynn Spears, actress. She dropped out of high school.
Scott Speedman, actor. He dropped out of theater school and was sleeping on his mother’s couch when he finally got a part in the Felicity TV series.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Kevin Spacey, James Spader, Britney Spears, Jamie Lynn Spears, Scott Speedman, Abigail Spencer, Evan Spiegel Click To Tweet
Abigail Spencer, actress. She was discovered by a casting director while sitting in the audience of the Regis & Kathie Lee TV show (where they talked to her for a few seconds). She auditioned and was cast for a role in All My Children. Then, instead of going to Carnegie Mellon as she had planned, she moved to New York City to act. She has not attended college.
Evan Spiegel, co-founder of Snapchat. He dropped out of Stanford University a few weeks before graduation.
Steven Spielberg, billionaire movie director and producer, co-founder of DreamWorks. Rejected by the best film schools, including USC, he enrolled in and then dropped out of Cal State Long Beach. He then got a job as an intern at Universal. He did receive a college degree later in 2002.
Frank Mickey Spillane, novelist, comic book writer. He briefly attended Fort Hays State College in Kansas after graduating from college. He then work odd jobs, performed as a trampoline artist for Ringling Bros., and finally enlisted in the Army Air Corps.
Lysander Spooner, abolitionist, attorney, and author. He did not attend college. In 1835, he challenged the law that kept those without college degrees from setting up as an attorney without five years of apprenticeship.
Rick Springfield, singer and actor. He never attended college.
Bruce Springsteen, Grammy-winning and Oscar-winning singer and songwriter. He never attended college.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Steven Spielberg, Mickey Spillane, Rick Springield, Bruce Springsteen, Sylvester Stallone, Blaze Starr, Ringo Starr Click To Tweet
Sylvester Stallone, actor, director, and screenwriter. He struggle in high school and was expelled from several schools. He studied drama at the American College of Switzerland and the University of Miami, but he dropped out to pursue an acting career in New York City.
Blaze Starr, see Fannie Belle Fleming.
Ringo Starr, drummer for the Beatles. He did not attend college.
Jason Statham, actor, model, diver. At the age of 15, he dropped out of school to work confidence games. He later dived for the British National Team. He then became a model and finally an actor.
Gwen Stefani, singer and songwriter, No Doubt. She struggled in school. She never attended college.
School was just really hard for me. I didn’t want to fail. I wanted to be smart! But I was really dreaming. … It makes me sad when I think about it. I still have nightmares about tests. — Gwen Stefani
Jonathan “Jono” Steinberg, billionaire founder of Wisdom Tree Investments, dropped out of Wharton.
Haley Steinfeld, actress and singer. She did not attend a traditional high school and has not yet attended college.
Jake Steinfeld, bodybuilder, founder of Body by Jake, co-founder of FitTV and Major League Lacrosse. He dropped out of the State University of New York and moved to California to follow his passion as a bodybuilder.
Greg Stemm, co-founder of Odyssey, a shipwreck recovery company. Studied marine biology for two years at New College of Florida before dropping out to work with Bob Hope as his PR man.
Dale Stephens, founder of Uncollege.org. He dropped out of Hendrix College for at least two years to launch Uncollege.org. As a Thiel Fellow, he has not yet finished college.
Hiram Stevens, engineer, inventor. He dropped out of high school.
Kristen Stewart, actress. She dropped out of school in the seventh grade to study independently at home. “That was a necessity. When I would go away to work, my teachers would only give me a portion of my schoolwork, and I would come home and they’d fail me. I was very happy to leave.”
I want to go to college for literature. I want to be a writer. I mean. I love what I do, but it’s not all I want to do—be a professional liar for the rest of my life. — Kristen Stewart
Patrick Stewart, actor, producer, director, writer. He dropped out of high school at the age of 15.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Jason Stratham, Gwen Stefani, Haley Steinfeld, Jake Steinfeld, Kristen Stewart, Patrick Stewart, Ben Stiller, Dean Stockwell Click To Tweet
Ben Stiller, actor, director, and producer. He went to the UCLA film school for nine months and then headed for Broadway. As he noted, “I was the guy who dropped out and moved back in with his parents.”
Dean Stockwell, actor and artist. He was a child movie star. He dropped out of acting at one point to work as a laborer. He never attended college.
Eric Stoltz, actor and producer. He dropped out of the University of Southern California in his junior year and joined a repertory acting company in Edinburgh, Scotland. He moved to New York City in 1981,
studied with Stella Adler and Peggy Feury, and soon got his first film role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Allen Stone, singer. He left Bible college to work as a musician.
Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter and Obvious. He was a college dropout.
Emma Stone, actress. At the age of 15, she gave her parents a PowerPoint presentation about ditching high school to pursue a career as an actress. Her mother accompanied her to Hollywood so she could become an actress. She was home-schooled while auditioning for jobs. She has not yet attended college, but expressed interest in taking some classes after visiting the Salk Institute while filming Spider-Man.
Edward D. Stone, architect. He dropped out of the University of Arkansas.
Sharon Stone, Golden Globe-winning and Emmy-winning actress, producer, and model. She dropped out of Edinboro State University.
W. Clement Stone, multimillionaire insurance businessman, founder of Success magazine, and author of a number of books on positive mental attitudes. At the age of six, he sold newspapers on the south side of Chicago. By the age of 13, he owned his own newsstand. He continued to work odd jobs until his mother bought a small insurance agency, where he helped her by selling insurance. At the age of 21, with $100 in his pocket, he established the Combined Registry Company insurance business which he built into a multi-million dollar business. He dropped out of elementary school but later attended high school night courses and some college.
Curtis Stone, chef and reality TV star. He did a commercial cookery apprenticeship at a local vocational school before beginning to work in restaurants around Melbourne, Australia. He then went backpacking around the world before starting to cook in London. He never attended college.
Tom Stoppard, Tony-winning playwright and Oscar-winning screenwriter. He didn’t like school, so he never attended college.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Eric Stoltz, Allen Stone, Biz Stone, Emma Stone, Sharon Stone, W. Clement Stone, Tom Stoppard, Madeleine Stowe, Jessica Stroup Click To Tweet
Madeleine Stowe, actress and screenwriter. Spent one year studying film and journalism at the University of Southern California. Never graduated from college.
Barbra Streisand, singer and actress. She started her singing career at the age of 18. She never attended college.
Jessica Stroup, actress. A high school volleyball star, she turned down an academic scholarship to pursue acting.
Clyde Austin Stubblefield, drummer. He never attended college. He was rated as the second best drummer of all time.
Wes Studi, actor, Native American activist. After a brief stint in the Army as a horse trainer, he began acting in community theater in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He soon moved to Los Angeles, California to become a movie actor.
Naim Suleymanoglu, Olympic weight lifter. He never attended college.
Keifer Sutherland, actor and producer. He has never gone to college. His college experience, according to him, was working the rodeo circuit: “We were roping in the rodeo during the day and having some of the best nights I’ve had in my life. I always consider that my university experience.”
Candice Swanepoel, superstar model. At the age of 15, she moved from South Africa to Europe to pursue a career as a model.Famous, Rich, and Successful People Who Were Dropouts: Barbra Streisand, Wes Studi, Keifer Sutherland, Hilary Swank, Taylor Swift, Mark Sykes, Jessica Szohr, Candice Swanepoel Click To Tweet
Hilary Swank, actress, swimmer, gymnast. Dropped out of South Pasadena High School to act professionally. When she was 15, she and her mother headed to Los Angeles with $75 in their pockets. They lived out of their Oldsmobile Delta ’88 until she found work in TV.
I did leave high school my sophomore year, but I got my GED. I wouldn’t ever recommend not going to school. I think it’s case by case. But what’s really important is not just to have a diploma but also to experience life. I’m certainly not very book smart, but I started traveling at 16, and it has enriched me in ways I could never begin to explain (Time magazine). My education has been traveling the world, meeting different people, and seeing all different walks of life (Ladies’ Home Journal).
Taylor Swift, singer and songwriter. She released her first album at the age of 16. She left high school at the same age. She has not yet attended college.
Mark Sykes, art dealer, gambler, bookie, gentleman, and rogue. He attended Oxford University for 18 months (primarily running highly profitable card games). He then dropped out to gamble professionally.
Louis Szekely, aka Louis C.K., comedian. He did not attend college. Instead, he worked at KFC, he ran demolition for carpenters, fixed cars, and worked in a video store.
I didn’t go to college. I didn’t get a diploma. I missed a lot of early life landmarks. — Louis C.K.
Jessica Szohr, model, actress. Graduated from high school a semester early and moved from Wisconsin to Los Angeles to work as a model, but she soon was cast in a number of TV shows. She has not attended college.
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!
Here’s the deal: School is not authentic because it ends. It’s not true. It’s not real. — Jaden Smith, actor