25 Famous School Dropouts

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Let’s admit it: school isn’t for everyone. Sometimes, your skillset calls for a different creative avenue, leading you down to a road less traveled. 

If you’re curious about musicians who have been able to ascend to the top without a degree or diploma, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll showcase stories of famous school dropouts who didn’t let the lack of certificates bother them.

1. Eminem

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First on our list of famous school dropouts is one of the best rappers of all time, Eminem. Based on his records, he was likely to drop out, as he faced various challenges during his younger days. He jumped from one school to another and had sporadic school attendance, leading him to leave school prematurely.

Regardless, he didn’t let the lack of a high school diploma define him. Despite the fact that he had not completed high school, he went on to become one of the most influential and richest people in America.

Related: 45 Facts About Eminem

2. John Lennon

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Who would have thought that one of the founders of the Beatles would be on a list of famous school dropouts? Though he took courses, John Lennon didn’t finish his education at the Liverpool College of Art.

Ultimately, this worked out in his favor, after dropping out of college, his band took off to become one of the most celebrated bands in history.

Related: How Did John Lennon Die?

3. Ice Spice

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Some people go to college and find out that it’s not the life that they want, and this was the case for one of the hottest names in rap, Ice Spice. 

Before her rise to fame, Ice Spice was enrolled in Purchase College. She was going for a bachelor’s degree in communication. 

She dropped out before her graduation, explaining that it wasn’t the right fit for her. “I left because I felt like I was in the wrong place,” she said in an interview with XXL. 

Related: 14 Best Rappers

4. Dolly Parton

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One of the sweetest singers of all time, Dolly Parton, is also one of many famous school dropouts. The country singer had to quit Sevier County High School, a public high school in Tennessee, to pursue her music career.

Related: 35 Facts About Dolly Parton

5. Bob Marley

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The king of reggae himself, Bob Marley, also makes an appearance on our list of famous school dropouts. 

Marley was critical of the education system, claiming that high schools were stifling potential and considering it a waste of time. 

Unsurprisingly, he left school before he was able to finish his high school education.

Related: How Did Bob Marley Die?

6. Snoop Dogg

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Iconic rapper Snoop Dogg also had to quit schooling. The reasons were many, but in one memorable instance, he got expelled from school for flashing.

“They kicked me out the second year ’cause I showed a little girl my little thang!” he said. I was in the lunch line and she said something to me real crazy and I didn’t know how to defend myself, so I just unzipped my zipper. I was a kid – my fault!”

7. Lady Gaga

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Superstar singer and actor Lady Gaga is a household name, but it took dropping out of school to do it.

She left New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2005 to pursue her music career, making her another high-profile entry on our list of famous school dropouts.

8. Avril Lavigne

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Some people know what they were born to do, and this is the case for Avril Lavigne. 

At a recent Grammy music event, Avril shared with her fans how she dropped out of high school at 16 and moved to Los Angeles, California to do what she was meant to do: music. 

After quitting school, the decision turned out to be for the better, as she later became one of the most recognizable names in pop music.

9. Cher

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Legendary singer Cher is the next entry on our list of famous school dropouts. She struggled a lot during her time at Fresno High School in California, ultimately being unable to get her High School equivalency. 

“I couldn’t read quickly enough to get all my homework done,” she wrote in her autobiography The First Time, also noting that “math was like trying to understand Sanskrit.”

10. Ed Sheeran

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Ed Sheeran. Photography by Dylan Novacek.

Certified hit-maker Ed Sheeran, who’s known for numerous hits, also lands a spot on the list of famous school dropouts. The artist struggled academically, even having six failing grades in his music courses. He was 16 when he realized that quitting school would be the best move to pursue music. 

“I was quite a cynical kid. I couldn’t see how learning trigonometry affected what I wanted to do. Whereas when I sat and learned a song I was thinking, ‘I don’t know what that chord is’ or ‘That melody’s cool.’ So I’d want to know how to sing and play that. I always wanted to do something artistic,” he said in an interview.

11. Christina Aguilera

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Another iconic figure on the long list of famous school dropouts is Christina Aguilera. She had to leave school in 9th grade to focus on her singing career. It was also reported that before leaving school, Christina Aguilera experienced so much bullying that it contributed to her decision. Now, as a wealthy singer, her success serves as a clear and undeniable response to those who once underestimated her.

12. Mary J. Blige

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Some artists didn’t drop out with the thought of pursuing music – some did it to survive. This is the case for the queen of hip-hop soul, Mary J. Blige, who had to drop out due to lack of financial means, adding her name to the cohort of famous high school dropouts

“My dream was to sing, but it was just a dream. I was really just trying to survive,” Blige said in an interview.

Related: 21 Best Rap Songs

13. Jay-Z

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One of Hip-hop’s billionaires, Jay-Z, managed to reach monumental success without finishing his education. The singer failed to graduate from Trenton Central High School, but now, he’s one of the richest people in the world.  According to Forbes’ list, Jay-Z holds the status of the richest rapper in the world.

14. Frank Sinatra

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Washington, D.C. USA, October 1st, 1992 Frank Sinatra in performance at the reopening of the Warner Theater in Washington DC. Image from Shutterstock.

We’re 100% certain you’ve heard of the person next on our list of famous school dropouts, the man behind many heavenly tracks: Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra was at risk of dropping out of school for always getting in trouble, and he eventually had to drop out of high school for general rowdiness. He later enrolled at Drake Business School for college but left after 11 months to pursue a musical career.

Related: How Did Frank Sinatra Die?

15. Kurt Cobain

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That’s right, legendary Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain never graduated from high school. Like many, he dropped out to focus on his music career. Just two years later he founded Nirvana, the band that catapulted him to unparalleled heights of success.

16. Katy Perry

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Before Katy Perry became an international pop sensation, she was just another singer who dropped out of high school to pursue her dreams. 

The singer later said that she regretted the decision, wishing she had a better school education and that she could go back to high school.

17. Cardi B

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Next on our list of famous school dropouts is the reality TV star and rapper who went from rags to riches, Cardi B. She, just like most high school students who quit school, dropped out due to low income and absenteeism because she had to work. The singer even took up stripping as a career move to make money. Now she’s one of the wealthiest rappers, with a net worth of over $80 million.

18. Alicia Keys

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Alicia Keys, the talented singer who has earned 15 Grammys, is also surprisingly on the list of famous school dropouts. 

According to an Oprah Magazine interview, the singer was enrolled at Columbia University for four weeks before being offered a music deal with Columbia Records. Basically, either she had to drop out or let a good opportunity pass, so she quit college and set her sights on the world of music.

19. Rihanna

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Another singer who refused to let a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass by is the phenomenal star Rihanna

In exchange for a record deal with Def Jam, Rihanna had to leave Barbados and her high school at the young age of 16.

Luckily, after dropping out, the decision paid off, as she has now become a worldwide superstar and one of the wealthiest people in the world.

20. Harry Styles

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Former One Direction star Harry Styles dropped out of high school at 16. The star had to leave his school to audition for the band and X-Factor

The band later achieved tremendous success, delivering hit after hit and earning him the popularity he’s enjoying today.

21. Oprah Winfrey

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Before becoming one of the biggest celebrities of our time, famous media mogul, philanthropist, and self-made billionaire Oprah was a college dropout. She dropped out of Tennessee State University for a TV job. The superstar was just one credit away from graduating and getting her four-year college degree.

22. Billie Joe Armstrong

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To celebrate his 18th birthday, Billie Joe Armstrong, lead vocalist of Green Day, took a risk that greatly paid off: he dropped out of school before graduation to pursue his music career. We’re glad he did, because what would the 90s have been without Green Day albums like Dookie and Nimrod?

Related: 15 Best 90s Songs

23. Diddy

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American rapper, record producer, record executive, and actor P. Diddy got to the top of the record industry, and he didn’t even need a degree to do it. He left after two years at Howard University back in 1990 to begin his career.

Although he was a school dropout, he claims the university changed his life and taught him many things that helped him achieve his goals. In 2014, he was recognized by Howard University with an honorable doctorate degree in Humanities, adding another outstanding award to his long list of credentials.

Related: How Did Notorious B.I.G. Die?

24. Jennifer Lawrence

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Some people know at an early age that they aren’t fit for school, and Jennifer Lawrence is one of them. She never experienced a high school graduation.

The star recalled dropping out of school at age 14 and auditioning for various shows in the hope of getting a big break.

In a 60 Minutes interview, Jennifer revealed that she never finished high school, and she has no high school diploma or GED. 

“I dropped out of middle school. I don’t technically have a GED or a diploma. I am self-educated,” she said

25. Ryan Gosling

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Last on the list of famous school dropouts is Ryan Gosling. The actor faced so much trouble in school that he even got suspended for recreating a scene in First Blood by throwing steak knives at kids during recess. 

He made the decision to drop out of school at 17 to star in the show Young Hercules, failing to get his high school diploma but catapulting him to the stardom he is experiencing today.

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Written by Angelo Ruelan


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