16 Celebrity High School Dropouts Who Made It Big

Jenny Erikson | Jan 31, 2015 Celebrities
16 Celebrity High School Dropouts Who Made It Big

Drew BarrymoreEveryone knows that the secret to success is going to college, right? Or you know, at least finishing high school. High school dropouts basically have no shot of ever achieving any measure of success in their lives. There's not even a box to check on job applications for "some high school."

Except sometimes it does work out. Here are 16 celebrities who dropped out of high school before making it big.

More from The Stir: 14 Celebrity Duos You Never Knew Were Roommates


Image via All Access Photo/Splash News

  • Johnny Depp


    Image via  London Entertainment/Splash News

    Johnny Depp dropped out at 16 -- to pursue a music career. Thankfully, his buddy Nicolas Cage persuaded him to give acting a go!

  • Christina Applegate


    Image via John Salangsang/Splash News

    The Married With Children star was just 15 when she landed the role of Kelly Bundy. Christina Applegate briefly attended Excelsior High School in Hollywood, but dropped out her junior year to pursue acting full time.

  • Jim Carrey


    Image via INFphoto.com

    After his dad lost his job as an accountant, Jim Carrey started working 8-hour shifts after school at just 14. By 16, he dropped out of school to chase his dream of being a comedian.

  • Cameron Diaz


    Image via Photo Image Press/Splash News

    Cameron Diaz dropped out of Long Beach Polytechnic High School at 17 when she was offered a modeling contract, but not before she probably bought weed from fellow classmate Snoop Dogg.

  • Mark Wahlberg


    Image via Jennifer Graylock/INFphoto.com

    Mark Wahlberg finally got his diploma in 2013, after hiring a tutor and taking online classes between takes on the set of Two Guns. He said the hardest part was keeping it a secret from his costar Denzel Washington.

    "Denzel was always asking me what I was doing but I didn't want to share that information with him," he shared. "Nobody knew, because I felt like I don't like to count my chickens before they hatch, so I didn't want to say that I was doing it until I actually finished it. What if I said I'm doing this and I didn't finish it?"

  • Avril Lavigne


    Image via Rick Davis/Splash News

    After the Canadian pop star got discovered while in high school, Avril Lavigne had every intention of finishing up via homeschooling. It just didn't work out though, as her music career took off.

  • Al Pacino


    Image via Ouzounova/Splash News

    Yup, the Oscar-winning Al Pacino was a high school dropout. After being offered a spot at the prestigious High School of the Performing Arts in New York, he failed nearly every subject but English and dropped out to pursue acting jobs full time.

  • Drew Barrymore


    Image via All Access Photo/Splash News

    Are we really shocked that notorious wild child Drew Barrymore dropped out of high school? She was infamously in rehab by 13, and emancipated by 15. It's actually kind of amazing she made it to eleventh grade, when you think about it.

  • Richard Branson


    Image via Rick Davis/Splash News

    He may be one of the richest men in the world now, but billionaire Richard Branson came from humble beginnings. After struggling with dyslexia, he dropped out of school. A headmaster once predicted he'd end up either in jail or fabulously wealthy.

  • Hilary Swank


    Image via Xavier Collin/Image Press

    Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank caused some controversy when she played an inspirational high school teacher in the movie Freedom Writers, because she herself dropped out of high school. In 2007, she said, "I'm not proud to say I'm a high-school dropout ... I'm not proud that that's something that happened, but it happened. I think school is really, really important and we have an education problem in this country and it's a shame. It’s a shame for any kid to feel hopeless about their future."

  • Nicolas Cage


    Image via Said Elatab/Splash News

    Nicolas Cage dropped out of Beverly Hills High School to pursue his acting career. He also changed his last name from Coppola, to not be associated with his famous director uncle, Francis Ford Coppola.

  • Nicole Kidman


    Image via Splash News

    Nicole Kidman entered North Sydney Girls' High School in her native Australia, but dropped out after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The Oscar winner helped take care of the family while simultaneously pursuing her budding acting career.

  • Quentin Tarantino


    Image via Splash News

    One of the greatest independent film makers of all time, Quentin Tarantino, dropped out of Narbonne High School at 16 to study acting at the James Best Theater Company.

  • Paris Hilton


    Image via Pierpaolo Ferreri/Splash News

    You'll be shocked to learn that hotel heiress Paris Hilton was kicked out of her Connecticut boarding school for breaking the rules ... she then went to an exclusive New York City prep school, but dropped out in the eleventh grade.

  • Elton John


    Image via KCS Presse/Splash News

    Sir Elton John may be one of the top-selling musicians in history, with over 50 Top 40 hits in his decades-long career, but he didn't start out a success. After reportedly becoming bored with classical compositions at London's Royal Academy of Music on a piano scholarship, he dropped out at 16 to play rock and roll at a local pub. 

  • Catherine Zeta-Jones


    Image via AdMedia/Splash News

    Welsh-born beauty Catherine Zeta-Jones dropped out of high school at 15 and moved to London to pursue acting. She said that she felt like she was "15 going on 25."


More Slideshows