In the US, it has been found that over 1.3 million students do not finish high school annually. Although a huge percentage of the jobs in the US require people to finish at least high school, it does not mean that people who drop-out of it are instantly unsuccessful in life. In reality, there are many school drop-outs who ended up becoming billionaires in the long run and proved that school is not everything that defines what you will become in life.
In this feature, we will talk about 20 billionaires who did not get their diplomas the traditional way. This means that they dropped out of school but still went on to succeed in life and ended up earning their diplomas in an ‘honorary’ manner.
Although it is still highly recommended to finish school, it does not mean there is no hope for you in life if you don’t. Here are 20 people who have proven otherwise. They even did not stop at millions, but went onto becoming billionaires even after dropping out of school back in the day.
20. Bill Gates – Microsoft
William Henry “Bill” Gates III, together with Paul Gardner Allen, established Microsoft – the world’s leading software company. Gates dropped out of Harvard University, but he did not stop learning from there. The wide reader still took online classes to quench his thirst for knowledge. Apparently, the world became his classroom, which how learning should be – not merely isolated in the four corners of a room.
Despite dropping out to pursue greener pastures, he still prioritizes college education and established the Bill and Merlinda Gates Foundation to encourage high school students to earn a college degree because it is a “much surer path to success”. Back in 2007, he even returned to Harvard and received an honorary degree. Bill Gates tops the list of the wealthiest men in the world with a net worth of $89.2 billion.
19. Steve Jobs – Apple Inc.
Decades back, Steven Paul “Steve” Jobs was absorbed in arts and design so he decided to take classes that interested him rather than those that felt like an obligation to finish at Reed College. As shown in the simplicity and elegance of Apple products, Jobs rubbed on his creativity. He followed his heart’s calling for innovation and realized that to become successful, one must love what he or she does. Though he crumbled on his feet during the beginning years of Apple Inc. because of the loss of revenue, he marked a significant change in the tech industry by fulfilling his vision of inventing computers for the rest of us. His legend carries on despite the loss of an epitome of success – the product of perseverance and determination.
18. Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook
As projected on The Social Network (2010), Mark Elliot Zuckerberg’s social media story started at Harvard University when he hacked its database and popularized FaceMash wherein students can vote “Who’s hotter?” Through a private meeting with his colleagues Narendra and the Winklevoss twins about a social media site exclusively for Harvard students, he got inspired to establish his own social network.
He risked his chance to graduate from one of the prestigious universities in the world by quitting college to focus more on Facebook that was gaining popularity among youngsters. Nevertheless, this year, the eminent programmer finally got his Harvard degree. He dedicated this precious life event to his mom, saying on a Facebook post, “Mom, I always told you I’d come back and get my degree.”
17. Michael Dell – Dell Computers
Pleasing his parents was tough, but forcing himself to take a career path, which was far from his passion, was tougher. Thus, Michael Saul Dell decided to follow his own dream rather than to be a slave of someone else’s. He dropped out of University of Texas as a premedical student and chased his first love – computers. From PCs Limited, he changed his company’s name to Dell Computer Corporation in 1987. One of his business strategies that kept them afloat was their connection with the potential buyers by selling computers directly on the phone or online. He once dreamt of beating International Business Machines (IBM) in its own game, but the tables have turned. Now, IBM is dreaming of regaining its reputation by surpassing Dell.
16. Simon Cowell – Music Producer and Talent Show Host
Though his father was an estate agent developer and music industry executive, Simon Phillip Cowell climbed his way up the music industry, putting himself where he is now. He was first a mail room clerk at EMI Music Publishing and worked there until he became a record producer. Eventually, he quit EMI Music Publishing and established his own music company, E&S Music. Then, he founded Fanfare Records with Iain Burton, a fellow former EMI mail clerk. He failed to maintain both music records so he joined BMG Records as a consultant. Cowell set up another company, SYCOtv, the home of American Inventor, America’s Got Talent, and X-factor. There, he was known for being brutally honest, scaring contestants, viewers, and co-judges.
15. Coco Chanel – Chanel
Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel’s clothing line walked down the runway with Chanel merely investing her time in sewing. She was left in an orphanage at an early age by her father who was a peddler. The nuns taught her one of the survival skills for girls then – sewing. Her trademark began with selling hats and later, she was recognized for manufacturing high-quality fashion at a luxurious price. She sought new heights and launched a perfume – Chanel No. 5. Eventually, waves of other fashion styles stormed the industry such as the collarless jacket and well-fitted skirts. Wrapping up, Chanel’s fashion charms still fits any generation, withstanding the test of time.
14. Ted Turner – Founder of CNN
Though his well-off father would eagerly provide him everything he needs, CNN Founder Robert Edward “Ted” Turner had a harsh experience with him. His father had high expectations that led to disappointments because Turner was expelled from college for bringing a girl in his dormitory. He stood up and fought back without putting blood on his hands. It was through his achievements that he proved he was worth something. He didn’t let those adversities stop him; he let them inspire him. Apart from owning one of the media giants of the century, he also manages the Atlanta Hawks basketball team and the Atlanta Braves baseball team. Turner is also one of the few who pledged his money to many great causes.
13. Asa Candler – Founder of the Coca-Cola Company
Asa Griggs Candler, the gem of the Coca-Cola Company, owes his success to its strategic and excellent marketing – from soda fountain sales to bottling it up to make it available to every hooked individual. Though he refused to go to college, Candler devoted his life to managing businesses. He bought the Coca-Cola company and turned it into a phenomenon. He used the money he earned in establishing the Central Bank and Trust Corp. He also invested in real estates and donated money to those in need. Candler even acted as the mayor in restoring Atlanta after the great fire in 1917. He proved that sharing your blessings only paves way for more.
12. Ray Kroc – First CEO of McDonald’s
Not attending school did not stop Raymond Albert “Ray” Kroc from serving happiness on a plate. Like Kroc said, “While formal schooling is an important advantage, it is not a guarantee of success nor is its absence a fatal handicap.”
Before being the owner of the well-known McDonald’s fast food chain, Kroc tried to find other alternatives to provide his family the necessities of life. He once was a paper cup salesman, pianist, and DJ. What he did find enjoying was selling. Six years after being the president of the corporation, Kroc bought the McDonald’s Corporation from the McDonald brothers. He did not work for money alone. He considered his customers and loved that he did so. It was his secret recipe for success.
11. Debbi Fields – Founder of Mrs. Fields
Raising the flag for the women on this list, Debbi Fields is famous for founding Mrs. Fields, which produces and sells those famous and delicious cookies. She was not able to attend school but she was determined to have a place in this world and that was somehow enough. She baked every cookie with love and care, never forgetting to satisfy her customers. As Debbi Fields stated, “I knew I loved making cookies and every time I did, I made people happy. That was my business plan.” She doesn’t bake the cookies that we indulge ourselves in, yet her recipe remains timeless.
10. Walt Disney – Disney
At a young age, Walt Elias Disney was already fond of drawing, photography, and cartoons. He even took classes to enhance his skill. Though he dropped out of high school, Disney’s career in the arts industry gradually escalated. From creating simple animations, he was tasked to take on bigger jobs – make cartoon shows and movies! He was indeed the famous creator of Mickey Mouse back then. He later added other famous characters, namely Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto, which is what Disney is recognized for even now.
Even after his death in 1966, Disney still inspires kids and kids at heart, especially when his works take you to the land of yesterday and tomorrow.
9. Henry Ford – Founder of the Ford Motor Company
Henry Ford established Ford, one of the reliable car brands that roam the streets today. He was the saviour of the United States of America when they were experiencing drastic changes in their economy. Ford somehow uplifted them from the burden by being one of the up-and-coming American businessmen. As a teenager, he wasn’t enticed to do farm work, and his family couldn’t afford his education. Instead, he became a machinist at a shipbuilding firm where his fondness for engines rushed in. Later, he turned out to be an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company. He even presented his automobile plans to Thomas Edison who encouraged him to manufacture a second model of the horseless carriage. From then on, a legacy was born.
8. Larry Ellison – CEO of Oracle
Another person proving that passion stands out when choosing a career path is Lawrence Joseph “Larry” Ellison, the CEO of Oracle. He established one of the largest technology companies in the world, but his first pursuit wasn’t technology.
He dropped out of school twice. At first, his adopted mother died. Second, Ellison had other plans and wanted to become a doctor, but eventually, he grew out of it and decided to shift to the fields of piloting and technology. He admitted that he couldn’t live up to other people’s expectations which were for him to be a physician, but he was beyond satisfied to be the man of honor he has become now.
As he stated, “Each of you has a chance to discover who you are, rather than who you should be. A chance to live your dreams, not the dreams of others.” He surely is living the dream – his dream.
7. Richard Branson – Owner of Virgin Group
Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, the owner of the Virgin Group, had difficulty in learning to read and interpret words so he dropped out of school, but dyslexia simply leads to greater opportunities.
Despite his inability to cope with other students, Branson’s first take in the business world was by starting a youth-culture magazine called Student. To make his magazine financially stable, he thought of starting a record company, Virgin. His first artist was Mike Oldfield with the hit-single Tubular Bells. He handled other music artists such as Culture Club and the Rolling Stones. Currently, Virgin is one of the biggest record companies in the world. But, Virgin is not merely limited to recording music. Branson also expanded it to travel, mobile phones, luxury game preserves, and space-tourism.
6. Ingvar Kamprad – Founder of IKEA
Ingvar Feodor Kamprad used the money he was rewarded with for having good grades even with dyslexia to start IKEA, a business that began with selling picture frames, wallets, and pens. The letters I and K are the initials of his name whereas E and A are the initials of his hometown, Elmtaryd, Agunnaryd. Eventually, his furniture business took flight and became recognized throughout the world with nearly 400 stores. Regardless of his social status, Kamprad remains humble and wise by preferring to fly economy and book rooms at cheap hotels whenever he travels.
5. Barry Diller – Responsible for Fox Broadcasting Company and USA Broadcasting
Barry Charles Diller only had a four-month stay at UCLA when he got a job in the mailroom at the William Morris Agency with the help of his friend. A few years later, he became a talent agent. Because of his persistence and enthusiasm, he was awarded the position of vice president. He also turned out to be the chairman and chief executive of Paramount Studios. Next, he joined Twentieth Century Fox and launched the Fox Television Network. He currently owns Ticketmaster Online, CitySearch, Match.com, CityAuction, LiveDaily, and Astro Abby.
4. David Geffen – Co-Founded DreamWorks
David Lawrence Geffen studied for one semester at the University of Texas but dropped out because of failing grades, but after doing so, he realized the value of labor to sustain his needs. He had a parade of strange jobs before being an usher at the CBS-TV studio. Soon after, he became fond of musical talent and eventually c0-founded Asylum Records with Eliot Roberts, but sold it to Warner Communications a year after. However, he remained as the company’s president. Next, he established his own recording company with capital assistance from Warner. He is recognized as a record and film producer who cofounded DreamWorks. Despite being one of the well-off stars in his industry, Geffen longs for genuine happiness like the rest of us.
3. Carl Lindner Jr. – Founder of United Dairy Farmers
Restoring our faith in humanity, Carl Henry Lindner Jr., the founder of United Dairy Farmers, is known to be bighearted. As what his friend Richard Farmer said, “I don’t know any positive thing that’s happened in Cincinnati that Carl has not been a part of.” He had humble beginnings as a milk delivery boy for his family dairy, which made him drop out of high school, but he didn’t regret doing so. Squeezing in his love for family and work, he loved what he did. Like he said, it was his hobby which has now become a multi-billion dollar business.
2. Milton Hershey – Hershey Chocolate
Before being the renowned chocolate king, Milton Snavely Hershey was first interested in candy-making as a teenager that he even put up his own candy shop. Yet, he failed. He stood up on his feet again but failed once more. Regardless of those failures, he did not let them define him, especially the fact that he didn’t finish elementary school. After founding a flourishing caramel company called Lancaster Caramel Co., he sold it for a million dollars to make way for his own chocolate factory that became his empire. While mixing cacao beans, boiled milk, and sugar, indeed, Hershey uncovered the recipe for success that was initially sprinkled with failure to perfect into the multi-billion dollar company it is now.
1. Thomas Edison – Inventor of Light Bulbs
Thomas Alva Edison emerged as the saving light of the world because of what his famous invention did – the incandescent electric light bulb. He also launched the first investor-owned electric utility, the Edison Illuminating Company, but its name later changed to General Electric Corporation. But before being eminent in this field of science, he had to overcome some challenges too.
He dropped out of school and educated himself because his teacher discriminated against him for being hyperactive and prone to distraction. A blessing in disguise, when he saved a little girl from getting run over by a train, after which he was offered to study telegraphy. From then on, his interest in electrical science sparked, resulting to more inventions such as the phonograph and universal stock printer.
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