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The Richest People In The World Who Dropped Out of College

By Niamh Miller


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Bill Gates, the richest man in the world for years, chose to give up college when he started his massive software company but he isn’t the only one to follow this path. Teachers can inspire us and help out a lot, but once you have your own ideas and plans for what to you in life, you have to start as soon as possible, maybe even dropping out of college.

It takes a lot of courage to dot his, but there a lot of entrepreneurs who made a fortune through their hard work, but didn’t get to finish college. The late Frank Lloyd Wright, Steve Jobs, Buckminster Fuller should also be on the list, but we’re focusing only on billionaires who are still with us.

There are also a lot of wealthy (and popular) celebrities who gave up college such as Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford or  Lady Gaga and even Tiger Woods who chose to focus only on golf, dropping out of Stanford University.

So instead of spending most of the day in class or studying at home, they devoted their entire time to their own projects and it certainly paid off. So today we’ll take a look at the ten richest people who never got to finish college.

10. Sean Parker, $2.8 billion

The co-founder of Napster and the first president of Facebook didn’t waste his time making a fortune and started learning about computers from a very early age. He was arrested and sentenced to community service at the age of just 16 after a hacking incident. Soon after that several companies wanted to hire him straight out of high school, paying him a lot of money for someone. The work on Napster taught him everything he needed to know – that’s why he claims today to have attended the Napster University. Last year he also started Brigade Media, a startup that harnesses technology to improve civic engagement.

9. Steven Spielberg, $3.6 billion

He is one of the most popular filmmakers of all time and also one of the richest people in Hollywood, with an endless list of brilliant films on record. When he was very young, he wanted to go to film school but he was rejected since his grade average was too low. He went to the California State University instead but as a student he received a seven-year contract with Universal Studios as a film director, so he dropped out and started his stellar career in movies. Find more about him in our extensive biography here.

8. Ralph Lauren, $7 billion

One of the most acclaimed fashion designers of all time, Ralph Lauren was born in Bronx in a family of Russian Jewish immigrants that baptized him Ralph Lipschitz. He wanted to become rich from a very young age and started working in the garment industry as a teenager making a breakthrough when 1,200 ties designed by him were ordered. He went to Baruch College where he studied business but dropped out after two years to join the army and then started working at a tie company. After a short while there he tried to move on since most of his ideas were unsupported at the company and thus he founded Polo, moving on from there to own one of the most appreciated companies in the fashion industry.

7. Dustin Moskovitz, $9 billion

After helping in the creation of Facebook with his roommate Mark Zuckerberg, he dropped out of Harvard after only two years to move to Palo Alto and help develop the social network into the giant that it is today. He left the company eventually but didn’t return to continue studies and instead he created a new software firm entitled Asana. You can find out a lot more about the extraordinary man in our extended biography here.

6. Paul Allen, $17.4 billion

Paul Allen went to the same high school as Bill Gates and then continued to the Washington State University, but soon gave up his studies for Honeywell. In 1975, Paul and Bill Gates created Microsoft and decided to use all his energy on business so he never returned to school. He now owns a collection of WWII airplanes, three sports teams, several other software companies and still has time to play in a blues-rock band called the Underthinkers. Here is the more in-depth story.

5. Michael Dell, $18.3 billion

Michael Dell had an early interest in money and always thought of new ways to earn more (full story here), so when he was studying at the University of Texas he used his $1,000 savings to start Dell, a company which was taking components and assembling computers, selling them at cheaper prices than most of the other shops. Dell and his company became huge as the years went by, and he’s now one of the world’s richest people.

4. Sheldon Adelson, $28.6 billion

The “casino king”, Sheldon Adelson, started his life in meager conditions and thus he had to work from a very early age, beginning to sell newspapers in Boston when he was 12 years old. He went to the City College of New York and after two years he joined the army. He was always trying new things, that’s why his time in army didn’t last too long. He started no less than 50 businesses during his lifetime, going from vending machines or newspaper ads to helping small businesses go public, real estate development and hosting trade shows. He finally managed to become rich through the Las Vegas Sands casino empire where he is currently the CEO. The company has casinos in Macau as well and it kept growing until 2014 when things got a bit more difficult although he seems to get back on his feet every single time.

3. Mark Zuckerberg, $38.3 billion

We wrote his extensive bio here. Today Mark Zuckerberg is one of the most important Internet entrepreneurs and also one of the youngest billionaires in the world. He was interested in programming and computer games as a kid but in high school other fields such as philology and classical literature interested him as well. Eventually he enrolled at Harvard University and as a sophomore he created a social networking site that would eventually become Facebook. He moved from his Harvard bedroom to Palo Alto to work full time on this project, creating one of the most impactful companies in the world.

2. Larry Ellison, $49.9 billion

Larry Ellison’s genius impacted the way all large companies work right now. After graduating from high school, he went to the University of Illinois but when his adoptive mother died he dropped out. After a year off he went to the University of Chicago for a semester and then he dropped out from there as well, working at different companies until he founded his own company (more about this period in the extensive bio here) entitled Oracle that made him the 5th richest man in the world right now.

1. Bill Gates, $78.9 billion

“Although I dropped out of college and got lucky pursuing a career in software, getting a degree is a much surer path to success” says the richest man in the world. Bill Gates was a programming wizard who went to Harvard after graduating from high school. But with Paul Allen at his side, he decided that starting their own company would be a better idea and thus dropped out. Microsoft made him the richest man in the world and during his lifetime he gave up almost $30 billion to different charities and philanthropic causes making him an example to all the other billionaires.

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About Niamh Miller

Niamh is a professional journalist that has been specializing in the jewelry and watches industry since the early 2000s. He’s been with Luxatic for more than five years now, and before that he worked as a contributor to GQ and Esquire and he’s also done his magic for Watches You Can Afford.

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