School is not for everyone. By April 2012, student loan debt had reached one trillion dollars! This is the first time student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt. All this to say, you might be in debt, or you probably know someone who is, and while we wish we could solve that problem here, this list is going to focus on something else. After all, some of the biggest names of our day, in all fields, were college dropouts! So, without further ado, here are the Top 10 College Dropouts
10. Bill Gates
Okay, to add some weight to the argument, we’re gonna start with the richest man in the world, who left school because he knew he wanted to pursue the business of computers. So at the age of 19, Bill Gates and his childhood friend Paul Allen would go on to form one of the biggest companies in the world. Nowadays, he spends his time and money helping people who need it most.
9. Michael Dell
Another computer giant whose business idea started in his dorm room. Michael Dell, of Dell computer fame, was studying pre-med when he realized how much money he could make building computers in his dorm room. He was able to outbid many computer stores for contracts because he didn’t have the same expenses associated with running an actual store. Eventually making eighty grand a month, Michael Dell decided it was time to stop pretending he needed to be in school, and began his company based out of a condo.
8. John Mackey
What’s more important than being smart? Not being hungry. If anyone knows about food, it’s John Mackey. Having dropped out of college early, and then opening a health-food store in the late 70s, this passion eventually lead to the development of Whole Foods, a major chain grocery market with a focus on the ethical treatment of animals. So there you have it, a college dropout that is rich, provides a necessity and does it with his morals firmly tucked into place.
7. Elizabeth Holmes
American entrepreneur and inventor, Elizabeth Holmes didn’t need to finish school to find her calling. While working in a lab to develop a treatment for SARS, she invented a wearable drug-delivery patch in 2003. Needless to say, she must have felt something in her gut because she dropped out of Stanford in 2004 to work on low-cost medical and health related devices. Not only is she exploring the frontier of health science with her technological discoveries, she has also become the youngest woman to be a self-made billionaire.
6. Matt Mullenweg
Matt Mullenweg is the mastermind behind a website we’ve all seen at some point or another. WordPress is said to be running 22% of the world’s top 10 million websites. Not bad for a web developer who dropped out at 20 years old to start a job and then leave that job within a year. It looks like he made the right choice as he has been running with the ball ever since.
5. Lady Gaga
Before leaving college after one year, Stefani Germanotta told her father she would take a year off and try to make it in music. If she couldn’t do anything in that year, she’d go back. We all know where this story ends. Needless to say, Lady Gaga was able to establish herself as a songwriter, writing music for other artists. Eventually this impressed the the recording labels enough to help her realize her vision.
4. Daniel Ek
How do you listen to your music? You could listen to the radio or scour YouTube videos for songs. But what if you wanna listen to a particular type of music, like a genre or artist, and you want a playlist to be generated for that style? Maybe you’ve heard of a little website called Spotify, one of the biggest online streaming services created by Daniel Ek. Ek circumvented going to school at all. He started his first business at the age of 14, and made enough money at the age of 23 to retire. You can’t stop an inquisitive mind, though. That same year, Ek founded Spotify, which leads us to our next list member…
3. Kanye West
Kanye West is The College Dropout. The king of bluntness and notoriety himself could have studied art on a scholarship, but he quickly realized the classes he was taking were cutting away into his time producing music. Thank God for everyone’s sake that he stuck to making beats instead of making paintings in a classroom. In his own words, the theme of his first album was “make your own decisions. Don’t let society tell you: “this is what you have to do”.
2. Ellen Degeneres
In school, do they teach you how to be a comedian, producer, and screenwriter? Nah. They also don’t teach you how to be one of the most successful talk show hosts of all time. Ellen Degeneres has had many roles in her life, including her start as a stand-up comic and a leading woman on tv, but she only had one semester of college under her belt. All it took was one semester in communications to set her sights on bigger things and get her started in entertainment.
1. Oprah Winfrey
Speaking of having your own TV show! Our top college dropout is none other than the queen of TV shows herself, Oprah Winfrey. Born and raised into a rough life of poverty, she would come to excel as a teenager, and only two years into college, she would drop out to pursue a career as a news anchor. After about 8 years on the air, she was given the hosting duties on a local talk show. In a matter of months, her viewership would rise to the top. Okay okay, we have to confess, Oprah was only one credit shy of completing her degree, and she did get in on a scholarship… but still, all things considered, there’s no doubt Oprah is one of the most successful names of all time.
To quote a famous misattribution: “I never let my schooling interfere with my education”…is basically what we’re trying to get across as a message, we’re not trying to tell you to drop out of school and that everything will turn out the way you want it. If you think you’re going to be the next Bill Gates or Lady Gaga, it’s probably not likely, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the feeling in your gut. That’s what we’re trying to tell you with this list. Trust your gut, even if all the voices in your head say you should go to school, you should do this, you should do that, in the end, you’re gonna have to trust your instinct. The people on this list did.