BAM. Check out these unbelievably successful high school drop outs.

July 25, 2013 5:56 am971 comments


Parents tend to want their children to finish high school. But sometimes parents are met with a child who has unconventional abilities, the kind that can’t be properly fostered in a regular high school environment. They are met with great success after dropping out of high school once they begin to follow their passions, and these kinds of people can be found across various disciplines throughout time. Here are 11 immensely successful high school dropouts that you might not have suspected:

Quentin Tarantino


Arguably one of the most influential directors of his generation, Tarantino admitted on the Howard Stern radio show to dropping out of Narbonne High School in California at the age of 16 to attend acting classes. After two years,  he quickly gained a distaste for that too and found himself working in a video rental store in Manhattan Beach, where his real education began. He discussed cinema and customer video recommendations with his co-workers and paid close attention to the types of films people liked to rent; he speaks of his experiences in the store as inspiration for his directorial career.

Richard Branson


Richard Branson was unable to reach success within the confines of school due to his dyslexia and dropped out of the Stowe School at the age of 16. Ironically enough, he started a magazine publication entitled Student – “I did it because I wanted to edit a magazine. There wasn’t a national magazine run by students, for students,” says Branson. The magazine was not lucrative but it would ultimately be the launchpad for Branson Virgin Records.  Branson ran ads in Student for records at discounted prices and his mail order record business soon became profitable, opening the first store soon after with the staff from Student.

Benjamin Franklin


A hardcore historical drop-out, Franklin dropped out before he even reached high school age, or even middle school, Franklin gave up on schooling at the ripe old age of 10. He decided he would rather work under his father as a soap and candle maker, then moved on to apprentice under his brother who was a printer and the founder of the first independent newspaper in the colonies. His brother denied Ben the chance to publish letters in the paper, so Ben decided to submit letters under a pseudonym. After his brother’s dissatisfaction upon finding out this information Ben took it upon himself to pull an even more badass move – he left his apprenticeship without permission which labeled him as a fugitive, and subsequently ran away to Philadelphia!

John D. Rockefeller


Rockefeller’s drop-out story is slightly strange, rather than being an act of rebellion, his dropping-out was actually insisted upon by his father (only two months before graduation, too). He decided to indulge in his excellence with numbers, so Rockefeller enrolled in Folsom’s Commercial College where he studied double-entry bookkeeping, penmanship, banking, and commercial law. His studies would help him land his first job in at Hewitt & Tuttle, commission merchants and produce shippers – his success only increased from there; good call, Dad.

Walt Disney


Walt Disney started dabbling in drawing during his high school career; he was the cartoonist for McKinley High School’s newspaper sticking to mainly political topics. He dropped out at 16 to join the army, but was swiftly rejected for being underage and joined the Red Cross instead (lying about his age on the application this time around). He was sent to France as an ambulance driver where his ambulance dawned some of his cartoons on the side. Upon returning to America he became a newspaper artist and when that fizzled out he decided to try his hand at being an animator, the rest is history.

Charles Dickens


The Victorian writer of quite a few classics that you’ll probably encounter in your high school literature class, Dickens was not given the opportunity to finish high school in his youth. He had to leave school twice, at age 12 and then again at age 15 to help contribute to his family’s finances. He became an office boy where he learned shorthand, which lead to him trying his hand at freelance reporting. If it weren’t for these dire circumstances, its unclear as to when Dickens would have turned to writing in his life.

David Karp


Developer of the exorbitantly successful blogging platform Tumblr, David Karp’s parents created an encouraging environment for him to feel comfortable enough to pursue his dreams, even if it meant dropping out of school. Karp attributes his desire to drop out not to crappy friends, or a lack of motivation/aptitude for school studies, his passion for computer science just wasn’t being satisfied at the Bronx High School of Science. He figured he could learn more on his own, and with his parents’ blessing he dropped out his sophomore year of high school.

Lindsay Fox

Trucking magnate Lindsay Fox proves that dropping out of school is no barrier to school. His company, Linfox, earns revenue of $2 billion a year and employs around 17,000 people.  Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, he said:

“For a 16-year-old high school drop-out, I’ve got two PhDs [working for me]. Gaining my education from practical experience certainly benefited me. If I have gone on to be a lawyer, my life wouldn’t have been anywhere near as interesting. 

This post was originally published on Under30 CEO and has been republished with full permission.



  • ‘High-school Drop-out’ is a tag I hate!!
    For me, I left school at the begining of Year 12 for medical reasons. And it was tough. All through school, I did alright, and figured I was I was going to uni – not that I had it completely figured out.
    High school doesn’t fit the mould for all of us. Some people aren’t cut for that learning environment. Leaving may have been terribly hard for me, but I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for that descision – so maybe is was indeed the best thing.
    But leaving, gives you a label. And that label tends to stick for a while. And looking at these eight people, sticks for a long time.

  • BAM. Check out these unbelievably successful high school drop outs.

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