Breakthroughs

100 ultra successful people who succeeded without a college degree

Higher education is useful but self-education is essential if you desire to do exploits in life.

With the rising number of online learning resources ready to be accessed with a single press of our fingers, there is no excuses to realising your potential.

In this list, we’ll be looking at a couple of people who went against the norm even before the advent of the Internet’s vast self-learning capabilities. Join us as we look at the success stories of 109 people who found success with nothing more than drive, passion, and most importantly: self-education.

1. Ted Turner – Founder of CNN 

Ted Turner is a media pioneer who created 24-hour news. Turner was expelled from Brown University and went on to start CNN. According to Forbes Ted Turner is now worth $2.3 billion.

2. Anthony Robbins – Motivational speaker 

Robbins did not attend university and still managed to become head and shoulders above all life coaches within the self-help industry. He prides himself on being self-educated. In his own words “As a young man, I decided I was going to read a book a day. I didn’t quite read a book a day, but over seven years, I did read more than 700 books…”

3. Joel Osteen – Pastor 

Head of the Houston’s Lakewood Church with a growing population of more than 40,000 members, the televangelist and pastor never finished college.

4. Soichiro Honda – Founder of Honda 

Never having much tolerance for formal education, Honda quit school and opted to be an apprentice auto repairman. His interest in motors culminated in him founding Honda Motor Company.

5. Jan Koum – Co-founder of WhatsApp 

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At age 21, Jan Koum dropped out of San Jose State University where he was studying math and computer science and went on to co-found WhatsApp. “I hated school anyway.” – Jan Koum

6. Frederick Henry Royce – Founder of Rolls Royce 

The co-founder of car company Rolls-Royce did not have finish any form of higher education, opting instead for apprenticeship and hands-on experience. In fact, by the time he turned 15, Royce had only completed one year of school.

7. Amadeo Peter Giannini – Founder of the Bank of America 

Amadeo Peter Giannini founded the Bank of America never even reached college-level education, dropping out of high school because he realized he could do better in business than in school.

8. George Eastman – Founder of Kodak 

Without Eastman and the Kodak company he founded, photography today would not be what it is today. Eastman dropped out of high school at 14 years old to support his family financially and worked a number of jobs before launching the photography company in 1880 at 26 years old.

9. Mark Zuckerberg – Founder of Facebook 

Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard University to start Facebook, which is now the most successful social media site in the world with over 2.01 billion active users (and counting!)

10. The Wright Brothers – Inventors of the aeroplane 

Orville and Wilbur Wright managed to invent, build and fly the world’s first successful airplane without formally graduating from high school.

11. Thomas Edison – Inventor of the light bulb and more

The mind behind the light bulb, electronic voter, and phonograph as well as rival to fellow scientist Tesla, was primarily home-schooled.

12. Larry Page – Co-founder of Google 

While not technically a college dropout, the Google founder was attending Stanford Universtity to pursue his Ph. D in computer science where he met co-founder Sergey Brin. The two dropped out of their graduate studies to form Google, which now has a brand value of $132.1 billion.

13. Lee Byung-chul – Founder of Samsung 

Lee had attended college at Waseda University in Tokyo. Despite not finishing his college degree, the Korean businessman went on to found Samsung Group, now the largest South Korean business group.

14. Richard Branson – Founder of the Vigirn Group 

Founder of Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Mobile, and writer of a number of books, Branson dropped out of high school at the young age of 16.

15. Ray Kroc – McDonalds 

Another man behind a fast food chain on this list, Ray Kroc dropped out of high school and later founded McDonald’s.

16. Steven Spielberg – Movie director

The legendary filmmaker’s applications to film school at the University of Southern California was never accepted. While not technically a college dropout, he managed to find most of his success without a college degree, only completing his degree by 2002 when he’s already a esteemed director.

17. Bill Gates – Microsoft 

Like Zuckerberg, Gates is also a dropout of Harvard. Quitting university to follow his passion for computers, he founded Microsoft which is the now the successful software company in the 21st century.

18. Steves Jobs – Apple 

(AP Photo)

Jobs dropped out of Reed College and went to co-found Apple, which is now the most valuable public company ever according to New York Times with a staggering market value of almost 1 trillion dollars.

19. Colonel Harland David Sanders – KFC

The iconic face behind fast food giant Kentucky Fried Chicken, Colonel Sanders founded the legendary fast food chain despite having dropped out of elementary school.

20. Ralph Lauren – Fashion designer 

Ralph Lauren did not finish his degree in business school. Fast forward a few more years and Lauren would go on to create an empire and have a net worth of more $6 billion.

21. Frederick Laker – Airline entrepreneur 

Being a high school dropout did not stop Laker from founding Laker Airways and being a billionaire airline entrepreneur in the process.

22. Milton Hershey – Hershey chocolate 

Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Receiving only 4th grade education, confectioner and philanthropist Milton Hershey would go on to found Hershey Chocolate Company.

25. Jack Dorsey – Co-founder of Twitter 

A dropout of NYU, Dorsey moved to Oakland where the primary sketches of Twitter were then formed.

26. Jerry Yang – Founder of Yahoo 

Leaving his Ph. D program at Stanford to pursue the founding of Yahoo, Yang still believes that his educational program was a personal goal he never finished. But with a net worth of $2.7 billion, Yang has no shortage of success.

27. Travis Kalanick – Founder of Uber 

During his senior year in UCLA, Kalanick dropped out of college to found Scour, a peer-to-peer file-sharing service. However, Kalanick is most famous for founding Uber, which now has a value of over $54 billion.

28. Mary Kay Ash – Founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics 

The founder of   cosmetics and personal care products company Mary Kay Ash Inc. did not need to pursue a college education to find success in her business.

29. Michael Dell – Founder of Dell computers 

Starting a company from a college dorm is no easy task but Dell accomplished just that when he found Dell Computers during his stay in college which eventually led to him dropping out and pursuing the company.

30. Scott Fitzgerald – Writer 

Having flunked Princeton University due to poor grades, Fitzgerald went on to achieve limited success in his lifetime and is now regarded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

31. Vidal Sassoon – Hairstylist 

One of the most famous hairstylists in the world, Sassoon left his mark on the beauty industry without needing a college degree.

32. Michael Faraday – Scientist 

One of the world’s greatest scientists, Faraday only had two years of formal education, dropping out because of financial problems.

33. John D. Rockefeller Sr. – Oil tycoon 

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Two months before his high school graduation, Rockefeller dropped out. The man behind Standard Oil then went on to become the wealthiest American of all time.

34. Walt Disney – Founder of Disney 

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The man behind Walt Disney Company founded the legendary animation company without even finishing his high school education.

35. Ingvar Kampard – Ikea founder 

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Ingvar is the founder of Ikea with no higher education. He started his entrepreneurial journey from humble beginnings starting from buying matches in bulk and selling them individually.

36. Oprah Winfrey – Media mogul 

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Winfrey left Tennessee State University in 1976 before her graduation to pursue a broadcasting gig. Fast forward to 2018 and Oprah is now recognized as the most successful talk show host in the world as well as one of the most influential female media entrepreneurs.

37. George Washington – First American president 

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America’s first president never took a college course and still managed to be the most influential person of his time. Instead of getting a formal education, he earned a surveyor’s certificate.

37. Abraham Lincoln – 16th U.S president 

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Finishing only less than half a year of formal schooling, the 16th U.S. president self-taught himself most of what he needed in order to become a lawyer and ultimately, a president.

38. Albert Einstein – Genius 

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Dropping out of high school at 15 years old, Einstein discovered that the strict disciplinary enforcement of the educational system at the moment was not for him. Failing the entrance exam to the prestigious Swiss Federal Institute of Technology a year later, it took a while for Einstein to discover that his talents lie not in mathematics but in physics.

39. Henry Ford – Founder of Ford motor company

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Dropping out by 16 years old, Ford later founded the Ford Motor Company. If he were still alive today, it is estimated that we would be worth $199 billion.

40. Folorunso Alakija – Entrepreneur and fashion designer

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The Nigerian businesswoman, one of the richest African woman, and the 87th most powerful woman in the world temporarily unseated Oprah Winfrey as the richest woman of African descent did so without a university degree.

41. TD Jakes – Pastor and movie producer 

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Dropping out of school not one but TWO times – once in high school and the next in college – Bishop Jakes went on to become a megachurch pastor, a successful author, a playwright, and a movie producer.

42. Jack Cohen – Founder of Tesco

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An elementary school education is all that Jack Cohen needed to found the Tesco supermarket chain.

43. Princess Diana

Image result for princess dianaPrincess Diana dropped out both from West Health and Institut Alpin Videmanette but shone in other disciplines like sports. However, that did not stop the princess from leaving her mark on the world as a philanthropist.

44. DeWitt Wallace – Founder of Reader’s Digest 

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The founder and publisher of Reader’s Digest dropped out of the University of California twice.

45. Tom Anderson – Founder of MySpace 

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Yet another high school dropout that found much success in business, Anderson went on to be a co-founder of MySpace, once the biggest social networking site in the web.

46. Tyler Perry – Movie producer 

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The actor, playwright, screenwriter, and filmmaker who now has a net worth of $600 million found much of his success despite being a high school dropout.

47. Rush Limbaugh – Radio presenter

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Leaving university after two semesters and one summer, American radio talk show host and political commentator Rush Limbaugh did not have much interest in anything besides radio.

48. Richard DeVos – Co-founder of Amway 

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The billionaire businessman that co-founded Amway with Jay Van Andel had to drop out of college to serve in the military during World War II.

49. Kevin Kelly – Co-founder of Wired Magazine 

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Having dropped out of University of Rhode Island after one year, Kelly is most famous for co-founding and being Executive Editor of Wired magazine.

50. James Cameron – Movie producer 

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The Oscar-winning director, screenwriter, and producer behind the success of Avatar found much success despite dropping out of college.

51. Nikola Tesla – Inventor 

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Tesla’s undeniable contribution to electricity distribution and generation stemmed not from his education but from his passion of advancing his knowledge in the field.

52. Haim Saban – Media mogul and creator of Power Rangers 

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Another entry in this list that was not fit for formal education, Saban was a troublemaker in school. From the words of his principal, “You’re not cut out for academic studies; you’re cut out for making money.”

53. Azim Premiji – Business leader 

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Due to the death of his father, the “Czar of the Indian IT industry” had to drop out of Stanford University. He took over as chairman of the company Wipro before continuing his studies in Stanford three years later

54. Shawn Fanning – Internet pioneer in the area of music 

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Developer of one of the first popular peer-to-peer file-sharing platforms, Fanning dropped out of college at 19 years old to start development on Napster.

55. Frank Lloyd Wright – Iconic architect 

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With a portfolio of more than 1000 building designs under his name over his 70-year career, Wright is notable for leaving his mark in the architecture field without having a college degree.

56. Pete Cashmore – Founder of Mashable 

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Another young prodigy on this list, Cashmore dropped out of college and founded Mashable.com at only 19 years old.

57. Dov Charney – Founder of American Apparel 

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Charney is distinguished from this list because he not only found success despite not having a degree, he also begun his legacy by founding American Apparel while still in high school!

58. Alex Ferguson – Legendary football manager 

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Despite having a total of eight (!) honorary degrees from various universities, Manchester United manager of 27 years Sir Alex Ferguson never had a college degree.

59. Hiroshi Yamauchi – Founder of Nintendo 

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Due to the unfortunate stroke of his grandfather and then-president of Nintendo, Hiroshi Yamauchi had to leave Waseda University to take over the company.

60. Roman Abramovich – Entrepreneur and owner of Chelsea football club 

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The richest person in Israel and the 11th richest person in Russia, Abramovich never quite finished his education instead focusing on his goals of fortune as soon as possible.

61. Marcus Loew – Pioneer within the motion picture industry 

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Another elementary school dropout, Loew is considered a pioneer of the motion picture industry, having forming Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s Theatres under his achievements

61. Jim Rohn – Pioneer of the self-help industry 

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The American entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker left college after just one year. According to him, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”

62. Christopher Columbus

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Often credited with refuting the prevalent belief at the time that the earth is flat, the Italian explorer and navigator was largely home-schooled.

63. Jeremy Corbyn – Politician (Leader of Labour Party) 

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Told by his headmaster that he would “never make anything” of himself as he was leaving school, the British politician did more than prove him wrong.

64. Malcolm X – African American activist 

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Having been indirectly told that there was no point in a black child pursuing education by his teacher, Malcolm X dropped out of school. He went on to leave his mark on history by promoting African-American empowerment

65. David Green – Founder of Hobby Lobby 

Image result for david green hobby lobbyThe founder of arts & crafts corporation Hobby Lobby founded the company with only $600 and a high school diploma.

66. Steve Wozniak – Co-founder of Apple 

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The billionaire co-founder of Apple helped make the company what it is now in spite of dropping out of college.

67. Sir John Major – British politician 

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Yet another successful person who quit school to look for a job, John Major worked his way up to ultimately become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1990 to 1997.

68. Paul Allen – Co-founder Microsoft 

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Before he co-founded Microsoft alongside Bill Gates, Allen dropped out of Washington State University to work as a programmer for Honeywell in Boston.

67. Femi Otedola – Businessman 

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The Nigerian businessman, philanthropist, and chairman of Forte Oil now has a net worth of over $14.1 billion despite not having a formal college education.

68. Amancio Ortega – Founder of Zara clothing

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Ortega, the man behind Inditex fashion group – best known for Zara – is the wealthiest retailer in the world. He got where he is despite leaving school ate age 14.

69. Lex Wexner – Business tycoon 

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Dropping out of law school at Ohio State, Wexner went on to build a retailing and marketing conglomerate with brands such as Victoria’s Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch.

70. Charles Dickens – Writer 

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The world-renowned writer had to leave school to work on a strenuous environment pasting labels on pots of boot blacking so he could financially help his family.

71. David Ogilvy – Marketing guru 

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The Father of Advertising was not a dropout. Instead, he was expelled from Oxford University at age 20.

72. Helena Rubinstein – Beauty entrepreneur

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Being forced to leave the University of Krakow because her father did not like her choice of partner, Rubinstein started a business career in Australia and pioneering her rise in the cosmetics and beauty products industry from there.

73. Madam C. J. Walker – First self-made millionaire in America 

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Recognized as the first female self-made millionaire in the United States and founder of the Madame C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company, Madam Walker’s schooling mostly comprised of non-formal as well as self-education.

74. Sir Alan Sugar – British entrepreneur 

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At one time placing as the 95th richest person in the UK, the media personality, business magnate, and politician left school ate a young age of 16.

75. Ty Warner – Founder of Beanie Barbies 

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The founder of stuffed animal company Beanie Babies is yet another notable entrepreneur who dropped out of college and still managed to make a name for himself.

76. Elizabeth Holmes – Entrepreneur 

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When Holmes dropped out of Stanford’s School of Engineering, she used her tuition money as seed funding for a healthcare company. She is now the chairwoman and CEO of Theranos with a net worth of more than $4.5 billion.

77. Arash Ferdowsi – Founder of Dropbox

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The Iranian-American entrepreneur dropped out of his study of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during his last year to focus on building and co-founding Dropbox.

78. Ansel Adams- Legendary photographer 

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The world-famous photographer made an impact on the world with his photographs despite dropping out of high school.

79. Billy Joe “Red” McCombs – Business leader

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Another law school graduate, McCombs quit his studies to sell cars in 1950 and went on to found Clear Channel media as well as Red McCombs Automotive Group.

80. Muhammad Ali – Boxing icon 

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The greatest boxer of all time’s highest academic achievement is a high school diploma. But who needs a college degree when you have his track record?

81. Zhou Qunfei – Businesswoman 

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Briefly considering a government job, Qunfei discarded the idea as she thought that lacking a diploma would make it difficult to do so. Instead, she went on to become the world’s richest self-made woman with a net worth of $9.8 billion.

82. Louis Farrakhan – Activist 

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Farrakhan is arguably the most respected leaders and voices within the black America who is most known for starting the million march gathering masses of African-American’s in Washington D.C.

“This education frames you. It puts you in a square that disallows you to think outside of it…. They make sure what you learn will keep you in that frame. Anytime a man gives you the diameter of the frame, which is the knowledge that he gives you – he circumscribes the circumference of your activity. So once a man teaches you and frames you – you don’t go any higher. You keep running into a wall.” – Louis Farrakhan

83. Subhash Chandra – India media tycoon 

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A 10th grade dropout, Chandra is an Indian media mogul and was formerly the chairman of India’s Zee Media TV channel.

84. Gautam Adani – Business leader

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Despite dropping out of college during his second year of taking his bachelor’s degree in commerce, Adani still became a billionaire businessman and founded the Adani Group. Adani currently has an estimated net worth of about $8.81 billion.

85. Matt Mullenweg – Founder of WordPress 

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Best known for developing WordPress, Mullenweg dropped out of University of Houston to work at Cnet from 2004 to 2006.

86. Wayne Huizenga – Founder of Blockbusters 

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Dropping out of high school to join the army then dropping out of college to pursue his business endeavors, Huizenga eventually founded the WMX garbage company and helped build the Blockbuster video chain.

87. Larry Ellison – Co-founder of Oracle 

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Having dropped out of two different colleges, Ellison still managed to be a billionaire after having co-found the Oracle software company.

88. Daniel Ek – Co-founder of Spotify 

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Co-founder of music streaming service Spotify, Ek dropped out of studying engineering in KTH Royal Institute of Technology to focus on his IT career.

89. David Neeleman – Founder of JetBlue airlines 

Image result for David Neeleman jet blueNeeleman spent three whole years in college before dropping out. He went on to found JetBlue airlines.

90. President Muhammadu Buhari – Nigerian president 

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Despite not finishing in a formal college, President Buhari finished a number of studies in different military institutions.

91. Evan Williams – Co-founder of Twitter 

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Yet another entrepreneur who left college to pursue his career, Williams is notable for founding several internet companies such as Blogger and Medium as well as being CEO of Twitter.

92. David Karp – Founder of Tumblr 

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The founder of blog site Tumblr dropped out of school at age 15 and did not bother to pursue college.

93. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel

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One of the most famous designers in the world and founder of the fashion brand Chanel, she found success without a degree.

94. Dhirubhai Ambani – Indian business tycoon 

The Indian business tycoon and founder of Reliance Industries gave up his education at age 16 to find work.

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95. Julian Paul Assange

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The founder of WikiLeaks studied a number of college majors at Central Queensland University and University of Melbourne but did not complete a degree.

96. Li Ka-Shing – Business tycoon 

Image result for Li Ka-ShingKa-Shing was forced to leave school at age 15 to eventually start a business manufacturing plastic flowers. As of January 2018, Li is now the 23rd richest person in the world.

97. John Mackey – Founder of Whole Foods 

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The founder of Whole Foods Market with a net worth of above $75 million dropped out of college not once, not twice, but six times!

98. Simon Cowell – Music entrepreneur 

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Known for his stint in TV shows such as American Idol and Britain’s Got Talent, the snarky star was a troublesome child, never graduating from any of the 16 schools he attended over the years.

99. Rachael Ray – Media personality 

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The Food Network cooking show and food industry entrepreneur never attended college and has no formal culinary arts training.

100. Mark Burnett – TV producer 

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The producer of TV shows like Survivor and The Voice had no formal higher education. Burnett worked a number of odd jobs after joining the British Army before he found success in the TV industry.






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