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Famous, Rich, and Successful People
Who Were High School or College Dropouts

You don't have to go to college to be a success. Even if you go for awhile, you don't have to graduate to be a success. Here are just a few of the people who have become famous and/or successful without graduating from college and/or high school.

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Sean Rad, co-founder of Tinder. He dropped out of USC to start the Orgoo email service (which failed) and later the Adly marketing company (which he sold for several million dollars).

Daniel Radcliffe, actor. On being asked if he planned to go to college, he replied, “No, I don't. I am continuing my education. I have two weekly tutorials with a friend of mine.”

Stewart Rahr, billionaire founder of Kinray pharmacy distributor, philanthropist. He graduated from New York University but later dropped out of law school in 1975 to take over the family pharmacy.

Lew Ranieri, financier, the father of mortgage-backed bonds. Dropped out of college.

Royal Richard "Jim" Rathman, race-car driver. Never attended college. Became a renowned drag racer while still a teenager, receiving 48 traffic tickets before he was 18. Took the name of his older brother Jim so he could compete in major races at the age of 20 (claiming to be the age of his brother at 24).

James Arthur Ray, inspirational author and speaker. He dropped out of junior college to work as a telemarketer.

Rachael Ray, TV chef, cookbook author. She dropped out of Pace University after two years to work and save money.

Usher Raymond IV, quadruple platinum singer. He won the Star Search male teen vocalist competition when he was 18. He was signed to a music label immediately thereafter.

Robert Redford, actor, producer, director, founder of the Sundance Institute. He was booted from the University of Colorado after three semesters for drinking too much. Then spent a year in France trying to become a success as a painter. Returned to New York where he studied drama and landed his first acting role in the theater.

Keanu Reeves, actor. He dropped out of high school to pursue acting.

Kamilla Reid, book author. A high school dropout.

Louis Renault, founder of the Renault Auto Company. Failed the exams for the Ecole Centrale. But with the financial backing of his brothers, he founded his first auto factory.

Lynda Resnick, billionaire co-founder of POM Wonderful. A child actress, Lynda dropped out of college to start an advertising agency at the age of 19. She and her husband are one of the country's largest producers of pomegranates, pistachios, and mandarin oranges.

Silvestre Reyes, U.S. representative from Texas. Got a two-year degree from El Paso Community College.

Burt Reynolds, actor, number-one box-office attraction for five straight years (1978-82). Dropped out of Florida State University after football and automobile accident injuries ended his football career. Then took some classes at Palm Beach Junior College where an acting class where his teacher pushed Reynolds into acting.

Dane Reynolds, world class surfer, video documentarian. Dropped out of school at the age of 16 to surf, something he called “kind of a stupid decision.”

Ryan Reynolds, actor. Moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19 to become an actor. Never attended college.

Trent Rezner, musician, Nine Inch Nails. Dropped out of Allegheny College after one year to pursue a career in music.

Charlie Rich, Grammy-winning country and blues singer and songwriter. Dropped out of the University of Arkansas to join the Air Force.

Marc Rich, billionaire commodities investor, built Philbro into the world's largest commodities firm, founded Marc Rich & Co. Dropped out of NYU to take a job in the mail room of Philipp Brothers on Wall Street.

Rihanna, aka Robyn Rihanna Fenty, singer, actress. At the age of 15, she formed a singing trio in Barbados. At the age of 16, she went to live with songwriter Evan Rogers and his wife in Connecticut. At the age of 17, she signed a singing contract with Def Jam records. Has not yet attended college.

Amber Riley, singer, actress. Has not attended college.

Kelly Ripa, actress and talk show host. Move to New York City at the age of 19 to pursue a career as an actress. Did not attend college. "I always wanted to be a teacher. I just didn't have the devotion to go to school."

Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll (see Shakira).

Krysten Ritter, model and actress. Was spotted by a model agent at the age of 15 (while shopping in a Pennsylvania mall). Started modeling that next summer at the age of 16. Moved to New York after high school to model in commercials. Has never attended college.

Leandro Rizzuto, billionaire founder of Conair. Dropped out of college to found Conair with a $100 investment and the invention of a hot-air hair roller invention.

Emma Roberts, actress. Because of her work schedule as a young actress, she switched to being home-schooled. As she noted, "My friends joke that I've only been to high school in a movie." She has been accepted at Sarah Lawrence College, but has not yet attended.

Julia Roberts, actress. After high school, she headed to New York City where she pursued an acting career (while selling shoes and working at an ice cream stand). Has never attended college.

Pernell Roberts, actor (Bonanza and Trapper John). Attended Georgia Tech and the University of Maryland, but at both schools, as he noted, "I distinguished myself by flunking out."

Britt Robertson, actress. Homeschooled. In her early teens, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an actress. Has not attended college.

Andrew Robl, millionaire online poker player. Started playing poker during high school but turned professional after the second semester of his freshman year at the University of Michigan.

Nevaldo Rocha, billionaire founder of the Guararapes Confeccoes fashion empire. Never attended high school.

Chris Rock on Helping Yourself

Chris Rock, comedian, actor. Dropped out of high school.

John D. Rockefeller Sr., billionaire founder of Standard Oil, philanthropist. History's first recorded billionaire. Dropped out of high school two months before graduation. Took some courses at a local business school.

Dorothy Rodham, mother of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her mother had promised to fund her college education but then reneged on the commitment, so she never attended college.

Michelle Rodriguez, actress. Was expelled from five different schools during high school (for fighting and for questioning her teachers). She dropped out of high school but later earned her GED. Briefly attended business school before quitting to pursue her career as an actress. Never attended college.

Seth Rogan, actor, comedian, and screenwriter. Dropped out of high school.

Roy Rogers, aka Leonard Slye, singing cowboy, actor. Dropped out of high school. As he noted, I did pretty well “for a guy who never finished high school and used to yodel at square dances.”

Will Rogers, humorist, author, actor, entertainer. High school dropout.

Kjell Inge Rokke, billionaire Norwegian businessman. No secondary or college education. Started out as a fisherman at the age of 18.

Ray Romano, actor, Everybody Loves Raymond. Went to college for seven years but never graduated. “I would get my student loans, get money, register and never really go. It was a system I thought would somehow pan out.”

Rebecca Romijn, actress, model. Deferred her studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz to pursue a modeling career in Paris, France.

George Romney, automotive executive, Michigan governor, presidential candidate. Spent only a year at the University of Utah.

Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. president. Attended school only for a few months. Was tutored at home. Teddy eventually graduated from Harvard University but he did not complete his law degree at Columbia University.

Kevin Rose, founder of Digg.com, TechTV host. Dropped out of the University of Las Vegas during his sophomore year to code software. He wrote his first software program in the second grade and was building his own machines by the beginning of high school. He started Digg with $1,200 and launched the site out of his bedroom.

Barney Rosset, book and magazine publisher, film producer and distributor. Dropped out of several colleges. Then served as an Army photographer in China during World War II.

Alexander Rossi, motorsports driver. Graduated high school at the age of 16 to pursue a full-time career as a driver. Has not attended college.

Renzo Rosso, billionaire co-founder of Diesel jeans. Joined Italian fashion manufacturer Moltex at the age of 20; owned 40% of the business by the age of 22. Rename the company Diesel in 1978.

Emmy Rossum, actress, singer. Attended Columbia University for half a semester. But then dove headlong into acting in three movies.

Alvin Roth, systems engineer, game theorist, book author. Dropped out of Van Buren High School (Queens, New York) during his junior year. His explanation: He was understimulated. Applied to college and graduated with an engineering degree from Columbia University and a doctorate in operations research from Stanford University.

Asher Roth, hip hop artist, I Love College hit song. Dropped out of West Chester University after being signed.

André René Roussimoff, aka André the Giant, wrestler and actor. Dropped out of school after the 8th grade.

Karl Rove, presidential advisor. Left the University of Utah after two years to work for the college Republicans.

Kelly Rowland, singer. Has not yet attended collage. "I wanted to be a psychiatrist, but I made my first million at 18 years old. That's when I figured I would do well enough for myself."

Frederick Henry Royce, multimillionaire co-founder of Rolls-Royce, automotive designer. Elementary school dropout.

Daniela Ruah, actress. Has not attended college.

Michael Rubin, billionaire founder of e-commerce company GSI Commerce and Kynetic (including ShopRunner, Rue La La, and Fanatics). Dropped out of Villanova University after six months to open several retail ski shops.

He admits, “If I had to do it over again, I would have gone to college. I missed out on that. The business responsibilities weighted hard on me in my late teens and early 20s.”

Phillip Ruffin, billionaire casino operator. He dropped out of Wichita State to flip burgers. With the money he saved, he invested in convenience stores, oil, and real estate. Eventually he got into casinos. The best day of his life? August 10, 2007. The day he put $1.24 billion into his checking account.

The advice I would give to young people? Quit your job. Don't work for anybody. You really can't make any money working for someone else. (quoted in The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg)

Jane Russell, actress. Howard Hughes discovered her when she was 19 and cast her in the Western, The Outlaw. She did not attend college.

Leon Russell, aka Charles Russell Bridges, singer, rock musician. Moved to Los Angeles, California from Oklahoma at the age of 17. Never attended college.

Rene Russo, model, actress. After a year at Burroughs High School in Burbank, California, she dropped out. At the age of 17, she took a job inspecting lenses in an eyeglass factory, but was soon discovered by a model agent.

Dropouts with last names starting with S

We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a belly-full of words and do not know a thing. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, essayist

Drop out of school before your mind rots from our mediocre educational system. — Frank Zappa, musician, liner notes from the Freak Out album

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