Famous High School Dropouts

People are so infatuated with the lives of celebrities, but most don’t realize the reason many are where they are today is because they dropped out of school. Famous dropouts success stories show the power of unschooling and pursuing your passions. Basically if you want to be an Artist, Creator, Entrepreneur, Designer, Architect, or Visionary, you’re most likely wasting your time in school by not pursuing your passion. These people are great testimonials that you can be successful unschooling high school. The reason so many people that dropout of school achieve success is because of The Purpose of School and The School System is Teaching People to Be Poor

"You can do poorly in school because you are too creative, too independent, too energetic, have too much of a leadership personality, you love nature too much, you are too social." ~ Carol Black

“I hate, loathe and despise schools….School is bad for you if you have any talent. You should be cultivating that talent in your own particular way.” ~ Maurice Sendak

“When I look back at all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.” ~ Paul Simon (American singer, songwriter, and actor that has won 12 Grammy awards)

"There is nothing you can do with a high school diploma that you can’t do without one." ~ Ken Danford

Wondering What Happened to Your Class Valedictorian? Not Much, Research Shows
"But how many of these number-one high school performers go on to change the world, run the world, or impress the world? The answer seems to be clear: zero."


Famous High School Dropouts

Robert Downey Jr.
Nicolas Cage
Kate Winslet
Gisele Bündchen
Pamela Anderson
Tom Cruise
Kate Moss
Cameron Diaz
Alicia Silverstone
Charlize Theron
Charlie Sheen
Nicole Kidman
Leonardo DiCaprio
Tobey Maguire
Amber Heard
Marilyn Monroe
Jena Malone
Kelly McGillis
Demi Moore
Michelle Williams
Marlon Brando
Christina Applegate
Jude Law
Christina Aguilera
John Travolta
Jessica Chastain
Emma Stone
Courtney Love
Chris Rock
Bill Cosby
Lindsay Lohan
Paris Hilton
Ewan McGregor
Keanu Reeves (Dropped out of school because he didn’t fit in)
Jim Carrey
Heath Ledger
Whoopi Goldberg
Michael J. Fox
Naomi Watts
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Jamie Lynn Spears
Christian Slater
Ewan McGregor
Matt Dillon
James Garner
Michelle Rodriguez
Roseanne Barr
Uma Thurman
Colin Farrell
Seth Rogen
Clark Gable
Ryan Gosling
Russell Crowe
Joaquin Phoenix
Lucille Ball
Al Pacino
Daniel Radcliffe
Bo Derek
Bo Hopkins
Tab Hunter
Robert Guillaume
Matt Dillon
Joshua Jackson
Robert De Niro
Jack Benny
Richard Lynch
Neve Campbell
Kiefer Sutherland
Humphrey Bogart
Kevin Bacon
Lucille Ball
Patrick Dempsey
Sir Michael Caine
Olivia Newton-John
Joan Crawford
Julie Andrews
Tracy Morgan
Damon Wayans

You need to be a high school dropout to be James Bond:
Sean Connery (Original James Bond)
Pierce Brosnan (James Bond)
Daniel Craig (James Bond; later at age 23 in 1991 graduated from the Guildhall School of Music)

Johnny Depp (Dropped out of school when he was 15 to pursue a career as a rock star. Apparently, acting was his fallback plan.)

Karen Black (Oscar-nominated actress-screenwriter- producer-songwriter-singer (high-IQ high-school dropout; left school to get married; divorced and earned admission to Northwestern University at age 16, then left at 17 to pursue acting in New York City).

Orlando Bloom (Actor who left high school at 16 to study acting; later won a scholarship to the British American Dramatic Academy)

Kristen Stewart ( The Twilight star wasn’t a fan of high school. After deciding that her teachers “failed her,” Stewart dropped out)

Patrick Stewart (Actor-writer-producer-director; former captain of the Enterprise on TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation and in films)

Alastair Sim (Actor that left school at 14 to work in his father’s store; later went to a university and became a teacher of speech and drama; played the title role of “Scrooge” in the classic 1951 holiday film.)

Charlotte McKinney (Bullying forced her to drop out of high school. Today, she is an American model and actress, famous for Dancing with the Stars)

Mark Wahlberg (got into drugs and alcohol at and early age, which is why he dropped out of high school)

Bob Hope (Oscar-winning actor-writer-producer; comedian; TV host; British-born American author; Congressional Gold Medal recipient; Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient; knighted (United Kingdom: Sir Bob Hope) (left school at age 12 before beginning high school; received an honorary high school diploma from Palm Springs High School at age 87 in June 1990).

Jennifer Lawrence ( "I dropped out of middle school. I don’t technically have a GED or a diploma,"she explained during a 60 Minutes interview. “I am self-educated.” Dropped out at age 14 and when asked if she regretted the decision, the Oscar winner responded, “No. I really don’t. I wanted to forge my own path. I found what I wanted to do, and I didn’t want anything getting in the way of it.”)

Alicia Witt (Actress-pianist with high-IQ was high-school dropout; left school to pursue acting)

Drew Barrymore ( Her career took off at an early age with her starring role in E.T. at just age 7. After that, she became too busy in her career to ever finish school)

Al Pacino (After failing every subject except English, he dropped out of his New York high school to pursue acting)

Carrie Fisher (Actress-writer; TV show host; best-selling American author (dropped out of high school; later attended Sarah Lawrence College)

Jimmy Dean (Singer-songwriter-actor; self-made multimillionaire American businessman; founder of the “Jimmy Dean Foods” brand sausage business (16, U.S. Merchant Marines; 18, U.S. Air Force).

Arnold Schwarzenegger (Actor-producer; Governor of California; Austrian-born American author (left school at age 14 to begin bodybuilding training and carpentry apprenticeship; later in 1979 as an adult in the United States graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Superior).

Angelina Jolie (Oscar-winning actress; United Nations goodwill ambassador; American author; former model (high-IQ high school dropout; dropped out of school in her sophomore year; returned in a special program and graduated a year early; later attended New York University).

Andrea Thompson (Television show host; former news reporter; former actress and model)

Majandra Delfino (Actress-singer-songwriter)

Rasta Thomas (Dancer-actor; martial artist)

Hilary Swank (Oscar-winning actress)

Rod Steiger (Oscar-winning actor)

Steve McQueen (Oscar-nominated actor)

Juliette Lewis (Oscar-nominated actress)

Harvey Keitel (Oscar-nominated actor)

Danny Aiello (Oscar-nominated actor)

Gene Hackman (Oscar-winning actor; best-selling American author)

Simon Cowell
Quentin Tarantino
Guy Ritchie
Michael Moore (Dropped out in eighth grade)
John Fusco (American screenwriter-producer ( Young Guns , Young Guns II , Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron , etc.) (left school at 16 to work; later earned an equivalency diploma and went to New York University).

Sonny & Cher
Easy-E (Eric Wright)
David Bowie
Ella Fitzgerald
Avril Lavigne
Jessica Simpson
Ringo Starr (Drummer for the Beatles)
Harry Styles (One Direction band)
George Michael
Kid Rock
George Harrison
Steven Tyler
Lil Wayne
Viki Carr
Ray Charles
Phil Collins
Boy George
Katy Perry
Mary J. Blige
Aretha Franklin
Frank Sinatra
John Michael Montgomery
Elton John
DJ Chris Evans
Kelly Osbourne

Brett Dennen

Ozzy Osbourne (Reportedly suffered from dyslexia. He left school at 15, then found work as a construction site laborer, trainee plumber, apprentice toolmaker, car-factory worker and slaughterhouse assistant. Today, he has a net worth of $220 Million)

Willie Nelson (Oscar-nominated songwriter-singer; Country Music Hall of Fame inductee; American author)

Billie Eilish (Independent Homeschooler who loved horseback riding as a child, then pursued a highly successful music career with 35 million followers on Instagram)

Angus Young (Rock star; co-founder of the band AC/DC)

Malcom Young (Rock star; co-founder of the band AC/DC)

Neil Young (Oscar-nominated songwriter-singer; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee)

Billy Joel (He said, “To hell with it, If I am not going to Columbia University, I am going to Columbia Records and you don’t need a high school diploma over there” and that’s exactly what he did)

Kurt Cobain (was never a fan of school and once he was introduced to the guitar, he dropped out to pursue a career in music)

Joss Stone (Pop Diva who has won two Brits and a Grammy dropped out of school at 16. She says, “It wasn’t that I was stupid. I’m just a little bit dyslexic, and I wasn’t very academic. I’m more artistic,”)

Waylon Jennings (Country music star; Country Music Hall of Fame inductee; American author)

Joan Jett (Rock star; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee)

Dave Grohl (One-time Nirvana drummer, Foo Fighters frontman, and high school opt-out)

Anne Murray (Singer; Canadian author)

Lucinda Williams (Singer-songwriter)

J.J. Reneaux (Singer-songwriter-storyteller; American author)

Abner Burnett (Singer-guitarist)

Eddie Vedder (Rock star)

Andre Benjamin (Rock star)

Cyndi Lauper (Rock star)

Chuck Berry (Rock star; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee; American author (equivalency diploma, in 1963 at age 37).

Gretchen Wilson (Singer-songwriter: American author that left school in the ninth grade)

George Carlin
Russell Brand
Richard Pryor
Jackie Gleason

Andrea Russett
Jake Paul
Casey Neistat
Kristen Leanne
Wroetoshaw (W2S)

Marcus Loew (Co-founder of MGM Studios)

Alan Sugar (Famous for the hit show, The Apprentice, dropped out at 16 and was soon selling car aerials and electrical goods out of a van. He was born in Hackney, the son of a tailor. Today, his net worth is $1.8 Billion)

Erik Finman (The youngest bitcoin millionaire dropped out of high school to pursue his passions)

Harry Houdini (World-renowned magician)

Vidal Sassoon ( Dropped out of high school to pursue hairstyling career as he fell in love with hair and today is probably one of the most well-known stylists in history with a net worth of $200 Million)

George Foreman (Dropped out of high school to become an Olympic gold medal boxer and then a businessman creating the George Foreman Grill making his net worth $300 Million)

Francois Pinault (Dropped out to work in his father’s lumber mill and then started a luxury goods conglomerate that owns some of the most popular brands such as Gucci making his net worth over $32 Billion)

Kirk Kerkorian ( Dropped out of school in eighth grade. Helped make Las Vegas what it is today. He had a hand in the making of both Caesars Palace and the MGM Grand, earning him a net worth of $4 billion)

David Karp (Dropped out of high school during his freshman year on his mother’s advice and went on to create Tumblr.com which he sold to Yahoo for $1.1 Billion)

Dave Thomas (Founder of Wendy’s)

Colonel Harland David Sanders (Was an American businessman, best known for founding fast food chain KFC, Kentucky Fried Chicken)

Ray Kroc (Founder of McDonald’s, worlds largest fast food chain)

Wolfgang Puck (Quit school at 14 to be a cooking apprentice at a hotel before becoming a Chef, restaurateur, and actor with a net worth of $75 Million)

Richard Branson (Billionaire founder of Virgin Group)

Joe Lewis (Dropped out at 15 to run fathers catering business before becoming a businessman and investor today owns 200 companies with a net worth of $5.2 Billion)

John D. Rockefeller (History’s first recorded billionaire)

Albert Einstein

Amancio Ortega (Third richest man in the world did not go to high school, dropped out of school at 13 to try his hand at retail before creating his own clothing brand, Zara)

Peter Jennings (Dropped out of high school at the age of 17, Jennings is quoted as saying that it was out of “pure boredom” that he failed his last year in high school, “I loved girls,” he said, “I loved comic books. And for reasons I don’t understand, I was pretty lazy”)

David H. Murdock (Dropped out of ninth grade and worked at gas station before being drafted into the Army in 1943. After the war, he bought his first business and has been building, buying, and selling companies ever since. He was the Dole Foods CEO and is a self-made billionaire with a net worth of $1.9 Billion)

James H. Clark (Self-made billionaire co-founder of Netscape with a net worth of $2.1 Billion, considered first internet billionaire)

Joseph Pulitzer (Self-made multimillionaire Hungarian-born American businessman; early American newspaper publisher; founder of the Pulitzer Prize and the School of Journalism at Columbia University)

Eric Morley (British entertainment businessman; founder of the “Miss World” pageant (orphaned at 11; Royal Navy training ship “Exmouth”)

Alan Gerry (Self-made billionaire American businessman)

Larry Flynt (Self-made multimillionaire American publisher; American author)

Wally Amos (Self-made multimillionaire businessman; founder of the “Famous Amos” brand cookie business; former William Morris talent agent; American author (17, U.S. Air Force)

Nguyen Van Hiev (Top Vietnamese physicist (completed elementary school education and then dropped out of various schools thereafter due to his family’s financial situation; later earned a degree in physics from the Teachers Training University)

James Randi (Magician-lecturer; Canadian-born American author (received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at age 67 from the University of Indianapolis, USA in 1995)

Philip Emeagwali (Supercomputer scientist; lecturer; one of the pioneers of the Internet (high-IQ high-school dropout; left school in native Nigeria due to war conditions and lack of tuition money; continued to study on his own and earned an equivalency diploma; later won a scholarship to Oregon College of Education in the United States; transferred after one year to Oregon State University)

Gurbaksh Chahal (Gurbaksh Singh Chahal) (Self-made American multimillionaire businessman; best-selling author (Honorary Doctorate degree in Commercial Science from Pace University, April 29, 2010)

Danni Ashe (Self-made multimillionaire American businesswoman; adult entertainment website operator; producer-model; former dancer)

Walter Anderson (American publishing executive-author; editor of “Parade” magazine (equivalency diploma).

Bob Ross (American painter; painting TV show host that dropped out in the ninth grade to work with his father as a carpenter)

LeRoy Neiman (Artist; American author)

Norman Rockwell (Artist; Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient who left high school at age 15, enrolled in various art courses; later graduated from the Art Students League of New York)

David Beckham

Mary Lou Retton (Olympic Gold Medal gymnast; American author)

Manny Ramirez (Baseball player)

James Naismith (Canadian-born inventor of basketball that dropped out of high school, then returned after four years; later went to McGill University).

Tommy Nunez (Basketball referee; American author)

David L. Jackson (American Olympic athelete in boxing (Sydney 2000 summer games)

Steve Francis (Basketball player)

Mario Andretti (Race-car driver; Italian-born author)

Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias (Olympic Gold Medal track- and-field athlete; golfer; women’s sports pioneer; National Women’s Hall of Fame inductee (won six Gold Medals and broke four world records at the Los Angeles 1932 summer games)

Charles Dickens

Leon Uris (Best-selling American author of Exodus)

Jerry Stanley (American author; university professor)

Robert F. Scott (British Antarctic explorer; author)

Dave Pelzer (Best-selling American author; lecturer)

Richard Marcinko (Best-selling American author)

Don Imus (Radio-show host; photographer; best-selling American author)

Art Bell (Radio talk-show host; best-selling American author)

José Saramago (Nobel Prize-winning Portugese author who dropped out of high school due to his family’s financial situation; later attended a technical school where he received training in auto repair)

Oral Roberts (Evangelist; founder of “Oral Roberts University”; best-selling American author who dropped out of high school)

Jack London (Best-selling American author that dropped out at 14 to work; later gained admission to the University of California; left after one semester)

Fran Lebowitz (Best-selling American author; humorist; actress)

William Faulkner (Nobel Prize-winning and Pulitzer Prize-winning best-selling American author; screenwriter (dropped out of high school in second year; later attended University of Mississippi but did not graduate)

Augusten Burroughs (Best-selling American author)

Hans Christian Andersen (Best-selling Danish author; wrote the stories “The Little Mermaid,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “Thumbelina,” “The Ugly Duckling,” etc.) (first attended a school for poor children; left home at 14 to find work; later obtained a scholarship and continued his education, which included attending Copenhagen University)

Steven-Elliot Altman (American author that was high-IQ high-school dropout; left school after beginning 10th grade and ran away from home; later earned equivalency diploma and entered college at 16, earning a degree at 19)

Mortimer Adler (American author; educator-lecturer; former editor of “Encyclopedia Britannica” (left school at 15 to work; later attended Columbia University in New York)

Grover Cleveland (22nd and 24th U.S. President; face is pictured on the U.S. one-thousand dollar bill (no longer printed) (dropped out of school to help family earn income; later studied law while a clerk at a law firm and became a lawyer)

Rosa Parks (Civil Rights Activist)

Henry William Sands (Retired civil-rights attorney)

Diana, Princess of Wales (was a poor student and she dropped out of high school at age 16)

Charles Rangel (Politician; U.S. Congressman (New York representative)

Mike Mansfield (Politician; U.S. Senator (Montana; longest-serving U.S. Senate Majority Leader, 15 years)

Joseph Moakley (Politician; U.S. Congressman (Massachusetts U.S. Representative)

James Florio (Governor of New Jersey 1990-1994)

Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Politician; Colorado U.S. Senator)

Roy Benavides (Injured Green Beret Vietnam war hero; U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor recipient)

Antonio Villaraigosa (California state politician that dropped out of high school; later attended night school and then went to UCLA and earned a law degree)

Ruth Ann Minner (Governor of Delaware 2001-2009; Delaware’s first woman governor (equivalency diploma, at age 32)

Jon Huntsman, Jr. (Former governor of the U.S. state of Utah; former U.S. ambassador to China; 2012 U.S. presidential candidate (dropped out of high school at 15 to join a rock band, later earned an equivalency diploma, then a degree in international politics from the University of Pennsylvania)

Richard Carmona (U.S. Surgeon General; physician; university professor; SWAT team police officer (dropped out of school at age 14; later joined the U.S. Army and became a Green Beret; earned an equivalency diploma and eventually a medical degree from the University of California at San Francisco)


Check out our other post about Famous People Who NEVER Went to School
Tim Tebow (Football and baseball star who did not attend a single day in public school until his first day at the University of Florida. Tim instead spent his early education years working on his family’s farm and attending classes taught by his parents together with his siblings)

Jaden Smith

Gabriel Conte (Youtube personality who only went to 1st & 2nd grade, was homeschooled and went to college)

George Burns (Successful TV and movie comedian that dropped out in fourth grade to go to work shining shoes, running errands, and selling newspapers)

Sawyer Fredericks (American singer–songwriter who won the eighth season of The Voice in 2015, homeschooled using the unschooling method)

George Washington (1st U.S. President; former general; Chairman of the Constitutional Convention; U.S. nickname: “The Father of Our Country”; face is pictured on the U.S. one dollar bill and twenty-five cent coin (quarter) (no formal education; home schooling/life experience; went to sea in his youth)

Andrew Jackson (7th U.S. President; face is pictured on the U.S. twenty dollar bill (13, U.S. Continental Army; orphaned at 14; little formal education; home schooling/life experience; studied law in his late teens and became a lawyer)

Martin Van Buren (8th U.S. President (little formal education; later began studying law at age 14 while an apprentice at a law firm and became a lawyer)

Cesar Chavez (U.S. farm labor leader pioneer (17, U.S. Navy; elementary school dropout)

Carl Sandburg (Pulitzer Prize-winning best-selling American author; Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient (little formal education; later passed entrance exam to Lombard College and graduated)

W. Clement Stone (Self-made multimillionaire (some sources indicate billionaire) American businessman-author; founder of “Success” magazine (elementary school dropout; later attended high- school night courses and then some college)

William Owens (Baseball player (elementary school dropout; received honorary high-school diploma at age 94)

Abraham Lincoln (16th U.S. President; face is pictured on the U.S. five dollar bill and one-cent coin (penny) (little formal education [Lincoln himself estimated about one year]; home schooling/reading books/life experience; later received three honorary law degrees after becoming president: 1860, Knox College; 1861, Columbia College [now Columbia University], 1864, College of New Jersey [now Princeton University])

Millard Fillmore (13th U.S. President (little formal education [six months]; home schooling/life experience; later studied law while a clerk with a judge and at a law firm and became a lawyer)

Patrick Henry (American Revolutionary War era politician; Virginia’s first governor; famous quote: “Give me liberty, or give me death!” (little formal education; home schooling/life experience; later studied on his own and earned a law degree)

William Fox (Father of actor Michael J. Fox (left school in the sixth grade; later had a brief career as a jockey and then a career in the Royal Canadian Army Signal Corps)

“I was fortunate enough to extricate myself before insensibility set in.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore, on quitting school at 13 (Indian polymath, poet, musician, and artist)

Cori “Coco” Gauff (15 year old professional tennis player who is homeschooled)

Ben Swann (American television news anchor, award winning investigative journalist, and political commentator who was homeschooled - High School Diploma at 11, Bachelors Degree at 15, Masters Degree at 16, and so did all 9 of his siblings)

Dr. Francis Collins (Head of the Human Genome Project)

Thomas Edison (Probably the most famous and productive inventor of all time with more than 1,000 patents. Became a self-made multimillionaire and won a Congressional Gold Medal. Edison got a late start in his schooling following an illness, and, as a result, his mind often wandered, prompting one of his teachers to call him “addled.” He dropped out after only 3 months of formal education and was homeschooled by his mother.)


Charles Dickens

Founders of New York Times