The Truth About Natalie Portman's Time At Harvard

"I'd rather be smart than a movie star," Natalie Portman once told the press as she announced that she would be studying at the prestigious Harvard University straight after working on the "Star Wars" prequels. At the time, Portman had already established quite an extensive acting career, having entered the industry at the ripe age of 11. But, unlike her peers who decided to drop out of academia and pursue acting full time, the "Black Swan" actor took a different path and paused her career in favor of a college diploma.

"I came from such a serious, academic family, where the only thing that was acceptable was to be very literate and educated — you become a professor or a doctor or a lawyer," she told Variety in 2016. Portman even revealed that her father tried to convince her to switch careers instead. "My dad pulled me aside when I was 25 and was like, 'I think it's time for you to go to law school or grad school.' Not that he was saying that acting was bad, but more that he was like, 'I think you'll be more fulfilled if you have something more.'" But her passion for acting prevailed. That's why she chose to stick with it. "It took me a while, coming from that background, to be like, 'This is what I want, and this is what I love.'"

But, while many romanticize how the A-list actor graduated from an Ivy League institution, it was not as glamorous as people make it out to be.

Natalie Portman suffered from impostor syndrome upon entering Harvard

When Natalie Portman first stepped foot into Harvard, she revealed that she didn't feel like she belonged. In the speech she gave at Harvard College's Class Day in 2015, the actor shared how she had struggled with what we know as impostor syndrome. "When I came in as a freshman in 1999, I felt like there had been some mistake," she said, per Us Weekly. "That I wasn't smart enough to be in this company, that every time I opened my mouth, I would have to prove that I wasn't just a dumb actress."

She also revealed that she had gone through some "dark" moments as an undergrad. "It's easy now to romanticize my time here, but I had some very difficult times here too. Some combination of being 19, dealing with my first heart break, taking birth control pills that have since been taken off the market for their depressive side effects, and spending too much time missing daylight," Portman added. "There were several occasions I started crying in meetings with professors, overwhelmed with what I was supposed to pull off, when I could barely get myself out of bed in the morning."

But Portman's teachers shared that she was nothing but a terrific student. "It was very clear when she was a student that she is a very determined person and capable of focused effort over a sustained period," Professor Stephen M. Kosslyn told The Harvard Crimson. "She is now demonstrating the results of that determination and focus."

Natalie Portman attended Harvard at the same time as Mark Zuckerberg and Jared Kushner

Harvard University has a long list of notable alumni, and according to Natalie Portman, she was there at the same time as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and former first son-in-law Jared Kushner. The actor revealed that she had been a senior and Zuckerberg was a freshman when Facebook was in its early stages.

"I think I was really lucky to have been there before social media," she told People. "Actually, Facebook was invented when I was a senior by freshman Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard. So I went to school with no Facebook, no Instagram, no cameras on phones. So I was really able to go about my business and not have it documented for public consumption," she explained. "Which was really lucky 'cause, guess what? It's good to like, make mistakes and do stupid things when you're a teenager and young adult and not have it hunt you forever... Thank you Mark Zuckerberg for being very young."

She also revealed that she was "friendly" with Kushner as they were in the same class, but her relationship has since soured. "There's not a lot funny to say about someone you were friends with becoming a super villain," she said on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert." She added, "He said in some interview that the friends he's lost because of politics, it's like exfoliating. And I was like, 'OK, I like the spa metaphors,'" to which Colbert responded, "So you're a dead skin cell." And her response? "Proudly."