Why are College Drop-outs so Successful?

Few days ago, Steve Jobs died. As one of the greatest men in the 21st century, he has never earned a bachelor’s degree!

The shocking news reminds me of the fact that many successful people, including the top billionaires in the world – founders of Microsoft, Facebook, Dell, Apple, Oracle, and Google all dropped out of college or graduate school. This disproportionate amount of dropouts who have made great achievements vis-a-vis losers with college and graduate school degrees makes me wonder: what’s the key to successful, and what’s the meaning of education?

Here is a list of some billionaire dropouts:

  • Sir Richard Branson

Estimated net worth: 8.6 billion USD
Billionaire Sir Richard Branson

Sir Branson left school when he was only 16. Ironically, his first successful business was publishing a magazine called Student. Today, Branson is known for his brand Virgin, which includes Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic Airways, and over 300 other companies. Also adding to his grandeur, Sir Branson bought his own 79-acre Caribbean island when he was just 24 and he was knighted in 1999.

  • Dean Kamen

Estimated net worth: Unclear, but thought to be in the billions USD
Billionaire Dean Kamen

Dean Kamen, a prolific and ingenious inventor, dropped out of Worcester Polytechnic Institute before graduating. Although best known for the Segway PT, Kamen holds more than 80 US patents and has created many products such as the AutoSyringe and iBOT robotic wheelchair. When Kamen travels to work, he has to decide which of his two helicopters to take. For longer trips, he pilots his own private jet. He also owns a small island near Connecticut that generates its own electricity from wind.

  • Bill Gates

Billionaire Bill Gates

Estimated net worth: 58 billion USD
Bill Gates has topped the Forbes list of “The World’s Richest People” continually since 1995. Gates took an interest in programming while attending preparatory school in Seattle. To earn time on early shared computers, Gates and his classmates offered to debug corporate software. When he was 14, Gates earned $20,000 from his first programming venture. After scoring a near-perfect 1590 on his SATs, Gates enrolled at Harvard but left, without a degree, to co-found “Micro-Soft”. Today, one of Gates’ homes in Washington has an annual property tax of about $1 million. In 2006, Gates claimed that he wished he wasn’t the world’s richest man, because he disliked the attention it brought.

  • Paul Allen

Billionaire Paul Allen

Estimated net worth: 18.0 billion USD
Paul Allen befriended Bill Gates while they were both attending a private school in Seattle. Allen went on to attend Washington State University, but dropped out after two years. He was also the one who convinced Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard in order to start Microsoft. The two co-founded the company in 1975, but Allen has distanced himself from the company since then. In addition to more than 100 million shares of Microsoft, Allen owns 12 professional sports teams, plenty of real estate, and has stakes in dozens of technology and media companies such as Dreamworks Studios.

  • Ralph Lauren

Billionaire Ralph Lauren

Estimated net worth: 3.6 billion USD
In high school, Ralph Lauren was known to sell neckties to his fellow students. In his yearbook, he stated that he wanted to be a millionaire. He studied business for two years at Baruch College but never graduated. Nonetheless, he has far surpassed his goal of becoming a millionaire. In 2006, Polo Ralph Lauren had a net income of $300 million.

  • Steve Jobs

Billionaire Steve Jobs

Estimated net worth: 5.7 billion USD
In addition to being the CEO of Apple Inc, Steve Jobs became the largest individual shareholder of the Walt Disney Company after selling Pixar Animation Studios in 2006. In 2007, he was chosen as Fortune Magazine’s most powerful businessman. That’s quite an honor for someone who dropped out of college after just one semester. Although his yearly salary is officially just $1, Jobs has received “executive gifts” including a $46 million jet and nearly 30 million shares of restricted stock. Because capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than salary income, this is also a tax minimization strategy.

  • Larry Ellison

Billionaire Larry Ellison

Estimated net worth: 18.4 billion USD
In 1977, Larry Ellison put up $2,000 to start what would become Oracle Corporation, the world’s second-largest software company. Ellison briefly attended the University of Illinois as well as the University of Chicago, but received a degree from neither. Today he is known for his extravagant lifestyle. He owns a 450 ft, $200 million yacht, exotic cars including a McLaren F1, over a dozen multi-million dollar estates in California, and several jets, which he is licensed to pilot himself.

  • Michael Dell

Billionaire Michael Dell

Estimated net worth: 17.2 billion USD
Michael Dell started a computer company called PCs Limited while attending the University of Texas at Austin. It became successful enough that Dell dropped out of school to operate it, and the company eventually became Dell, Inc, with revenues of $57.4 billion in 2007. In 2006, Dell and his wife gave a $50 million grant to the University which he attended but never graduated from.

  • Kirk Kerkorian

Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian

Estimated net worth: 18.0 billion USD
Kirk Kerkorian dropped out of school in the 8th grade. His first venture was an airline that flew from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. In 1962, he bought 80 acres of land along the Las Vegas strip for just under $1 million, and he continued making his fortune from buying and developing properties in Las Vegas. Currently, Kerkorian has a large stake in all of the following hotels: Bellagio, Excaliber, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, New York-New York, Circus Circus, The Mirage, and more.

Source and Read More:
We Don’t Need No Education
Wikipedia List of College Dropout Billionaires
Billionaire College Dropouts
Larry Ellison’s “Loser” Commencement Speech at Yale (a parody)


3 thoughts on “Why are College Drop-outs so Successful?

  1. Perhaps it is the ability to think outside of the box.

    “Formal education teaches the ‘accepted norms’. Had Albert Einstein been indoctrinated with the accepted scientific limitations of his peers, would he have gone on to become possibly the greatest theoretical physicist of the 20th century, or would his natural ability have been stifled by accepted concepts that his ideas were ‘impossible'” Quoted from http://sharksdonteatpeople.blogspot.com/2011/10/dropout-to-succeed.html

    Your article provided the idea for the mentioned post, and I have linked to it as a related article – thanks.


  2. They learned all they needed to know by themselves because they were interested in the field from young ages. They didn’t need school.

    When school teaches you all the things you already know, it becomes a waste of time.

    Your talent matters more than a degree.


  3. Are they?

    You cherry picked 9 multibillionaire college drop outs who are *CLEARLY* in the extreme minority among other college drop outs. Overall, it’s crystal clear that college graduates make significantly more money on average than non-college graduates throughout the course of their lives.


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