10 High School Dropouts Who Are Now Millionaires

Most people are familiar with some of the more legendary high school dropouts who became wildly successful before they died.

McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc and Walt Disney both left high school to pursue other interests that became globally-recognized brands. Henry Ford and Coco Chanel never finished high school, but they also created enduring brand names that outlasted their lifetimes.

There are also some amazingly high profile entrepreneurs and business people alive today who chose to leave college to follow their dreams. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Bill Gates of Microsoft and Michael Dell of Dell Computers all chose to leave college to create wildly successful businesses that changed the world.

Even some of the world’s literary greats never finished school. Did you know that Harper Lee, Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, and Mark Twain dropped out of school?

Kids are told from a young age to stay in school and study hard so they can get a good job. Many employers judge a candidate’s ability to perform a job based on their education.  Statistics show that college graduates earn around twice as much as the average high school dropout.

Of course, there are some dropouts who illustrate that education might not be the only road to success. Here are 10 high school dropouts who are now millionaires:

  1. David Karp dropped out of Bronx Science High School at the age of 15. His original plans were to continue homeschooling and work on other side projects. However, he never got his high school diploma. He ended up building the short-form blogging and social networking platform known as Tumblr in the back bedroom of his mother’s apartment, which he has since sold to Yahoo! for $1.1 billion.
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  2. Quentin Tarantino left Narbonne High School at age 15 to work at an adult film theater. Later, he took a job in a video rental store while he took acting classes. He wrote several movie scripts in his spare time based around his love of movies and went on to become a screenwriter.
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  1. Drew Barrymore may have dropped out of high school, but technically she’s been working consistently since she was just 11 months old, so she could be forgiven. While she may be widely known for her high-profile acting roles, Drew is also a highly successful businesswoman in her own right.
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  1. Sir Richard Branson dropped out of Stowe High School at just 16 to start a magazine. By the age of 20 the entrepreneur founded a mail-order record company that expanded to become Virgin Records.
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  1. Carl Lindner, Jr dropped out of high school when he was just 14 so he could deliver milk for his family’s dairy farm. He borrowed some money to start an ice cream shop with his siblings. He used his entrepreneurial skills to build a business empire and invest heavily to build his estimated $1.7 billion fortune.
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  1. Jay-Z grew up in one of the roughest housing projects in Brooklyn. Originally known as Shawn Carter, Jay-Z, never graduated from high school. That didn’t stop the multi-Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist going on to become a successful entrepreneur.
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  1. Uma Thurman left high school at just 16 to pursue an acting career. She worked as a model before being spotted by talent scouts at a drama school and went on to become one of Hollywood’s leading female actresses.
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  1. George Foreman left school at the age of 15 to pursue a career in boxing. He went on to become a two-time world heavy-weight champion and an Olympic gold medalist. When he retired from boxing, he jumped into the world of business, becoming the spokesperson for the George Foreman Grill.
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  1. Robert De Niro left high school at 16 to study acting. He has become a hugely successful actor who has starred in more than 90 films. He’s also a successful businessman, with a chain of eateries across New York and his own film studio.
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  1. Katy Perry left high school at the age of 15 to pursue a career as a musical artist. Her career began with gospel music as a Christian singer, but she reinvented herself to emerge as one of the world’s most successful female pop superstars.
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There are plenty of success stories circulating about regular people who dropped out of high school and went on to become millionaires. However, it’s also worth noting that 81% of the Forbes 400 richest people hold college degrees. The common thread running through each of the stories of successful dropouts is that they all had a strong ambition to achieve a specific goal that didn’t fit the traditional academic high school mold.


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