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Top 10 College Dropouts

Updated on January 14, 2013

Why Dropout?

When you first start your college search the last thing on your mind is dropping out. Well if you take a look at this list of the top 10 college dropouts you might want to ask yourself who needs an engineer, science, art or business degrees? Okay I’m kidding. People please don’t drop out of college and expect to be the next Steve Jobs! It really is a great experience. You learn a lot of new things and meet a bunch of great people. College is a step in the right direction and although these people are of a select few who dropped out and became successful, most college dropouts aren’t as lucky.

So why do people drop out of college? Well there are many reasons why these people may have dropped out of college. While attending they may have found it to be rough and couldn’t handle the pressure. Maybe there parents pushed them to go to college and decided that it wasn’t right for me? Maybe it wasn’t a challenge and they felt as though they were wasting their time? Some people may have started college but found that they couldn’t support themselves financially so they had to drop out of college because of that. There are plenty of reasons as to why you would drop out of college but try your hardest not to. When conducting my research on these college dropouts I came across a few that surprised me. I though how in the world did he become this successful without a degree! These people are special at what they do and you really have to consider some of them geniuses in their own right.

1. Steve Jobs – The genius, innovator, pioneer, whatever else you want to call him. He revolutionized our lives from iPods, iPhones, iPads, Computers, etc. That man is a college dropout. After dropping out of Reed College after 6 months he would go on to start Apple. He will always be remembered by the world as one of the greatest men in our lifetime.

2. Bill Gates – Yes, Bill Gates was a college dropout. He attended Harvard in 1973 and two years later he decided that it wasn’t for me and founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Paul Allen. Great idea? I think so. He was named “Harvard’s most successful dropout.”

3. Frank Lloyd Wright – This man spent more time designing colleges than attending them. He is known as America’s most celebrated architect. He dropped out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1886 after just one year.

4. James Cameron – The Academy Award-winning director dropped out of college. He attended Fullerton College in 1971 and dropped out a short time later. He was torn between art and science, so he dropped out of college, married and a waitress and drove a truck for the local school district. His films include Titanic, Avatar, The Terminator, The Abyss, and more!

5. Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook? Well yeah the guy invented Facebook in his college dorm room. It was originally meant for only Harvard students the popularity of Facebook rose rapidly. I mean who doesn’t have Facebook? Mark decided he didn’t need college and dropped out of Harvard to move to Palo Alto, CA. He is now the youngest billionaire in the world, with a 2012 net worth of $17.5 billion.

6. Ted Turner - Turner didn't necessarily drop out of college he was expelled after being caught with a woman in his dorm room at Brown University. Turner was expelled from Brown University because this was against school regulation. I think things turned out alright for him. He's a successful businessman and founded CNN and TNT. His net worth is $2 billion.

7. Ellen DeGeneres - She attended the University of New Orleans but after one year of studying communications, she decided enough was enough and decided to drop out of college. She choose to start her career off as a stand-up comedian. She has won thirteen Emmys and numerous other awards for her work and charitable efforts. Her annual salary is just a mere $45 million. Not bad for someone who droped out of college huh?

8. Oprah Winfrey - She attended Tennessee State University in 1972 and decided to drop out to become an anchor on WTFV-TV and focus on her career goals and aspirations. Although she did go back to earn her degree in 1987 she is one of the most successful college dropouts. If you don't know who Oprah Winfrey is she has her own talk show, magazine, T.V. channel and also is one of the most famous philanthropists in the world alone with Bill Gates. Her net worth is $2.7 Billion.

9. Tom Hanks - I believe we all loved Tom Hanks in Forest Gump and many of his other great movies. Tom Hanks attended Chabot College in Hayward, California where he studied theatre. Then went to California State University in Sacramento and dropped out of college to intern full time at the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. He became a famous actor and will always be remembered as one of the greatest actors of our time.

10. Lawrence Ellison - This man not only dropped out of college but he decided to go back and dropped out again! He attended the University of Illinois for two years then dropped out. He then attended the University of Chicago before dropping out again after a year. He packed his bags and left for California in 1964. He founded Oracle in 1977 and has about As of 2012, he is the third wealthiest American citizen, with an estimated worth of $41 billion. Pretty good for a two time college dropout!

11. Paul Allen - Paul Allen is the co-founder of Microsoft along with Bill Gates. Who would have thought two buddies dropping out of College could go on to start arguably one of the most successful companies in America? Paul Allen is also the founder and chairman of Vulcan Inc., which manages his business and philanthropic efforts. He has also written a great book named Idea Man which talks about his early days with Microsoft and how he became the man he is today.

12. Ralph Lauren - This one was a surprise, Ralph Lauren went to Baruch College to study business but dropped out after just two years. He then went on to serve in the Army. After working as a salesman for Brooks Brothers he went on to start his own business selling neckties. He also sold neckties that he designed under the label 'Polo'. He later gained the rights to use the trademark Polo from Brooks Brothers. He is now a billionaire with an estimated net worth of $7.5 Billion.

Mark Zuckerberg's Three Keys To Facebook's Success

Business Tips From College Dropouts

Education is not your thing? Here are some business tips from Zuckerberg, Jobs, Gates, Dell, and Disney to start your business.

Mark Zuckerberg – “The dynamic of managing people and being CEO in a company is a lot different than being college roommates with someone.”

Starting a company with your friend might be a great idea because you’re working with someone you like to hang out with and has many things in common. But working with friends can create problems and deteriorate your relationship. Hang out with your friends when you’re relaxing and work with talented people you can recruit.

Steve Jobs – “So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.’

You must look through someone’s lack of accomplishments and assess their innate abilities. When interviewing a candidate, you must see who is more important than what because their previous work experience or skills can only partially benefit the role they will play your company.

Bill Gates – “The best way to prepare [to be a programmer] is to write programs, and to study great programs that other people have written. In my case, I went to the garbage cans at the Computer Science Center and fished out listings of their operating system.”

Before starting a business, learn the successes of other companies and study them. Once you have learned them you will be able to see the big picture and improve the performance of existing products

Michael Dell – “As important as school was, I found that it could be very disruptive to a steady income.

It’s inevitable that starting a business you must take risks. If you don’t try it you will never know what will happen. Being a business owner is a big risk taker.

Walt Disney – “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.

If you want to start a business, you must take the initiative and start doing than talking. A business needs a leader willing to take charge and stop waiting for the opportunity. What are you waiting for?


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    • KickStart1 profile image

      Andrew Armstrong 5 years ago from San Francisco, California

      I updated our college dropout list with more folks :)

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 5 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      You could always write a Hub on some of the others you found in your research. Although, I think education is important, many people can't afford to go and this could give them inspiration to obtain their goals without stresses over whether or not they have a degree!! Again, Very Interesting!!!

    • KickStart1 profile image

      Andrew Armstrong 5 years ago from San Francisco, California

      Glad you enjoyed it! I was also unaware while conducting my research. You should have seen some of the people that were dropouts. I would have never though that they were dropouts. One included Tom Hanks!

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 5 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Interesting Article!!! I was unaware of Frank Wright...Thanks for sharing!!