29+ Celebrities Who Attended College After Becoming Famous


| LAST UPDATE 08/31/2023

By Riley Hammond

Stars! They're just like us. We have more similarities to celebs than you think. These famous faces went back to college and got their degree even after they made it big! Let's take a closer look.

Shaquille O'Neal

After his unbelievable 19 year year-long NBA career, the 7-ft, 1-inch athlete decided it was time to go back to school and receive his doctoral degree in education, so that's exactly what he did!

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The sports analyst attended Barry University and completed 54 credit hours of online courses alongside his manager at the time, Cynthia Atterberry. According to ESPN, Shaq completed a final project on the use of humor in the workplace and finished his degree in 2012 with a 3.8 GPA.

Emma Watson

Abra Cadabra! Not only did Hermione Granger attend Hogwarts, but Emma Watson herself spent five years on and off studying at Brown University in Rhode Island. After briefly deferring her studies and attending Oxford's Worcester College in 2011, Watson returned to Brown and graduated in 2014 with a BA in English lit.

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She told Interview Magazine she "needed the space to go and explore who I was, without being under the microscope." She shared that she acted in the play Three Sisters at Brown and " loved it." She said, "I loved working with other people my age who were figuring it out."

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Cole Sprouse

This twin got an early start in the acting world, so naturally, college was put off for a minute! However, the Riverdale star attended the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. And to our surprise, he didn't major in acting; he went a completely different route!

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In fact, Cole decided to study Geographical Information Systems and Satellite Imaging, meaning virtual cartography. The actor was interested in archelogy, and apparently, before landing his role in Riverdale, Sprouse worked on a few archeological excavations.

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Dylan Sprouse

And Cole wasn't the only twin to graduate from college! Dylan attended NYU and also graduated from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study in 2015. The Beautiful Disaster star decided to study video game design, and since graduation, has voice acted in a few video games!

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Carlos Alvarez / Contributor via Getty Images

The Suite Life of Zack and Cody twins decided to take some time away from the spotlight, focus on their studies, and just live their lives in Manhattan as regular college boys! However, we can only imagine what it would be like to sit next to Dylan and Cole Sprouse in chem class...

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Millie Bobby Brown

Between her clean and natural beauty brand, Florence by Mills, and her iconic role as Eleven in Stranger Things, there's nothing Millie Bobby Brown can't do! It was revealed to Allure that the young actress is actually studying human services online through Purdue University.

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In regards to her major, she said, "You learn about the system and how to help young people." She told Allure, "Young people everywhere deserve equal rights. [You] deserve to love the people that you want to love. Be the people that you want to be and achieve the dreams that you want to achieve.' That's my message."

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Natalie Portman

Just after Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace aired in 1999, Portman attended Harvard University to study psychology. While she was in school, she was still acting in later famous roles such as Where the Heart Is, Zoolander, and Star Wars: Episode II. The actress would return years later to deliver the commencement speech.

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Emma McIntyre / Staff via Getty Images

During the 2015 graduation ceremony, she said, “Today I feel much like I did when I came to Harvard Yard as a freshman in 1999. I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth, I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”

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Tyra Banks

A fellow Harvard graduate, Tyra Banks, attended the prestigious university years after her modeling career popped off! The smize queen graduated from Harvard Business School in 2012, sharing with her fans that it was "SUCH an exciting moment" for her.

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@tyrabanks via Instagram

Jezebel later discovered that the America's Next Top Model creator had actually completed a non-degree-granting certificate course through Harvard known as the Owner/President Management Program (O.P.M.) Regardless, Banks decided to continue her education and gain her leadership skills!

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Christy Turlington

Speaking of supermodels, mega supermodel extraordinaire Christy Turlington, too, went back to earn her degree after already making it big in the business! Christy attended NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study in the 90s and graduated with a degree in philosophy and comparative religion, and a decade later attended Columbia!

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Christy Turlington via Getty Images

Looking back at her education, Turlington told Interview magazine, "I loved my college experience. I was so ready to stay put for a few years and focus on my education, make a home for myself, and slow down. I went year-round so I could graduate in four years. I loved that period of my life."

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America Ferrera

Right after the movie Real Women Have Curves debuted, Ferrera enrolled at the University of Southern California. However, in 2002, when Ugly Betty was announced, the actress had to take a step back from her studies and take an extended leave of absence.

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@americaferrera via Instagram

However, the Barbie star knew she wanted to complete her degree and returned back to school years later, graduating with a BA in International Relations in 2012. “It’s finally happening! Took me ten years, but it feels great,” she tweeted after graduating. You go, girl!

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Yara Shahidi

With the major success of the sitcom Black-ish, Yara became one of Hollywood's most wanted, and soon thereafter, became Harvard's most wanted as well! However, with the success of the show's spinoff, Grown-ish, Yara announced she deferred her start date by a year.

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@yarashahidi via Instagram

Shahidi told W Magazine in 2018 that she pushed off the start date to ensure she gets "as much of the actual college experience of being on campus and not flying back and forth." And it was well worth it! Yara completed her four-year program to earn a BA in social and African-American studies!

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Dakota Fanning

Around the same time, the Sprouse twins began studying at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, and a certain young star known as Dakota Fanning also found herself in Manhattan at NYU! The Charlotte's Web star started studying in 2011, majoring in women's studies, with a focus on the "portrayal of women in film and culture."

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@dakotafanning via Instagram

She told The Daily Beast, "It's something I've studied and thought about a lot. It's rare to see women in a film who are not somehow validated by a male, or discussing a male, or heartbroken by a male, or end up being happy because of a male. It's interesting to think about, and it's very true."

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Storm Reid

Storm Reid is keeping things casual on campus. The Euphoria actress, now a sophomore at the University of Southern California, is majoring in drama and minoring in African American studies."It's probably one of the best decisions I've ever made," Reid says on enrolling at USC.

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@stormreid via Instagram

She's now living the full college experience, living in an on-campus apartment with her close friend. "I do want to go to the football games, I do want to go to the parties, I do want to just go hang out with my friends and walk around campus at 3:00 AM sometimes," Reid says. We hear you!

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Juila Stiles

Stiles knew exactly what she was doing! The actress decided early on in her career it was essential to complete her degree and pursue her dream of working in the entertainment business. So, she went full-on and did both at the same time! That's right, while she was filming The Bourne Identity, she was attending Columbia University.

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Emma McIntyre / Staff via Getty Images

She explained to Rolling Stone in 2011 more about her study and work-life balance, saying, "I think about that all the time, I really do… Somehow I just do it. But college will help me as an actress because it makes me more interesting." She graduated in 2005 with a degree in English Lit.

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Nick Cannon

Between his 12 children and hosting The Masked Singer and Wild 'N Out, and all his other endeavors, the media superstar somehow found time to enroll at Howard University. However, Canon explained that he wasn't in it for the degree but rather to feed his "thirst for knowledge."

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Cannon told TV Entertainment, "I am always seeking new challenges and continual growth and decided to obtain my first college degree from an institution that had a proven legacy of producing great minds." He graduated from Howard University with a Criminology and Administration of Justice major and a minor in Africana Studies.

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Ashley Judd

Growing up in a family of artists, Ashley Judd was always destined for success. The actress is best known for her roles in the '90s, such as Heat and Double Jeopardy. Years into her career, she enrolled in the University of Kentucky, majoring in French, but left school early with just one course left before graduation.

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Shannon Finney / Contributor via Getty Images

And 17 years later, she returned and graduated with that BA! In 2016, Judd announced she was attending UC Berkeley to study public policy, where her goal is to "do some good thinking, some rigorous research, and fill it with my typical heart and soul and see how I can continue to do my little part to make the world a better place."

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Swizz Beatz

Give it up for all these Harvard grads! Joining the rest of the Ivy League graduates is none other than famous rapper and producer Swizz Beatz. In 2017, the artist shared on his Instagram that he had Harvard Business School's Owner/President Management program.

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Leon Bennett / Stringer via Getty Images

"Today, I will become Harvard alumni, and although I'm not getting an 'MBA,' no one can EVER take this accomplishment away from me. I was suppose to be gone a long time ago, according to some of my old teachers :) This one is for you!" Swizz even joked about a documentary about his time at Harvard, titled, From The Bronx to Harvard.

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Megan Thee Stallion

This certified savage is also a certified graduate! While her fame was popping off, Megan Thee Stallion transferred to Texas Southern University to receive her bachelor's degree of science in health administration. Although her fame made things a little difficult, nothing was going to stop her from getting that diploma.

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Erika Goldring / Contributor via Getty Images

Upon her graduation in 2021, she told Rolling Stone, "I feel like it taught me discipline, and I met some of my best friends" while attending the university. She shared that graduating was crucial for her, as it was a way to honor her late mother and grandmother, who always pushed her to do her best.

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Eva Longoria

This Desperate Housewives star has not only one but two degrees! Before starring on the hit ABC show, Longoria received her Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology from Texas A&M University. However, she decided that one degree wasn't enough and returned to school a few years later while working on Desperate Housewives.

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@evalongoria via Instagram

Longoria received a master's degree in Chicano Studies from California State University, where she completed her final thesis, "Success STEMS From Diversity: The Value of Latinas in STEM Careers," and graduated in 2013. "You're never too old or too busy to continue your education!" she tweeted at the time.

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Steven Spielberg

This one may come as a shock, but even the mastermind director himself, Steven Spielberg, wanted to complete his undergrad degree! In 2002, four decades after he originally enrolled in school, the Oscar winner went back to Cal State Long Beach to finish his Bachelor of Arts degree.

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According to his Natural Science professor at the time, "He turned in his term paper just like everyone else." The professor shared with the L.A. Times that his paper "was longer than most, well-written, and had no grammatical errors." He must have definitely gotten an A plus!

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Miranda Cosgrove

Even after achieving major success on the hit TV show iCarly, this Nickelodeon star was determined to get her diploma! In 2012, Cosgrove began at the University of Southern California and started off as a film major, but after changing it three times, she ended up graduating with a psychology degree!

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@mirandacosgrove via Instagram

"I had a really hard time choosing my major," Cosgrove told J-14. "I ended up majoring in Psychology, which I never expected for myself. I sorta just fell into it when I took part in some experiments as extra credit for a general psychology course. I fell in love with it."

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Sofia Carson

Carson started out her career as a guest star on the Disney Channel series Austin & Ally, and from there, became one of Disney's most famous faces. She soon starred in the Descendants film trilogy, and as she was filming, she enrolled in UCLA! However, with her busy schedule, she's had to take a hiatus.

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Daniele Venturelli / Contributor via Getty Images

"I'm technically still a Bruin," she told Access Live in 2019. "I'm going to graduate maybe when I'm 45. You guys are all invited to the graduation. It's going to happen." Last year, she updated her fans that she as only "nine classes left to graduate, which is one full year," and she plans on taking off a year to complete her degree!

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Haley Joel Osment

Audiences know Osmet from his early days in the biz for his role in Forrest Gump and later The Sixth Sense. Years later, he joined the TV world in shows such as Thunder Alley and The Jeff Foxworthy Show, but he was determined to enroll in college one day! He graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2011.

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“A film like The Sixth Sense burns an image of who you are into people’s minds,” he told The New Yorker in 2014. “In the midst of that, it can be difficult to know who you are or who you are becoming. College seemed like a manageable next step, a place where I could figure that stuff out.” And he sure did!

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Karlie Kloss

Recognized as one of the highest-paid models of our time, Karlie Kloss decided during the height of her career to attend New York University (NYU)'s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. In 2015, Kloss joined the ranks of other students who were interested in individualized programs based on their interests.

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Taylor Hill / Contributor via Getty Images

According to Self Magazine, Kloss shared what she was interested in studying at the time. "I want to study computer science. I want to study psychology. I'm fascinated by space. I want to study art history." It was later announced via E! that the model enrolled in a class on the political history of feminism.

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt. 500 Days of Summer, 50/50, Inception, Don Jon, Looper- the list just goes on and on! And even with this massive filmography under his belt, Gordon-Levitt still made sure to put his education first! In 2000, he enrolled in Columbia's School of General Studies.

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@hitrecordjoe via Instagram

He majored in history, French poetry, and literature at the university after realizing he "didn't really enjoy acting anymore." However, he told the AV Club that once he left for school, he realized he "wanted to connect with the world in a way that I never had before" and decided to go back to acting and drop out of school.

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Mayim Bialik

Mayim Bialik's success in Blossom was huge, but the actress decided to take a step back from acting to attend UCLA and study something she's passionate about. In 2007, Mayim earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience, and then just a few years later, played Amy, the neuroscientist on the Big Bang Theory!

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@missmayim via Instagram

"If I had not gone to college, I might have kept acting and been happy like that. But I loved going to UCLA and doing something that was very challenging academically. I loved doing research with adolescents with special needs—that was seven years of my life," she told National Geographic about her college experience.

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Oprah Winfrey

And then there's Oprah. Winfrey enrolled at Tennessee State University in 1971 but accepted a job from CBS during her second year. However, the Queen of daytime television was determined to finish her degree after being asked to be the commencement speaker years later, and so she went back to school.

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At the time, Oprah shared, "I'd made a movie, had been nominated for an Oscar, and founded my company, Harpo. But I told them I cannot come and give a speech unless I can earn one more credit… So, I finished my coursework, I turned in my final paper, and I got the degree."

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Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen

Sister, sister! Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen famously attended NYU in the early 2000s, but both of them took a leave of absence and never graduated. Both sisters decided to take a step back from their studies, pursue their fashion designing careers, and focus on their production company, Dualstar Entertainment Group.

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Matt Winkelmeyer/MG18 / Contributor via Getty Images

According to their manager, Robert Thorne, their decision about "not living in a dorm was less about Mary-Kate and Ashley's business than about interfering with other people's college experience. They visited the dorms last year, and within a few minutes, there was a crowd around them." We can only imagine!

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Brooke Shields

Go Tigers! That's right, the one and only Brooke Shields is a Princeton grad! Years into her career, Brooke attended her dream school and graduated in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in French literature, and according to Shields, it gave her "a sense of my own self."

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She told Glamour that graduating from such a prestigious school meant everything to her. "The level of this and the pride with which I had the ability to say, "I graduated with honors from this esteemed place," coming from the entertainment industry, I was able to have my own opinions. And I don't think I had them before."

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Ariel Winter

While Modern Family was at its peak, Alex Dunphy, aka Ariel Winter, enrolled at the University of California in Los Angeles; however, she later realized that "it just didn't make sense" for her busy schedule! She told The Hollywood Reporter that although she "loved going to UCLA," she "overestimated" what she could do.

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@arielwinter via Instagram

"I wasn't really able to get to the majority of my classes. It was kind of me just looking at the book, not having any exam notes, just trying to figure it out on my own," she said. "I thought it was kind of a waste. Not like going there was a waste, I mean UCLA, I was so, so lucky, it's such an amazing school." But it didn't work out!

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Anthony Anderson

Anderson earned his bachelor's degree from the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts in 2022, years after he had initially attended the university. The Black-ish star revealed to The Real that he was originally a "theater major while I was at HU and had to leave after my junior year because I ran out of money."

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However, after his son got accepted to Howard University, it inspired him to go back to school and get his degree! "To quote Biggie, 'IT WAS ALL A DREAM!'" Anderson wrote. "Words can't begin to describe the emotional roller coaster I'm on right now. It's literally been 30 years in the making."

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