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8 Successful People Who Prove a College Degree Isn't Necessary

By    |   Wednesday, 18 Feb 2015 01:18 PM

Education rates have skyrocketed in the post-WWII era, lifting generations of Americans out of poverty with a basic education. In the new millennium, however, the picture has shifted.

In 2015, the number of adults not working remains at an all-time high, and even a college degree is not always a guarantee of success. With that in mind, we've gathered below a list of eight successful people who never finished college, or simply never went.

No matter the industry — technology, cooking, entertainment, politics, etc. — people without college credentials represent some of the most fascinating and influential success stories.

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1. David Green

Not many people know that the founder of Hobby Lobby, which is now worth more than $4 billion, never attended college. Green founded his first store in Oklahoma City in 1972, and always considered himself a "kid off to the side," as he details in his "More Than a Hobby" memoir.

2. Rachael Ray

One of America's most beloved celebrity chefs is a self-made woman. In the mid-'90s, Ray moved to New York City and started her career in food at the Macy's candy counter. After working a number of other jobs in the food industry, she began teaching her now-famous 30 Minute Meals classes, and was soon asked to try one out on-air at her local CBS news station. The rest is history.

3. Will Smith

While many think of Smith as an actor these days, he got his start in music. He's acknowledged that his high SAT scores could have gotten him into college, but instead started rapping as one half of hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. In addition to winning four Grammys, he's also been nominated for two Oscars.

4. Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook's founder is a Harvard dropout — a narrative famously detailed in the movie "The Social Network" — and carries on a long tradition of tech giants skipping college diplomas established by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Apple founder Steve Jobs, and Dell founder Michael Dell.

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5. Ralph Lauren

The billionaire fashion icon has told his success tale many times, most famously to Oprah Winfrey during her "Lifeclass" series. After dropping out of Baruch College, Lauren began making neckties while living in New York City. He soon caught the eye of Neiman Marcus, which placed one of his first large orders.

6. Sean Connery

While many famous actors have earned a Bachelor of Arts or Master of Fine Arts degree, Sir Sean Connery dropped out of high school and began working backstage at his local theater. In his life, he's won an Oscar and was even knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

7. John Mackey

The founder of Whole Foods dropped out of the University of Texas several times, and used a loan to start his grocery business. Nearly three decades later, Whole Foods rakes in more than $12 billion annually in worldwide sales.

8. Scott Walker

The two-term governor of Wisconsin has a good shot at being elected president in 2016, and he'll likely be the only candidate in the race — Republican or Democrat — without at least a bachelor's degree. Walker dropped out of Marquette University his senior year, and stands among the roughly 70 percent of Americans over the age of 25 who don't have a four-year degree. The last U.S. president to not earn a degree was Harry Truman; he was also a college dropout.

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No matter the industry — technology, cooking, entertainment, politics, etc. — people without college credentials represent some of the most fascinating and influential success stories.
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2015-18-18
Wednesday, 18 Feb 2015 01:18 PM
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