As a recent college graduate, I would never advocate for dropping out of college. Best four years of my life, challenging and perspective-shaping discussions, incredible and brilliant people…the whole nine. But especially for the majority of students who walk across the graduation stage to be handed a diploma and a mound of student loans, that question of value looms large.
For the very talented and self-motivated though, today it isn’t the college way or no way. Some of the world’s most successful men and women were college dropouts. As Harvard dropout Bill Gates would tell you, “To win big, you sometimes have to take big risks.”
Ellen DeGeneres Ellen may be my favorite college dropout, but that’s just because she’s one of my favorite people. She left the University of New Orleans after just one semester to work full-time at a law firm, also while waitressing and working at J.C. Penney. Of course, she was doing stand-up comedy on the side, and five years later she was touring nationally and named Showtime’s Funniest Person in America.
Dorothy Day The co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement (combination direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent action on their behalf) attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on scholarship for two years before dropping out. Day set out for New York City to become a social activist, eventually becoming one of America’s most influential social justice leaders. Financial success isn’t everything kids.
OPRAAAHHHHH Also known as the toughest woman in America, Oprah had a full scholarship to Tennessee State to study communications. (Eh, she’s okay at that.) With only one credit left to graduate, she left to begin her career in broadcast journalism. Of course 13 years later, TSU invited her to speak, but she said she wanted to graduate first. So she finished her coursework and got that credit.
Lady Gaga Let’s be honest, Lady Gaga was never meant to be contained within the walls of a classroom. She left NYU after one year, apparently promising her dad she would return if she hadn’t succeeded in music in one year. BOLD. “I really felt New York was my teacher and that I needed to bite the bullet and go it alone,” she said.
Harper Lee Sometimes you go to law school, sometimes you write the Best Novel of the Century (according to the Library Journal at least). It just happens that way. Harper Lee was accepted into the law program at University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa in her junior year of undergrad. Luckily for us, she dropped out of law school after just one semester to move to NYC and throw a novel together.
Emma Stone Did you know that Emma Stone is the queen of persuasive Powerpoint presentations? She put together one at age 12 to convince her parents to let her leave school to be home schooled, and another at 14 to convince them to let her move to L.A. That’s a girl who knows what she wants, and has the guts to go after it.
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