The Harvard Crimson called him "Harvard's most successful dropout" — the rest of the world just calls him ridiculously rich. He entered Harvard in the fall of 1973, only to drop out two years later to found Microsoft with Paul Allen. At the commencement,Bill Gates said, "I'm a bad influence. That's why I was invited to speak at your graduation. If I had spoken at your orientation, fewer of you might be here today."
Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College after just six months because of the undue financial strain it placed on his working-class parents' savings. He would go on to eventually found Apple, NeXT Computer and Pixar, becoming an instrumental force in shaping the landscape of modern culture. In a 2005 commencement speech he gave at Stanford University, Jobs credited a calligraphy class he took at Reed College with forming the basis for the typography used in the first Macintosh computer.
America's most celebrated architect spent more time designing colleges than attending them. Frank Lloyd Wright was admitted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1886, but left after only one year. He would move to Chicago and eventually apprentice under Louis Sullivan, the "father of modernism." By the time of his passing, Wright's resume included more than 500 works, most famous of which are Fallingwater and New York City's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Buckminster Fuller : architect, thinker, inventor, college dropout. Expelled from Harvard not once, but twice, Fuller's post-dropout period was anything but successful. He suffered a string of bad business ventures and years of anguish following his daughter's death. His unorthodox ideas such as the dymaxion house and dymaxion car captivated the nation, while his iconic geodesic domes would bring him international fame and recognition.
The Academy Award-winning director followed a circuitous route to Hollywood.James Cameron enrolled in Fullerton College to study physics. His academic life did not last long. He would drop out, marry a waitress and eventually become a truck driver for the local school district. It was not until he saw Star Wars in 1977 that Cameron would trade his blue collar career for one creating some of the late 20th-century's most stunning (and expensive) science-fiction movies.
Most college students use their dorm rooms to sleep, study, or do things their parents probably don't want to know about. Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in his. As Facebook's popularity exploded, he packed up his bags and relocated the fledgling company to Palo Alto, California, forever leaving behind Harvard. So far, the decision has worked out pretty well for the twenty-something. According to Forbes, he is the youngest billionaire in the world, with a 2010 net worth of $4 billion.
TIME called Tom Hanks America's chronicler in chief; Sacramento State's most famous dropout. The storied actor left college to intern full time at the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. There, he learned various aspects of theater from lighting to set design, laying the foundation for his Hollywood career as movie star, producer, director & writer. In 2009 Hanks helped fund-raise money to help renovate the Cleveland theater where he got his start.
Harrison Ford, of Star Warszand Indiana Jones fame, majored in philosophy at Ripon College, but dropped out shortly before graduation. He subsequently landed several small parts in Hollywood productions, but unhappy with such minor roles, turned to a career in professional carpentry instead. Almost ten years later, he would co-star in George Lucas' 1973 graduation night comedy American Graffiti and subsequently joined Lucas in a galaxy far, far away in the 1977 blockbuster Star Wars.
Before she was a Gaga, she was a Germanotta. Born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, the artist better known as Lady Gaga attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, but dropped out after just a year to pursue her music career full time. She broke onto the New York club scene with her burlesque performances and was signed to Interscope Records by the age of 20. Her 2008 debut album, The Fame, has had the world going gaga for Gaga ever since.
In a world where prodigious sports talents tend to forgo higher education altogether for the pros, Tiger Woods chose to continue playing amateur golf at Stanford University as an economics major. Perhaps it was in Econ 101 that he learned the term "opportunity cost," because his time at Stanford was not long. After two years there, Woods turned pro with his "Hello world" announcement, officially ending his collegiate career.Earning more than $100 million annually at the height of his career. How's that for economics?