Celebrities Who Dropped Out Of High School

While some may consider an education to be a foolproof way to live a successful life, a few of our favorite entertainers have been able to drop out of high school and still beat the odds. Bypassing higher learning, these stars got lucky and were able to make a name for themselves in the entertainment industry. Yep, that's right — they traded in their books, backpacks, pencils, and pens for a life of uncertainty. 

However, many of them were never even worried about where life as a high school dropout would take them. These entertainers have never glorified their lack of education, but they've been extremely candid about how they've made the most out of their lives without being confined to a classroom setting. 

Perhaps they weren't star pupils, but thankfully, life without a high school degree worked out for them. Keep reading to learn all about the extraordinary A-listers who've obtained success despite dropping out of school.

Wherefore art thou Jessica Chastain's high school diploma?

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Jessica Chastain used the words "terrible student" to describe her educational history. Opening up about her school days, she admitted to skipping class so that she could sit in her car and immerse herself in the works of William Shakespeare. 

Of course, being away from the classroom meant the Molly's Game actress racked up a ton of absences. "At the end of the year I had too many absences to graduate," she revealed. As such, she wasn't able to walk the graduation line with the rest of her classmates. But, later in her life, she was able to obtain her "adult diploma." 

Looking back on her own educational history has apparently given her the insight to be able to relate to young kids who also have poor academic performance. "There are kids out there that aren't doing well in school — and I hope they never think it means they're stupid," she said. "It's all about finding where your interest lies and finding what you're good at."

Chris Rock admits: 'I'm not a smart guy'

Chris Rock grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., and, as a child, he was bussed across town to attend an all-white high school, according to an interview he gave to O, The Oprah Magazine. After being regularly bullied and beat up by his peers, he made the decision to drop out of school in the tenth grade.

He later received his GED, but, in an interview with The New York Times, Rock didn't mince his words about his own intellect. "I'm not a smart guy ... I've read 10, 11 books in my life," he shared. 

Despite his high school dropout status, Rock's life has been a story of success. He worked a series of odd jobs before attending an open-mic comedy session at a club. The crowd loved him so much that he became a regular performer at the club. And, as we all know, the rest is history!

Katy Perry dropped out as a freshman

With countless music awards and chart-topping songs, Katy Perry went from kissing girls (and liking it) to becoming an international pop star. Despite her accomplishments, Perry had one huge regret that she just couldn't seem to shake. "I'm kind of bummed at this stage that I didn't have a great education because I could really use that these days," she told Yahoo! Entertainment.

It all started in middle school when her devout Christian parents, who just so happened to be pastors as well, began opening up new churches in various places. The family was forced to constantly move, and Perry wound up being pulled out of school frequently. She was even home-schooled at one point. "Sometimes we were sent to these really half-Christian, half-education, I-don't-know-what-they-were schools," she revealed. Due to all of the constant changes in her life, Perry wound up dropping out as a freshman in high school.

Even though she didn't receive a formal education like other children, the singer was able up to finish her high school courses, which she revealed during an exchange on Twitter when a follower asked if she could help them with their chemistry homework. Perry tweeted back, "Err, I got a GED."

Mary J. Blige 'didn't care about getting an education'

During an interview with The Washington Post, Mary J. Blige stated that, as a child, she "didn't care about getting an education." Her lack of enthusiasm towards her studies eventually prompted her to drop out in the 11th grade, as reported by CBS.

Because she never took school seriously, her lack of education proved to be an issue when it came to her singing career. Reading at just an eighth-grade level, Blige had difficulty understanding her contracts and said, "It hurts a lot when you cannot really comprehend what a person is saying in a meeting."

Twenty years after she left school behind, the Grammy Award-winning singer earned her GED and even had her sights set on pursuing a Bachelor's degree.

She may have been too cool for school during her teenage years, but she now stresses the importance of having a solid education through her charity, the Mary J. Blige and Steve Stoute Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now, which offers scholarships to college-bound women.  

Quentin Tarantino, drop out-turned-director

Quentin Tarantino is the man behind some of the most legendary modern films, including Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds. The Oscar Award-winning filmmaker has a rare talent that many can only hope to acquire after hours of classroom courses. This is why so many are surprised to learn that Tarantino is one of the entertainment industry's most successful high school dropouts.

In an interview published by NPR, Tarantino revealed he dropped out of high school "towards the beginning of the ninth grade." With all of his extra free time, he didn't spend it just chilling at home. The Telegraph reported that Tarantino "took a job as a salesman in a video store," which, in hindsight, was the perfect occupation for a budding filmmaker.

He later linked up with The Dukes of Hazzard star James Best who taught him "how to act for the camera." It was during his acting lessons that he came to the conclusion that he wanted to be a director. "I just realized I just knew more about cinema than the other people in the class. I cared about cinema and they cared about themselves."

He was probably right because, as we now know, this high school dropout eventually became the critically acclaimed filmmaker we know today.

Mark Wahlberg struggled to stay on the right path

Imagine being one of the most recognizable actors in the world, and you're hiding a deep dark secret that has been haunting you for years. This is exactly what Mark Wahlberg experienced throughout the course of his career until he finally came clean in a September 2013 piece published by the Huffington Post.

"My circumstances were not unlike millions of other teens today, who live in tough working class neighborhoods surrounded by drugs, violence and crime, and who struggle to stay on the right path without positive influences," he wrote, admitting that he never finished the ninth grade.

Sixteen years after his appearance in Boogie Nights, the actor was determined to finally tie up loose ends. "I've been taking classes and studying any chance I could get — on the set, traveling for work and at home," he said. "It has been both humbling and challenging, but I'm happy to report that I am officially a high school graduate, having received my diploma this summer."

Al Pacino put his family first

As a teen, Al Pacino enrolled into Manhattan's Performing Arts high school, but issues at home diverted his attention away from his studies. At the age of 17, he dropped out to help support his sickly mother, according to Entertainment Weekly.

To help his family make ends meet, the website stated Pacino "went to work as a janitor, furniture mover, movie theater usher, and mail-room worker." But do you think he gave up on his passion for acting? Forget about it!

After managing to finesse his way into the members-only Actors Studio in Manhattan — alongside fellow classmate Dustin Hoffman — Pacino was able to snag his big break. "The Actors Studio was directly responsible for getting me to quit all those jobs and just stay acting," he told EW.  

And, of course, he went on to appear in box office classics, such as the The Godfather (1971) and Scarface (1983).

Seth Rogen traded one school for another

Before Seth Rogen was giving us the giggle fits for his comedic performances in flicks like Knocked Up and Superbad, he was a high school dropout who was trying to make it big on the comedy scene. "I worked really hard. It's not like I dropped out of high school and just did nothing," Rogen told CNN. "I dropped out of high school and went and worked on a TV show." That TV show just so happened to be the cult classic, Judd Apatow-produced Freaks and Geeks, which was canceled after one season. 

After leaving his native Vancouver, British Columbia behind to work in Los Angeles, Rogen realized he had given up his school coursework, but he wouldn't be able to escape the schoolhouse mentality. "I get [to Hollywood], suddenly I'm on a TV show, which I think is awesome, and I go to a party — and I realize nobody cares," he told NJ.com. "Girls won't talk to me because my ratings are low ... It was insane. I realized it was all a popularity contest. I thought I had left high school and suddenly I was in a whole city that was like high school."

Eminem failed ninth grade three times

Marshall "Eminem" Mathers' rough upbringing meant he struggled to perform well in school. Rolling Stone detailed in a 1999 interview how the rapper failed the ninth grade three times and was forced to become an adult when he was still a teenager. "As soon as I turned fifteen," he told the publication, "My mother was like, 'Get a f***ing job and help me with these bills, or your a** is out.'"

Instead of immediately getting a job, the "Lose Yourself" rapper honed in on his love for music and began writing rhymes instead. He entered various freestyle rap competitions and even "[snuck] into neighboring Osborne High School with his friend and fellow MC, Proof, for lunchroom rap throw-downs," the publication revealed. 

Thankfully, the cycle of poor high school performance has since been broken in the Mathers household. Coed revealed that the rapper's daughter, Hailie, is the complete opposite of him. She "graduated with honors from Chippewa Valley High School in Clinton Township, Mich." and enrolled as a student at Michigan State University. 

Jim Carrey dropped out on his 16th birthday

When his father lost his job as an accountant, actor Jim Carrey, the youngest of four kids, was forced to push his school books aside. On his 16th birthday, he dropped out of high school and joined his family in the workforce.

"We were experiencing poverty at that point," he told CBS News. "We all got a job, where the whole family had to work as security guards and janitors."

Thankfully, Carrey was already developing a knack for making people laugh, so it wouldn't be long before he could kiss his day job behind. "I had a sick mom, man. I wanted to make her feel better," he said. "I used to go in [the room] and do impressions of praying mantises, and weird things, and whatever. I'd bounce off the walls and throw myself down the stairs to make her feel better."

At the age of 17, he struggled for a bit as he tried to secure stand-up gigs. But by the time he turned 21, he'd already made an appearance on The Tonight Show. He later snagged a recurring role on the sketch comedy show In Living Color

John Travolta's parents were all for it

Growing up in a family full of entertainers, it's pretty clear that John Travolta was destined to be a star. As reported by Vanity Fair, the Pulp Fiction actor was one of six kids in his family — and one of five that wanted to make it big in the entertainment biz. His mother was also an actress who worked as a teacher for a high school's theater arts program.

By the time Travolta reached the age of 16, he got bit by the acting bug, and his parents gave him permission to drop out of high school to chase his dreams of being an actor. But there was a catch — he had one year to either make it big or else head back to class!

According to the magazine, the Grease star got straight to work and snagged roles in various commercials before landing the role of Billy Nolan in the 1976 horror film Carrie

Needless to say, he never reenrolled back in school. 

Hilary Swank thought 'learning was particularly hard'

Hilary Swank played a high school teacher in the 2007 film Freedom Writers, and the role was far from being a case of life imitating art. In fact, Swank knew she was taking a gamble by accepting the role of character Erin Gruwell — not because she'd never been a high school teacher but because she'd dropped out of high school during her sophomore year.

"I'm not proud to say I'm a high-school dropout," she admitted to Today. "I'm not proud that that's something that happened, but it happened."

Despite failing to finish school, Swank had become a strong proponent of higher learning. "I think school is really, really important and we have an education problem in this country and it's a shame," the Million Dollar Baby star said. "It's a shame for any kid to feel hopeless about their future."

Years later, during a 2014 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the actress was again asked about her high school education. Looking back on her school days, Swank, who revealed that she'd received her GED, shared, "I found high school just... At that age, learning was particularly hard because it was more like you were learning about people rather than anything in a book because it's challenging."