15 Celebrities Who Went to College Before or After Becoming Famous

15 Celebrities Who Went to College Before or After Becoming Famous

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We’ve all spent time daydreaming about becoming famous and suddenly having enough money to do whatever we want. Some of us want to travel, others want to buy a yacht and lounge on deck in the middle of the Mediterranean… still others want to spend their days volunteering at the animal shelter. Being rich and famous doesn’t mean that you can’t get educated, though—these well-known names went to college! Read on to check out who went where and who studied what.

  • Mayim Bialik: Although she started acting as a child, Bialik graduated from UCLA with bachelor’s degrees in neuroscience and Hebrew and Jewish Studies in 2000. In 2007, she earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience, also from UCLA. She joined the cast of The Big Bang Theory in 2010 after deciding not to pursue teaching.
  • Chadwick Boseman: He recently starred in Black Panther, but Boseman has been acting since 2000, after he graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in directing. You may also recognize him from his role as Jackie Robinson in the 2013 movie 42.
  • Andre Braugher: Best known for Homicide: Life on the Street and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Braugher graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in theater in 1984. In 1988, he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the The Juilliard School’s drama division.
  • Gerard Butler: In 1993, Butler graduated from the University of Glasgow with a law degree. He worked at a law firm as a trainee before being fired, at which point he decided to try acting. Since then, Butler has made quite a career for himself, with roles in 300, How to Train Your Dragon, and The Phantom of the Opera.
  • Katie Couric: The famous journalist was an intern at a local radio station in high school and worked on the University of Virginia’s daily newspaper before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in American studies in 1979.
  • America Ferrera: The actress was attending the University of Southern California when she landed the lead role on Ugly Betty. She put college on hold to focus on her career, but returned and received a bachelor’s degree in international relations in 2013.
  • Donald Glover: Before he played Troy Barnes on Community or made music as Childish Gambino, Glover went to New York University. He graduated in 2006 with a degree in dramatic writing.
  • Ken Jeong: He’s now well known for his roles on the TV show Community and in The Hangover trilogy, but Jeong trained to be doctor first. He received a bachelor’s degree from Duke University in 1990 and received his M.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1995. He worked as a licensed physician in California before giving up medicine to focus on acting.
  • Matthew McConaughey: Although he thought about becoming a lawyer, after graduating from The University of Texas at Austin in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in radio, television, and film, McConaughey found work acting instead. Since then, his filmography expanded to include How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Failure to Launch, and Interstellar, as well as the first season of the TV show True Detective.
  • Shemar Moore: The actor might be best known for his portrayal of Derek Morgan on Criminal Minds, but before that he was a student at Santa Clara University. He graduated in 1992 with a degree in communications and a minor in theater arts.
  • Edward Norton: Before his acting breakthrough, Norton graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1991. He did consulting for his grandfather’s company in Japan for a year before moving to New York City to act. Norton has played many roles, but is perhaps best known for Fight Club.
  • Timothy Olyphant: Having always loved to draw, Olyphant earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts after attending the University of Southern California on a swimming scholarship. He considered an advanced degree in fine arts and stand-up comedy before choosing acting instead. Olyphant had many small roles in films and TV before we came to know him as Kentucky lawman Raylan Givens in Justified.
  • Natalie Portman: The actress was actually still in high school when Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace was released in 1999. Later that year, she enrolled at Harvard University; she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2003.
  • Carrie Underwood: She won American Idol in 2005, after which Underwood returned to Northeastern State University in Oklahoma to complete her bachelor’s degree in mass communication with an emphasis on journalism.
  • Emma Watson: After getting her start as the spunky Hermione Granger in 2001’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone film, she continued to stay busy with Harry Potter films until the release of the eighth film in 2011. At that point, she began splitting her time between acting and studying at Brown University. She graduated from Brown in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature.

What most, if not all, of these stories have in common is that life often takes us on many twists and turns. Although celebrity life stories are easier to piece together than, say, your neighbor’s, it’s likely that people you know have also taken indirect paths to get to where they are now. Next time you’re looking for a talking point, ask about someone’s education or work history. Still, we can probably all agree that Ken Jeong’s story is the craziest!

About Hannah Holley

Hannah earned a BS in Psychology from the College of Charleston, and an MA in applied behavior analysis from Ball State University. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and worked as a therapist for children with special needs for more than five years, but now spends most of her time keeping up with her own toddler. In between playing cars and picking up after her tiny human tornado, she loves to try new recipes, take photographs, and re-watch episodes of "Parks and Recreation" for the 10th time. Hannah lives in Charleston, SC.

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