Famous College Drop Outs who became Successful Businessmen

What determines your worth? Is it a piece of parchment neatly framed on the wall that marks four years of your life or more spent in at an institution, or is it rising up from something to be greater than you were because you fought for it tooth and nail, and now your bank account is proof that you’ve made it?

College degrees work for some people, but there are other people in this world, people who are just a different type of thinker, they don’t conform to the structure of college but it doesn’t take away from their genius.

For example, the most well known, successful and rich college dropout of them all William Henry Gates III or as we know him, simply Bill Gates. Dropping out of Harvard in the mid 70s, he along with Paul Allen founded what is now known as Micro-Soft. For the last three decades he has firmly held the number one spot on the Forbes 400 list with estimated earnings of over $48 billion! A little know fact about Bill Gates is that he and his wife Melinda, founders of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provide 90% of the world budget for the cure and eradication of polio.

Now, not everyone has reached this level of notoriety or financial success, that’s a pretty tough pair of shoes to fill, but here is a list of the many other successful college dropouts who have succeeded in reaching their dreams, and who have made it, proving that where there is a will, there is a way.

1.Maya Angelou, Poet
2.William Boeing, Founder of Boeing Aircraft
3.Cruz Bustamante, College Dropout, Politician, Lt. Governor of California
4.Asa Candler, Millionaire, Purchased Coca-Cola for $2300 from the inventor, later sold it for $25 million.
5.Ben Cohen, Founder of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream
6.Walter Cronkite, News Anchor- CBS News
7.Lawrence Ellison, Billionaire, Oracle Computers
8.Shawn Fanning, Founder of Napster
9.David Geffen, Billionaire Dream Works SKG
10.William Hanna- Cartoonist, Hanna Barbarra- The Flinstones
11.Wayne Inouye, President of Gateway Computers
12.James Jannard, Billionaire, Oakley Sunglasses
13.Ashton Kutcher, Actor
14.Ralph Lauren, Billionaire, Designer-Polo
15.Tom Monaghan, Founder of Domino’s Pizza
16.Donald Newhouse, Billionaire, Publisher
17.Mary Kate/Ashley Olsen Billion Dollar Business
18.Edgar Allen Poe
19.Dennis Quaid, Actor
20.Phillip Ruffin, Billionaire-Real Estate
21.Steven Spielberg, billionaire, Oscar winning director, writer
22.Nikola Tesla, inventor of the radio
23.Albert Ueltschi, Billionaire, First Safety Training School
24.Ty Warner, Billionaire- Beanie Babies
25.Hiroshi Ymauchi, Billionaire Nintendo Corp.
26.Jerry Yang, Billionaire, Yahoo

That is a pretty impressive list, and I had trouble narrowing it as my search for successful college dropouts netted quite a return. There are some things that just aren’t learned in college. My husband self taught himself to play musical instruments with such success that he was able to compete at the state competition level, he self taught himself to program computers, and then was able to turn that knowledge into actual college credit when he decided that he wanted to have a degree to go along with the job he earned all on his own. In actuality a degree is really only a piece of paper, and the need to have that paper is sometimes more of a mind thing than what matters. Look at all of the success stories out there, and then look at yourself long and hard. Don’t let your lack of degree hold you back. There is more than one road to an education in this world we live in. The kind you get at the university, and the kind you get from experiences. Sometimes people need to drop out of college because their life experiences have already had such an impact on them that being at college is holding them back more than pressing them forward.


Brahmbhatt, Preetee (2008) Billionaire College Dropouts. Retrieved January 14, 2008 from www.rediff.com/money/2005/sep/15sld1.htm

Woodward, Woody (2008) Millionaire Dropouts: Inspiring Stories of the Worlds Most Successful Failures. Retrieved January 14, 2008 from