Now, while this is in no way recommended since finishing a high school or college degree can help open many doors careerwise, there is a rare breed of people that are doing incredibly well outside of academic scenarios. Keep reading to learn about the “school dropouts” that became some of the world’s most successful people.
The campy pop singer Katy Perry was in love with music from a very young age. She decided to drop out of high school when she was just 15 years old so she could dedicate herself to music full-time.
Perry began singing as a gospel singer in her local church, and once a music producer heard her voice, her career took off. Perry has become one of the world’s most successful, highest-grossing pop singers.
Gore master Quentin Tarantino left high school pretty early. Tarantino dropped out when he was 15 years old and got a job as an usher at an adult film theater while studying acting.
He then scored a job in the Video Archives and started writing the scripts for "Natural Born Killers" and "True Romance." In 1992, he made his directorial debut with the cult classic film "Reservoir Dogs." Tarantino is one of Hollywood’s most famous directors, having created some of the most legendary films in the last three decades. He’s won two Academy Awards.
Robert De Niro
This acting legend was very clear about his dreams from an early age. The brilliant actor Robert De Niro dropped out of school at age 16 to study acting full-time, and we are so happy he did. De Niro is not only one of the world’s most successful actors, but he’s also a very good businessman.
He owns several restaurants in New York, his own cinema studio, and has invested in some of the last decade’s most profitable companies.
Before becoming the beloved Princess of Wales, Diana lived a pretty normal life. She went to the West heath Girls’ School but unfortunately did poorly and was regarded as ‘below-average’ academically. Diana left the school at 16 and enrolled in another school in Switzerland, but that didn’t last long.
Diana dreamed of becoming a ballerina but was told she would never be one because she was too tall. Eventually, she decided to work with kids and got a job at Young England Kindergarten, where she was an assistant part-time. Soon after, she met Prince Charles. They got engaged when Diana was barely 19 years old.
DiCaprio is one of the world’s highest-paid actors, and he’s been on the silver screen since he was a kid. When he was young, DiCaprio dropped out of school in his junior year and enrolled in a free local drama center.
The actor has frequently said how he hated attending public school, and the only thing he wanted to do was go to acting auditions, mainly so he could help his family’s stressful financial situation. Well, the days of financial stress are definitely long gone.
One of the pioneers of cinema in America, Marcus Loew founded the famous Loew’s theaters and also contributed to the founding of the MGM film studio. Loew was born to a very poor family in New York in 1870. He had to drop out of school at a very young age so he could work and help the family.
After some years of hard work and several different jobs, Loew founded his first movie theater in 1904. The company grew and saw incredible success for over a century, eventually becoming the AMC Theaters and Cineplexes we know today. Marcus Loew died a millionaire in 1927.
Jay-Z is truly an admirable example of what can be achieved with hard work. Growing up in one of Brooklyn’s roughest neighborhoods, Jay-Z focused on his music and never looked back. He dropped out of high school at a young age and started recording hip-hop.
Nowadays, he is a billionaire recording artist, Grammy Award winner, businessman, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and family man. Not to mention he married Queen Beyonce and has a beautiful family with her.
The magical Julie Andrews has had an incredible career in the entertainment industry, spanning over 60 years. She is the daughter of two vaudeville performers, so a formal education wasn’t really possible since they were constantly moving around. Andrews left school at 15 years old, and even though she’s said she regrets not completing her education, at least she’s had a prolific career.
Andrews discovered her incredible vocal range during voice lessons with her dad. By the time she was 19, she was on Broadway. She went on to act in box-office classics like "Mary Poppins," "The Sound of Music," "The Princess Diaries," and more.
The infamous Napster developer Shawn Fanning is a college dropout that went on to make billions. Fanning left Northeastern University at age 19 and went on to create Napster in 1999. Napster revolutionized the world, becoming the first peer-to-peer file-sharing platform in history.
Even though the program took a while to be perfected and deal with the infinite amount of copyright lawsuits that came, Fanning managed to get out of the mud, keep programming and go on to fund several tech companies. The man is worth over $70 million nowadays.
David H. Murdock
The owner and CEO of Dole Foods is not only a self-made billionaire, but he’s also a health nut and a plant-based diet advocate. David H. Murdock was born in 1923, and after dropping out of high school at the young age of 14, he went to work at a local gas station. At the age of 20, he was drafted into the Army.
Murdock came back to the U.S. and bought a diner in Detroit, selling it for profit some months later. That continued for decades until he founded the Dole Foods Company, which earned him a net worth of over $2.9 billion.
The Australian beauty and brilliant actress Nicole Kidman is one of the world’s most famous female celebrities. But before she became rich and famous, Kidman was forced to drop out of school at age 17 when her mother got sick with cancer. She needed to help with her family’s economic situation, so she left school and started working as a massage therapist.
Thankfully, her mother recovered, and Kidman went to college and then theater School, cementing the base of what would be a long and prosperous acting career.
Kemmons Wilson, the multimillionaire hotelier that founded Holiday Inn, didn’t have an easy childhood. He had to drop out of high school to help his mother economically since his father had died when he was very young, and he was an only child.
Many years later, with a family of his own, his wife and five kids were doing a family road trip from Arkansas to Washington, D.C., and Wilson was extremely let down by the lack and poor quality of hotels along the road. So, a few years later, in 1952, he opened the first Holiday Inn in Memphis, Tennessee.
The global online marketplace Etsy has become a business with over $2 billion in profits, and its creator was barely 25 years old when he founded it. Rob Kalin was never too good at academic work, flunking out of high school and then dropping out of an art school he attended for a time.
Kalin then made a fake ID so he could attend some classes at MIT, and he was so good at making things and ideas that his own professors helped him get enrolled in New York University. In 2005, Kaling founded Etsy.
The stunning and incredibly talented actress Catherine Zeta-Jones has starred in some major movies. Her roles in "Entrapment," "The Legend of Zorro," "Ocean’s Twelve," "Traffic," "High Fidelity," and countless others have cemented her as one of Hollywood’s leading ladies.
Zeta-Jones dropped out of high school when she was 15 years old because she knew from early on she wanted to become an actress. She had been in some Broadway shows and loved it, knowing she had to dedicate full time to her craft.
Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen was discovered at the young age of 14 by a modeling talent scout. She decided to drop school and become a full-time model, and it definitely paid off. Gisele went on to become one of the highest-paid models in the industry, using her fame to become an activist and philanthropist.
She’s made the cover of the world’s most renowned fashion magazines and modeled for haute couture labels. Nowadays, Gisele is also a savvy businesswoman and entrepreneur and has two beautiful children.
Legendary comedian and vaudeville performer George Burns had a stellar career in show business that spanned over 90 years. Burns dropped out of school when he was in 4th grade after his father passed away. He worked entire days running from one job to the next, selling newspapers, shining shoes, etc. One of his jobs was at a neighborhood candy shop, and he and his coworkers decided to form the "Peewee Quartet."
The Quartet broke up after some time, and Burns went on to perform with whomever he could find until he finally met his forever partner in life and comedy, Gracie Allen, in 1923.
Harry Wayne Huizenga
The owner of Blockbuster Video, the Miami Dolphins, the Florida Panthers, and the Miami Marlins, it’s safe to say that American businessman Harry Huizenga was a very wealthy man. Huizenga made his fortune by founding a garbage company named Waste Management Inc. and AutoNation.
But this millionaire didn’t even finish college. Huizenga graduated high school, went on to work for five years, and then joined the army. He attended Calvin College in Michigan, but he only lasted a year before dropping out.
Leandro Rizzuto was an American businessman that became a billionaire after co-founding the Conair Corporation. Conair became one of the world’s biggest sellers of health and beauty products for consumers and professionals, and it made Rizzuto a very wealthy man.
Rizzuto attended St. John’s University but dropped out after a short time to help his family set up a hair product business in their Brooklyn home. In 1959, he created Conair, with no more than $100 and a hot-air hair roller idea.
Famous Hollywood actress Hilary Swank dropped out of high school at 16 to study acting. In her 2007 role as a teacher in the film "Freedom Writers," she received a lot of criticism for portraying someone that encouraged their students to end their education.
Although Swank has said that she wishes she had finished high school, she did get her first acting debut at 18. She was cast as Kimberly in the 1992 film "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
American fashion designer Ralph Lauren is one of the world’s most successful businessmen, with a net worth of $7 billion. Lauren dropped out of college after two years and never got his business degree. He has often joked about how he sold neckties to his mates in high school instead of focusing on schoolwork.
He knew he wanted to be a millionaire from a very early age, and so, after dropping out of Baruch College, he went to work for a tie manufacturer and convinced him to let him start his own line. At 28, Lauren was already selling ties under his own brand name.
With a net worth of over $100 million, TV star Rachael Ray has made a business empire from her cooking. With her own show on Food Network, dozens of cookbooks, releasing her own magazine, and just being a savvy entrepreneur in the food industry, Rachael Ray is known country-wide.
Actually, Ray doesn’t have any formal culinary education. She never even went to college since she finished high school and went straight to work behind the candy counter at a Macy’s department store.
Where would we all be without Colonel Sanders’ spectacular fried chicken? Yes, a lot healthier, but not necessarily happier. After his father passed away when Colonel Harland Sanders was six years old, he became the default cook in the family since his mom spent her days working.
Sanders left school in 7th grade and worked as a salesman, a steamboat driver, a firefighter, and more. After some years, he earned a law degree and sharpened his business skills. This, combined with his life cooking experience, led him to found Kentucky Fried Chicken and amass a fortune during his life.
London-born actor Jude Law left high school at age 17 when he was offered the chance to star in "Families," a famous soap opera of the time. The role started his acting career, which went on to reach epic heights. Law has starred in some huge box-office hits, such as the Sherlock Holmes film series, "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "Closer," "The Holiday," "Cold Mountain," and dozens of others.
Law has been nominated for two Academy Awards, four Golden Globes, two Tony Awards, and won a British Film Academy Award.
Sir Elton John is one of the most brilliant and successful musicians of all time, and also a high school dropout. When he turned 11, Elton went to study classical piano at the London Royal Academy of Music on a scholarship. However, Elton wasn’t a fan of classical music; his heart was in rock and roll. So, by age 17, he left school and landed a gig playing the piano at a local bar.
He formed his first band, called Bluesology, and by the beginning of the 1970s, he was on the way to becoming a musical phenomenon.
Joyce C. Hall
Joyce C. Hall was the third son of a very modest couple from Nebraska. After his father passed away when he was seven years old, Hall had to go to work to support the family, and he did it by selling beauty products from door to door.
Even though he went to high school, he never graduated, instead coming up with an idea in 1905 to buy picture postcards and sell them to store owners. Hall and his brothers did this until finally founding the famous greeting card company, Hallmark.
Comedy genius Seth Rogen really climbed his way to the top of Hollywood. The man wrote the draft for "Superbad" when he was 13! Rogen dropped out of high school when he was 16 and moved from Vancouver to Los Angeles to work with Judd Apatow on the hit TV series, "Freaks and Geeks."
Rogen went on to become one of Hollywood’s leading writers, actors, and producers. He’s starred in over a dozen films alongside James Franco, Katherine Heigl, Danny McBride, Leslie Mann, and other A-list stars.
No introduction is needed for this college dropout since James Cameron is one of the most famous directors on the planet. The creator of "Titanic," "Alien," "Terminator," "Avatar," and other legendary film sagas actually wanted to be a physicist when he was younger.
Cameron enrolled in California’s Fullerton College back in 1973 to study Physics. However, he dropped out a year later and went on to work several menial jobs, such as truck driving and working as a janitor, while he studied film tech and special effects on his own around the town’s libraries.
As the CEO and owner of the Kering luxury fashion group, Francois Pinault is a French businessman worth over $12 billion. Kering owns Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, and others. He also owns the prestigious Christie’s Auction House.
As it turns out, Francois dropped out of public school when he was 11 years old to help his father at his lumber mill. He was made fun of because of his family’s poor financial situation. Well, who's laughing now?
Jack Crawford Taylor
Founded in 1957 in Missouri, Enterprise Rent-A-Car is one of America’s leading rental car companies. Its founder, Jack Crawford Taylor, made billions off his business, and he didn’t even finish college.
Taylor enrolled in Olin Business School at Washington University but dropped out to join the Navy. He became a fighter pilot in WWII. When he returned to the U.S., Taylor started working for a Cadillac dealership as a sales manager and then had his idea for a car lease agency, which eventually turned into Enterprise.
Nobody will ever forget Cameron Diaz’s debut acting role in "The Mask." The breathtakingly gorgeous blonde played Jim Carrey’s love interest and drove viewers wild. Diaz actually started out as a model after dropping out of high school at age 16 to pursue a career in the industry.
However, she was cast in her first role and had massive success as an actress. Diaz has gone on to act in some of Hollywood’s greatest comedy films. The actress retired in 2016 to focus on her personal life.
The billionaire founder of Best Buy, Richard Schulze, started working as a salesman in a consumer electronics store when he was barely in his 20s. Born in Minnesota, he went straight to the U.S. Air Force after graduating high school.
Schulze founded Best Buy in 1966, and it went on to become one of the world’s biggest consumer electronics stores. Best Buy is now worth over $18 billion, with Schulz having a net worth of over $3 billion.
The millionaire Canadian clothing manufacturer and businessman Dov Charney founded the famous clothing store American Apparel in 1989. Born in Montreal, Charney was diagnosed with ADD and dyslexia from a very young age, making high school somewhat challenging.
Regardless, Charney went on to study at Tufts University but dropped out after a few months and borrowed $10,000 from his family to start the first American Apparel store in South Carolina. Although the clothing company went bankrupt in 2015, Charney then founded Los Angeles Apparel, which now has a net worth of over $54 million.
Even if you live under a rock and never watch TV, you probably know who the infamous Simon Cowell is. The cheeky TV music judge and producer of "The X Factor," "American Idol," and "Britain’s Got Talent" actually dropped out of high school at 16 years old. Cowell went on to work in the mailroom of the famous music company EMI.
He worked there for seven years before leaving at 23 to start his own record label, which he called Fanfare.
Born Caryn Johnson, actress Whoopi Goldberg had a very rough time growing up. The entertainment legend dropped out of high school at a young age and went straight to substance abuse. After some very hard years, she got back on her feet and got her big break when she was cast in Spielberg’s "The Color Purple."
Goldberg went on to act in several box-office hits like "Sister Act" and "Ghost" and went on to make history by becoming the first black woman to host the Oscars. She has been awarded the Mark Twain Prize and is an EGOT winner (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony).
Frederick Henry Royce
Having a Rolls-Royce is one of the ultimate symbols of wealth and power since it’s one of the world’s most prestigious and expensive automobiles. Ironically, the brand’s co-founder, Frederick Henry Royce, never even finished elementary school.
Born in England in 1863, Royce was forced to quit school after his father died in 1872 and go out to sell newspapers for work. But that didn’t stop him from having a brilliant and creative mind that would turn him into a world-renowned, multimillionaire car and airplane engineer. In 1906, he founded Rolls Royce with two other partners.
The creator of the famous blog-hosting and social network app Tumblr, David Karp is worth over $200 million. Karp dropped out of The Bronx High School of Science when he was 15 and decided to dedicate full-time to computer programming.
In 2007, he created Tumblr in a room at his mother’s apartment, and a few years later, in 2013, he sold it to Yahoo for $1 billion. Karp kept his position and title as CEO of Tumblr.
Before he became an A-list Hollywood celebrity, Johnny Depp had one dream – to become a musician. Depp was so serious about his music that he dropped out of school when he was 16 years old and started his band, "The Kids," in Florida, where he grew up.
Depp moved to California and met makeup artist Lori Anne Allison, whom he married in 1983 while he was still trying to make it in the music world. In 1984, he landed his first big acting role in "Nightmare on Elm Street," and his acting career took off.
World-renowned escape artist and magician Harry Houdini dropped out of school when he was only 12 years old. Houdini, whose real name was Erik Weisz, went on to work several jobs until he turned 17 and joined his friend Jack Hayman and became the Houdini Brothers.
They worked on their tricks for years, and finally, when Erik was 24, he created "The Challenge Act," which consisted of him being able to escape from any pair of handcuffs. The act was a huge success and became the start of an incredible life and career.
You may love him, or you may hate him, but the fact remains that the CEO of McDonald’s is one of history’s most successful businessmen. Born in 1902, Ray dropped out of school as a young 15-year-old and lied about his age in order to work in the Red Cross. Luckily, WWI ended before he was shipped abroad.
After working in several jobs for years, Ray bought the original McDonald’s location from Dick and Mac McDonald back in 1961. He then went on to expand the fast-food chain into the global giant it is today, making over $500 million during his lifetime.
The incredibly successful actress Jennifer Lawrence dropped out of school to dedicate herself entirely to acting. Lawrence left high school when she was 14 years old and got her first acting job when she was 15 on the famous TV show "Monk."
Then she got her big break by playing Mystique in the "X-Men" film series, and in 2012, she became the star of the extremely successful film series, "The Hunger Games."
Ringo Starr, born Richard Starkey in 1940 in Liverpool, had a very rough childhood. Due to two accidents and getting sick with tuberculosis, Ringo spent most of his childhood in hospitals. By 15 years old, he had decided to drop out of school entirely and started to work.
The only good part about the hospital was that he had a lot of time to practice the drums, which was his favorite instrument. Starr joined a band at age 17, and his dad bought him his first drum set. After playing with several bands, Ringo joined The Beatles in 1962, and the rest is history.
Sean John Combs
American rapper P. Diddy (a.k.a. Sean John Combs) is a billionaire producer, entertainer, actor, and entrepreneur. A New York native, Sean Combs graduated from high school and attended Howard University but dropped out in his sophomore year. Combs went to work at Uptown Records as a talent manager, and in 1993 he founded his own label called Bad boy Records.
Combs has amassed a fortune producing some of the world’s biggest rap and hip-hop artists, acting in Hollywood, and launching his own fashion line.
The "Kill Bill" film series star Uma Thurman has had a spectacular acting career. Interestingly, she started out as a model, although her heart was always in acting. Thurman dropped out of high school at age 16 to study acting, but she got to work as a model instead.
After some time, some talent scouts spotted her at drama school, and she went on to become a world-famous actress. Her first big role was in 1988’s "Dangerous Liaisons" alongside Glenn Close and John Malkovich.
Born in Punjab, India, Gurbaksh Chahal dropped out of school when he was 16 years old. That was also the year that he founded Click Again, an online marketing service company. Chahal became a millionaire internet entrepreneur after selling his company for $40 million when he was barely 18 years old.
Nowadays, this brilliant Indian American businessman owns several online advertising companies, among them the famous BlueLithium, which he recently sold to Yahoo!
Mike Hudack is one of those rare software-developing geniuses that come around once every few years. Dropping out of high school at age 16, he went to work for a small cybersecurity company. After a few years, Hudack relocated to New York and got a job at Time Warner, which gave him enough of a financial cushion to found the famous Blip.tv in 2005.
Blip is an online hosting platform for content creators. Hudack became Facebook’s product manager and left Blip. He was also the Chief Technology Officer at Deliveroo and is currently the CPO at Monzo, an online banking platform based in the U.K.
John D. Rockefeller
The founder of the Standard Oil Company, John D. Rockefeller, is one of history’s first billionaires. As it turns out, John dropped out of high school two months before graduating and decided to study business at Folsom College.
Rockefeller made billions before the government dissolved his oil company. The billionaire was known for being a big donator to education and health causes. Funnily enough, he always stated the importance of getting a good education.
We all know and love Hershey’s chocolate, but most are not aware that the creator of the famous chocolate company didn’t have more than fourth-grade schooling. Milton Hershey founded Hershey’s Chocolate Company in 1894, with their first chocolate bars sold in markets in 1900.
The chocolate was such a success that he was able to grow the company and even start his own company town in Pennsylvania, which he aptly called Hershey.
The billionaire owner of Tesla, Elon Musk, is a college dropout that actually encourages people without a high school diploma to apply for jobs at his company. When he was 24 years old, Musk enrolled in a Physics Doctorate program at Stanford University. He dropped out after two days to dedicate full-time to the internet boom that was about to take over the world.
Musk went on to create some of the most cutting-edge technology companies to date, including SpaceX, Tesla, Inc., Neuralink, Open AI, and more.
Writer of beloved literary classics like "Oliver Twist," "A Christmas Carol," and "A Tale of Two Cities," Charles Dickens really has a talent for creating magical worlds. Unfortunately, Dickens had to drop out of school when he was a young boy of 12 after his father went to prison over unpaid debt.
Young Charles started working 10-hour days at a boot factory, as a court stenographer, and as a law clerk. When he turned 22, he became a journalist and then penned his first collection of stories in 1836.
Born in 1943 in New York, David Geffen was never good at school, having barely graduated high school with an average grade of 66. However, Geffen went on to become an American billionaire after founding some of the world’s biggest record labels. He co-founded Asylum Records in 1971, then his signature label Geffen Records in 1980, and finally, DGC Records in 1990.
As if that weren’t enough, he also co-founded DreamWorks film studio in 1994. But Geffen suffered from severe dyslexia, dropping out of college after a year and moving to California to get work in entertainment.
Isaac Merritt Singer
You might recognize the name Singer from seeing it written on nearly every sewing machine in the world, and it comes from this inventor’s last name.
Isaac Merritt Singer was an American businessman, inventor, and actor that came up with revolutionary design improvements to the traditional sewing machine. Mainly on making the machine more practical and easily adapted to any home. Singer didn’t even finish elementary school, running away from home at age 12 to join a traveling stage act.
After his father died in 1862, Kodak Company founder George Eastman was forced to drop out of high school and help the family by working. George was an inventor at heart and was always coming up with new ideas, one of them being bromide paper, which became an essential material for the film industry.
In 1892, George founded the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York. It became the famous Kodak photography empire that we all know today. Eastman was also a big philanthropist, donating to music, medicine, and dentistry schools across the country.
As one of the co-founders of Whole Foods Market in 1980, John Mackey has made quite a fortune. Mackey was the CEO of Whole Foods from 1980 up until 2022 and is a vocal supporter of a vegetarian and vegan diet.
The Texas native actually dropped out of college six times. He enrolled in the philosophy and religion program at the University of Texas and then at Trinity University during the 1970s. He also started to work at a vegetarian co-op at the time. Mackey spent six years between the two colleges without ever finishing a degree.
It’s not surprising to learn that Drew Barrymore dropped out of school to pursue acting since she’s been on screen since she was five years old. Making her acting debut in Spielberg’s famous "E.T. The Extraterrestrial," Barrymore went on to land roles in popular 90s films.
The woman has worked since she was a child and has gone on to start her own business, host her own TV show, and raise two kids!
Any 90s kid will remember the Beanie Babies stuffed toy craze. The man responsible was Ty Warner, an actor, businessman, and ultimately toy manufacturer. Warner dropped out of college after only one year to create his company Ty Inc. in 1986. Seven years later, in 1993, he created Beanie Babies, and the world went wild.
Now a billionaire, Warner owns several prime real estate properties, the Four Seasons Hotel in New York, and his company Ty Inc., which is now one of the biggest toy manufacturers in the world. Warner is worth over $3 billion.
With a net worth of over $5.3 billion, British businessman Joe Lewis is one of the world’s wealthiest people. Lewis had very humble beginnings, dropping out of school at age 15 to help out at his father’s catering business, called Tavistock Banqueting.
Tavistock Banqueting became the Tavistock Group, which now owns over 140 restaurants and resorts around the world and 200 companies (including the London Premiership soccer team Tottenham Hotspurs). Lewis also owns a planned community in Orlando that features several Medical Universities and Colleges. He mostly works from his yacht, where he spends most of his time.
Legendary restaurateur Wolfgang Puck is much more than a brilliant chef. The Austrian American millionaire owns over 100 restaurants and bistros, with over 6 of them having Michelin stars. Not to mention his appearance on several TV shows, reality TV, and documentaries. The man is a living legend.
Puck dropped out of high school at the young age of 14, so he could work full-time as an apprentice in a Monaco Hotel. From there, he moved to Paris and went on to work for some of Europe’s best fine-dining restaurants.
George Naddaff is the founder of UFood Grill, one of America’s most popular restaurant franchises, and Boston Chicken. Born in Boston in 1930, Naddaff knew what hard work was from a very young age, helping his father shine shoes on the street. He finished high school and joined the army at 17 years old. Afterward, he went straight to work, knowing that college wasn’t in the cards for him. His heart was in business.
Naddaff learned the value of franchising when he was a child, and that led him to become known as the Guru of Franchising many years later.
Mary Kay Ash
American businesswoman Mary Kay Ash was the founder of the famous Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc. By the time she passed away, she had a fortune of more than $98 million, and her cosmetics brand was making over $1 billion in sales. Ash managed to grow her sales team to over 800,000 people in countries around the world.
Mary Kay Ash was born in 1918 in Texas, and although she did graduate from high school, she never attended college or had any formal higher education. She married at age 17 and started working selling books door-to-door.
The Belgian billionaire Marc Rich made his fortune through his multinational trading and mining company, Glencore, which he founded in 1974. Rich and his family moved to the U.S. when he was eight years old and settled in New York. After high school, he attended New York University but dropped out after one semester to go work for a commodity trading company.
Glencore grew into one of the world’s most profitable oil and gas companies, with a net worth that surpassed $128 billion in 2020. Rich had several legal problems in his later years, for tax evasion and financial crime.
Before becoming a billionaire and owning one of the world’s biggest computer companies, Michael Dell was a humble boy from Houston, Texas. Dell went to the University of Texas and started Dell Computers out of his tiny dorm room. By the time he turned 19, he had decided to drop out and start his own company called PC’s Limited.
Nowadays, Dell Inc. is a company with a net worth of over $58 billion. He and his wife, Susan, are avid philanthropists.
Known as the "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin was a musical prodigy from a very young age. She recorded her first tracks when she was barely 14 years old and practiced her singing in her father’s gospel show. Franklin got pregnant at age 15 and had to drop out of school, but she never stopped singing.
She became one of the most revered singers in history, being the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, winning 18 Grammys (including a Lifetime Achievement Award), and receiving honorary degrees from Yale, Princeton, Harvard, and the Berklee College of Music.
Legendary record producer Russell Simmons co-founded Def Jam Records along with Rick Rubin in 1984. Def Jam Records went on to become one of America’s leading hip-hop record labels, producing DMX, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, Jay Z, LL Cool J, and many more.
Simmons, who dropped out of City College of New York in Harlem, also owns famous clothing brands Phat Farm, Argyleculture, and Tantris. Nowadays, Simmons is worth over $340 million. He’s also a bestselling author.
The Swedish billionaire Ingvar Kamprad was one of the wealthiest people in the world after founding IKEA at age 17. Kamprad came up with the idea for the multinational conglomerate while sitting at his uncle’s table one afternoon right after graduating high school.
Kamprad never even applied to college, as he also suffered from severe dyslexia. Even so, the man amassed one of the biggest fortunes in the world. He passed away in 2018 at age 91.
Technically, Paris Hilton didn’t drop out of high school — she was kicked out. After being expelled from boarding school, Paris went on to become a famous socialite and party girl. Of course, partying is enough to make you famous when you’re the princess of the Hilton family of hotel owners.
Paris tried her hand with acting, music, reality TV, and basically every entertainment outlet you can think of. But basically, she’s just famous for being rich, and leading the way for other socialites, like the Kardashians, to do the same.
You might not know Larry Ellison by name, but you definitely know his billion-dollar company, Oracle Software. The Oracle Corporation is the world’s third-largest software company, and industries and companies across the globe use its database system. Back in 1977, Ellison pitched in $2,000 to co-found the Oracle Corporation, but not before dropping out of two different colleges.
Nowadays, Ellison is known for his love of yachts, collection cars, real estate, and private jets. The man likes the good life.
We might not know his name, but we certainly know his clothes. Leslie Wexner is the billionaire businessman responsible for Bath & Body Works, Victoria’s Secret, Express Limited, and Abercrombie & Fitch. Wexner had an eye for retail, and after dropping out of law school, he started his first clothing store.
In 1963, Wexner borrowed $5,000 from his aunt to start his store, named The Limited. That grew into the business empire he owns today.
Texas-born country singer, actor, and TV host Jimmy Dean was truly a jack of all trades. He learned how to play the piano at age 10, dropped out of high school at 16 to become an entertainer, and by age 22, he was making his start in show business. Dean also branched out into business, creating the famous Jimmy Dean Sausage Company in 1969 together with his brother.
Dean filmed and acted in his own commercials, making the brand very popular. The company did so well that it was purchased by Consolidated Foods (later renamed Sara Lee) in 1984.
Dave Thomas is one of America’s most famous fast-food tycoons. The New Jersey native founded Wendy’s in 1969, which later became a worldwide famous fast-food restaurant chain. Thomas was the company’s CEO from its inception until his death in 2002, appearing in over 800 TV commercials for Wendy’s.
Thomas had to drop out of high school at age 15, but he had been working since age 12 at a restaurant called Regas. Three years later, while living with his father in Indiana, he left school to work full-time at a local restaurant. Thomas became a billionaire with a net worth of over $4.2 billion.
Business magnate and billionaire Richard Branson currently has a net worth exceeding $4 billion. The very savvy British entrepreneur made his fortune by founding and owning the Virgin Group, which owns airplanes, record labels, hotels, radio stations, and hundreds of other companies.
Branson started his first business, called Student Magazine, when he was 15, after leaving school for good. He’s often been very vocal about his disbelief in the University system of education. Branson has owned and directed over 500 companies throughout his life.
James H. Clark
Before there was Google and Firefox, there was Netscape, one of the first web browsers on the internet. The browser, owned by AOL, was created by James H. Clark, who obviously did extremely well for himself financially.
The self-made billionaire left high school at the young age of 16 and joined the US Navy, where he started learning about electronics. Clark, who has gone down in history as the first internet billionaire, made very wise investments in Facebook, Apple, and Twitter when the time was just right. The man is worth over $2 billion. At least he’s given $60 million of that to science research.
Singer Rihanna has not only broken records in music but has also become an incredibly successful businesswoman and entrepreneur. Born in Barbados, Rihanna was discovered in 2003 by two music producers from NYC that were spending their vacations on the island. She was 15 at the time and decided to leave school and move to New York.
Rihanna had her debut album produced and released by the legendary Def Jam Records, and her music career skyrocketed from there. Nowadays, Rihanna is worth over $1.4 billion and counting.
Talented actor Ryan Gosling is one of Hollywood’s highest-paid stars nowadays, and he deserves every penny. When Gosling was 17, he decided to drop out of high school to appear on the Disney TV show — "The Mickey Mouse Club."
After his debut role in "The Believer," Gosling has gone on to star in some of Hollywood’s most famous films, such as "La La Land," "The Notebook," "The Big Short," "Blade Runner 2049," "Drive," and countless more. In the case of this Canadian actor, dropping out of school was probably a wise decision.
Before there was Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, there was MySpace — one of the first social networking services on the web. California-born Tom Anderson and his friend Chris DeWolfe founded MySpace in 2003. Anderson was a genius computer hacker from a young age, having hacked into Chase Bank’s security system and prompting an investigation by the FBI.
Even though he did graduate high school, he never made it through college. Anderson enrolled in NYU Film School and dropped out after two days.
He may not have the fame of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, but Philip Emeagwali is equally as important when it comes to the development of computer science. The Nigerian computer scientist was forced to leave school when he was 13 years old due to the social and political unrest in Nigeria at the time.
Philip was such a savant in math that he earned a scholarship to the Oregon College of Education in the United States. In 1987, Philip discovered a formula that allowed several computers to communicate with each other simultaneously. This earned him the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize and unparalleled prestige.
For decades, Bill Gates has been ranked as the world’s richest person, owning the Microsoft Corporation since its inception in 1975. Gates wrote his first software program at 13 while in prep school. Years later, he enrolled in Harvard University, but only lasted two years before dropping out and founding Microsoft. At age 26, Gates had already become a millionaire.
Nowadays, Gates is worth over $131 billion, which he and his wife have largely invested in The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aiding worldwide health and education.
Any 90s kids will remember the ads for Steve Madden shoes – the big-headed dolls walking around in the stylish shoes that everyone wanted. Madden was born in Queens, New York, finished high school, and went to the University of Miami.
However, he dropped out after two years and decided to move to Long Island. Once there, the business-minded Madden started selling shoes out of the trunk of his car in the streets and founded his famous shoe company with $1,100 in 1990.
If you’re a cricket enthusiast, the name Sachin Tendulkar will be extremely familiar, as he is a legend in the sport. Tendulkar, born in Mumbai in 1973, wasn’t good at academics and left school at the young age of 16. However, also by that age, Tendulkar was playing cricket for India’s national team.
The Mumbai native went on to break world records and became one of the best cricket players in history and the only one to have scored over 34,000 runs.
Two-time World Heavyweight Champion and Olympic gold medalist George Foreman is one of the world’s most famous boxers. But Foreman had rough beginnings, dropping out of school when he was 15, in 9th grade, and joining street gangs. Fortunately, Foreman joined the Job Corps in 1965 and started training.
Foreman made it into the World and the International Boxing Hall of Fame, but his fortune of millions didn’t come from prize money. Ironically, it came after he retired and started working as the spokesperson for his line of barbeque grills.