- Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are some of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs – and billionaires.
- They also dropped out of college. One in eight billionaires on the Forbes 400 are college dropouts, according to a study by UK job site Adview.
- However, experts suggest you stay in school.
Indeed, according to a study by UK job site Adview, one in eight of the Forbes 400, which are the 400 richest billionaires in the US, are college dropouts. They came to this conclusion by looking at the 362 billionaires with publicly available education information; 44 were dropouts.
That follows a similar analysis by Forbes. In 2017, they found that 16% of the billionaires on their list didn’t have a bachelor’s degree.
Quite a few wildly successful entrepreneurs managed to hit it big without a college degree – like Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, Dell founder Michael Dell, Apple cofounderSteve Jobs, Oracle cofounderLarry Ellison, Spotify cofounder Daniel Ek, Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso, DropBox cofounder Arash Ferdowsi, to name a few.
From that list, it seems like having the guts to eschew the typical path of a college education, and the average debt of $US17,126 per graduate, coincides with hitting it big in the business world.
Investor Peter Thiel apparently agrees; he launched an on-going program in 2011 that awards $US100,000 to young entrepreneurs who want to drop out of school. The Thiel Fellowship website summarises the dropout ethos by positioning college as an impediment rather than an area of growth: “College can be good for learning about what’s been done before, but it can also discourage you from doing something new.”
Still, you should probably get a degree
Experts really don’t recommend you drop out of college.
“There are always going to be the Jay-Zs of the world. There’s going to be the Kobe Bryants. There’s going to be the Mark Zuckerbergs, the people that drop out of college,” Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at NYU Stern, previously told Business Insider.
“You should assume you’re not that person and go to college,” Galloway said.
While quite a few successful entrepreneurs and billionaires did drop out, the vast majority have degrees. What’s more is that those degrees are from prestigious colleges. Harvard, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania are the top three alma maters for American billionaires, totaling 326 billionaire alum.
Researchers Jonathan Wai and Heiner Rindermann found that 94% of US leaders, including top journalists, politicians, and CEOs, attended college. Half of them attended what they defined as an “elite school,” compared to 2-5% of the overall US population.
Wai and Rindermann emphasised in a piece for The Conversation that few of these US leaders came from disadvantaged backgrounds. Meanwhile, many of the most famous college dropouts happen to be white men with highly-educated parents who could be safety nets.
“Perhaps in the future, college may not be as important to employers,” the researchers wrote. “But for now, college dropouts who rule the world are rare exceptions – not the rule.”