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Eight Successful People Who Dropped Out of College

Nov 10, 2010 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 0 Comments

Think you need to go to college to be successful? Think again. While college is the route to a successful career for many, there are plenty of examples of highly successful people who either never went to college or never completed. Here are a few examples of people you’ve probably heard of—who never earned a degree.

Richard Branson

Richard Branson

You may know Richard Branson from his reality show, The Rival Billionaire: Branson’s Quest for the Best, which was created to rival Donald Trump’s The Apprentice. The show only lasted one season—not one of Branson’s big successes. However, he’s got plenty of achievements under his belt—including the multi-billion dollar Virgin brand, which includes Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Records, and over a hundred other companies. He dropped out of high school at the age of 16 and never went to college.

Paul Allen

Paul Allen

A co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen dropped out of Washington State University after two years of attendance. In addition to helping establish one of the most successful computer companies in the world, he also owns numerous professional sports teams and lots of profitable real estate. He’s also associated with diverse media companies, including DreamWorks Studios.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

The founder and CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs is the genius behind such essential tech gadgets as the iPhone, the iPod, and Mac computers and software. He’s one of the most powerful and influential businesspeople in the US, and he’s also the largest Disney shareholder. Jobs attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon—for just one semester.

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Laurn

One of America’s most famous fashion designers, Ralph Lauren attended Baruch College for just two years—he studied business—before dropping out. Today he makes over 5 billion in revenue from his various clothing lines and other business ventures. He was also decorated as a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by President Sarkozy of France in 2010.

Karl Rove

Karl Rove

No matter what you think of his politics, you can’t deny Karl Rove has had a prominent and influential career. He’s known as one of the top political strategists and consultants to the Republican party, masterminding the successful 1994 and 1998 gubernatorial successes of George W. Bush—before going on to put him in the White House. He’s also served as Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff to President Bush and led the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Public Liaison, and the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives. He attended the University of Utah for two years before dropping out.

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling

She is the super-successful fiction writer who wrote the Harry Potter series, which have sold more than 400 million copies worldwide. She’s also served as producer of two of the seven installments of the Harry Potter film franchise. She’s recognized as one of the only authors in the world with a net worth exceeding $1 billion. She never went to college.

Warren Beatty

Warren Beatty

A highly successful Oscar winner in the areas of acting, producing, screenwriting, and directing, Beatty was a dropout of Northwestern University. He’s achieved Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Actor, Director and Writer for a single film multiple times—for Reds and Heaven Can Wait.

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

An iconic author of science fiction in the 50’s, Bradbury wrote many now-famous novels and short stories—including Fahrenheit 451. His books have been adapted into dozens of films and have served as inspiration for numerous Twilight Zone episodes. He’s won numerous awards for science fiction and fantasy writing. He’s even had an award named after him—the Ray Bradbury Award, presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors of America. He never went to college.

Dropping out of college isn’t a great idea for most people. But for a select few, it has led to a wealth of opportunities, success, and fortune. If you drop out of college or choose not to attend, it doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have a bright future. With creativity, innovation, hard work and dedication, you may still become the next big name in business, the arts, or politics.

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