If you think a college degree is your best bet to becoming rich and successful in life, better give it a second thought. And especially in today’s globalized and highly digitalized world, you can do very well without even setting foot on campus.
Don’t trust? Check out these 20 successful riches who were either dropped out of college or never went to one altogether.
1. Stev Jobs
The co-founder and CEO of Apple dropped out of Reed College in Portland, Oregon after one semester. According to Steve Jobs, in a recently released biography, he felt overwhelmed by the college’s workload and the cost of tuition. The book, written by Walter Isaacson, quotes Jobs as saying: “I didn’t see the value in it.”
2. Bill Gates
The founder of Microsoft and the wealthiest man in the world did not complete his degree in computer science at Harvard. Today, Gates credits his early departure from college with allowing him to take on Microsoft full-time and turn it into the powerhouse it has become.
Today, Bill Gates is worth $130.3 billion and is the second–richest man in the world. He has donated billions of dollars to charity, including $28 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000.
3. Larry Ellison
The founder and CEO of Oracle left the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after two years when his adoptive mother died. Larry then attended the University of Chicago to study physics and mathematics, while he didn’t take any exams, he encountered computer programming for the first time in the university. Larry then took a job with a small start-up called Software Development Labs.
Oracle’s website boasts that by leaving college, Ellison “avoided the normal path that most college students take, and this choice would provide him with both the time and resources to pursue his entrepreneurial and business dreams.”
Ellison became a billionaire from his work at Oracle. He now has a net worth of $58.5 billion and is the sixth richest man in the world. Ellison is also a principal investor in the car manufacturer McLaren Automotive. He has also won America’s Cup yachting contest twice.
4. Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg, like Jan Koum, gave college a try but dropped out of Harvard to start Facebook. He was only 20 at the time. He was a sophomore in the class of 2006, but the timing of the launch of Facebook was such that he didn’t even need to finish his sophomore year.
The social network experienced rapid growth and Facebook was valued at $98.7 billion only three years after its launch.
Today, the 30-year-old is worth $128.1 billion, making him the fifth wealthiest person in the world. He is also an active philanthropist and has donated over $1 billion to various charities and education programs.
5. Larry Page and Sergey Brin
Larry Page left Stanford University in 1998 to start Google. The co-founder Sergey Brin left the Ph.D. program at Stanford in 1999 to work on Google full-time. Since then, both have become billionaires and are among the most influential people in the World.
Their Stanford friend, Susan Wojcicki, now the CEO of YouTube, said:
I think they were concerned about the pressure of grades and having to get good grades. They were pretty hard on themselves, and they didn’t want to have to deal with grades.
6. Elon Musk
Musk is the founder, CEO, and CTO of SpaceX, co-founder, CEO, and product architect of Tesla Motors, co-founder and chairman of SolarCity, and founder of PayPal. He is the inspiration for Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Tony Stark in the Iron Man films.
Musk had a tough time at school. He was bullied and had a hard time fitting in. He attended Standford university for a Ph.D. in material science but dropped out in mere 2 days to join the internet gold rush and launch his own startup.
But even after dropping out of Stanford, Musk continued to study physics and engineering on his own. He never took an exam or received a grade. Musk is now a billionaire with a net worth of $8.3 billion.
Musk is considered one of the most ambitious entrepreneurs in the world. The SpaceX CEO is daring to send humans to the red planet before 2030.
7. Paul Allen
The co-founder of Microsoft dropped out of Washington State University after one year to start a company called Traf-O-Data, which he then sold to Boeing to fund a new startup called Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates.
Allen is now the chairman of Vulcan, Inc., an investment firm that manages his personal wealth. He is also the owner of the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers. Allen had a net worth of $20.3 billion when he died back in 2018.
8. Jane Chen
Jane Chen dropped out of school at the age of 16. She left home and moved to the United States to pursue her dream of becoming a musician. Jane recorded an album and then started a band. She was able to secure a record deal and even toured with the likes of the Backstreet Boys. But that wasn’t enough.
Chen wanted more. She wanted to start her own business and create something that would change the world. So she left her singing career, went back to school, and got a degree in molecular biology and genetics. She spent three years working in a genetics lab, and then she founded a start-up called Dazzlepod.
9. Brad Pitt
Just two weeks short of completing his coursework to graduate from the University of Missouri, pit left the university and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career. His first job was at the famous restaurant chain Red Lobster.
After years of being turned down for small acting roles, he finally landed a role in the hit TV series “The Cutting Edge” in 1992. It was a small role, but it was his big break. After that, Pitt started landing roles in other big movies and became a household name. The rest is history.
10. David Karp
David Karp is the creator of Tumblr. He got bored in high school and dropped out in his junior year. Karp started blogging for fun and liked the way blogging software worked. He taught himself HTML and CSS and started building websites for small businesses.
Karp created a small team and started building themes for blogs. The themes were a hit and Karp’s company was getting a lot of attention. He raised $3.5 million in venture capital and was eventually acquired by Yahoo in 2013.
Today Karp is a billionaire and is ranked No. 36 on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. His net worth is $1.1 billion.
David Karp is now worth over $1.1 billion. He is now the CEO of Tumblr, Inc. He is also an active philanthropist, donating to causes like Planned Parenthood, ACLU, and The Trevor Project.
11. Pierre Omidyar
Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, dropped out of Tufts University in 1995 to start the internet auction site.
Omidyar was born in Paris, France to Iranian parents. He attended a private school and was then sent to an American school in Paris, and then he attended a Swiss boarding school.
After college, Omidyar worked at Claris, a subsidiary of Apple, where he developed an email program called Echo.
After three years of working at Claris, Omidyar quit starting a company named Ink Development, which was a software consulting company. In 1994, Omidyar created an online auction site that he named eBay. Omidyar is now worth over $23.9 billion.
12. Drew Houston
The founder of DropBox left the University of Houston when he was 19 to work on the file-sharing service.
Drew Houston is the co-founder and CEO of Dropbox Inc, an online storage platform. He began working on the idea at MIT and then dropped out to launch the company in 2007.
The company began to grow rapidly and was soon valued at $4 billion. Then the tech bubble burst and Houston faced an uncertain future. But he stuck with the company and it soon recovered, growing to reach a worth of $10 billion by 2011.
In 2018, Dropbox was valued at a stunning $12 billion. Today, Drew Houston is worth an estimated $2.3 billion.
13. Michael Dell
The founder and CEO of Dell left the University of Texas at Austin after his freshman year to take a job as an assistant to a venture capitalist in Boston.
Michael Dell founded Dell Inc. in 1984 after dropping out of the University of Texas. At the age of 19, Dell began assembling computers in his dormitory and selling them to fellow students. He poured his profits into developing a new PC, and in 1985, became the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
The businessman is worth over 50.1 billion USD now.
14. Ted Turner
Turner dropped out of Brown University in 1962 to start his first company. He joined his father’s billboard advertising business. At the age of 24, Turner bought his dad out and renamed the business Turner Advertising.
The business grew quickly and Turner began to look for new opportunities. He bought a struggling UHF television station for $1 million and renamed it WTCG in 1971. The station’s fortunes turned around after Turner acquired rights to broadcast Atlanta Braves baseball games.
Turner’s success was repeated when he acquired WTCG’s rival, the old DuMont network. He renamed the network to Turner Broadcasting System and merged it with WTCG.
He later acquired the MGM film library and created the first superstation. In 1976, he launched the Cable News Network (CNN).
Today, Ted Turner is worth $2.2 billion. He is also an active philanthropist, having donated over one billion dollars to various organizations and causes.
15. Evan Spiegel
Evan Spiegel dropped out of Stanford University in 2012 after only 2 years. He founded a start-up called Future Freshman that helps high school students learn about the college admissions process.
In 2011, he co-founded Snap Inc with Bobby Murphy, a friend from Stanford. The company is a popular app called Snapchat. This app lets users create and send images and videos to other people. It is wildly popular and has been valued at over $20 billion.
Spiegel is the company’s CEO and his net worth is estimated to be $13.3 billion.
16. Travis Kalanick
Travis Kalanick is an American entrepreneur who dropped out of UCLA to found Scour. Scour was an online search engine that indexed content from media such as newspapers, books, television, and radio. The company was later merged with peer-to-peer file sharing service Kazaa.
Uber, the car service app that has become one of the most valuable start-ups in the world today, was co-founded by Travis Kalanick. Kalanick is the CEO of Uber which is currently worth $68 billion. He is currently worth $5.3 billion.
17. jimmy wales
Jimmy Wales dropped out of college after one year to pursue his interest in computers. James was a passionate programmer and in 1995, he co-founded Bomis, a search engine company. The company was quite successful.
But in 2001, Jimmy Wales quit the company to pursue a new idea. He wanted to provide free access to human knowledge. The idea was to create an encyclopedia online. He called it Nupedia.
But, as with many new ideas, it took time to get things going. In 2002, Jimmy Wales launched a new project, called Wikipedia. It was a free online encyclopedia that relied on volunteers to produce the content. It was an instant success.
18. Daniel Ek
The founder and CEO of the popular Swedish music streaming platform, Spotify, dropped out of Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology after just eight weeks and found Advertigo, a web-based advertising company. Ek co-founded Spotify and launched the product in October of 2008. Spotify is now valued at $8.53 billion.
19. Vin Diesel
Vin Diesel was born in New York and raised in an Italian-Jewish family. Diesel began his career as a disc jockey, before becoming an underground filmmaker. He is also a producer, writer, director, and actor.
Diesel dropped out of Hunter College and moved to Los Angeles with his brother, who had a dream of becoming an actor. Vin began working as a bouncer at the Tunnel, a local club in L.A. It was during this time that he was discovered by a producer and cast in his first film. Diesel is now a billionaire with a net worth of $50 million.
20. Kanye West
During his childhood, Kanye West was obsessed with architecture and design and was always sketching designs for houses. He attended Chicago State University but dropped out after one semester.
He moved to Chicago and gained employment as an assistant to producer and rapper Jay-Z. West made a name for himself as a producer and released his own debut album, The College Dropout in 2004. West has gone on to release five more albums, which have all gone either platinum or multi-platinum and have been accompanied by multiple Top 10 singles.
His albums have won him 21 Grammy awards. His work has earned him a total of $26.5 million, which is not too bad for a college dropout.