10 Celebs Who Went Back to College After Getting Famous

Emma Watson has great company.

Fame has not stopped these celebrities from joining the world of higher education. From Emma Watson to Oprah, here are the best shining examples of stars who went back to school after getting a taste of Hollywood.

1 Emma Watson



After a gap year and the final Harry Potter films, Emma enrolled at Brown University, where she spent the next five years, on-and-off. (She deferred her studies in 2011 and enrolled at Oxford’s Worcester College as a visiting student.) In May 2014, Emma graduated from Brown with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. According to the actress, she received ‘a lot of angry phone calls’ during her studies. ‘But I needed the space to go and explore who I was, without being under the microscope,’ she told Interview magazine in 2017. ‘And I did a play at Brown. I did Three Sisters. I loved it. I loved working with other people my age who were figuring it out.’

2 Natalie Portman


In 1999, not long after the release of Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, 18-year-old Natalie enrolled at Harvard University, where she pursued a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. She continued to make films during this period, including Where the Heart IsZoolander, and Star Wars: Episode II. In 2015, Natalie returned to Harvard to deliver the commencement speech: ‘Today I feel much like I did when I came to Harvard Yard as a freshman in 1999. I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.’

3 Anna Paquin


Anna, who became the second-youngest Oscar winner for her work in The Piano in 1993, enrolled at Columbia University in 2001 around the same time as fellow actress Julia Stiles. With the success of X-MenAlmost Famous, and plans for more films (non-X-Men included), Anna left Columbia focus on her acting full time.

4 Yara Shahidi


In June 2017, the Black-ish star announced that she had been accepted to Harvard. With the success of the show and its spinoff, Grown-ish, Yara decided to defer her start date by at least one year. “I’m trying to figure it out because I want to make sure that I get as much of the actual college experience of being on campus and not flying back and forth,” she told W magazine in January 2018. “So we’re working it out so that the best of both worlds can exist.” According to PEOPLE, she’s expected to begin her first semester later this fall. And don’t be surprised if you catch her hanging out with fellow Harvard student Malia Obama — Malia’s mom wrote a letter of recommendation for Yara’s application, NBD.

5 Cole Sprouse


In 2015, Cole graduated from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualised Study with a degree in geographical information systems and satellite imaging. As he explained on Live! with Kelly and Ryan in 2017, the degree, which was like ‘virtual cartography,’ landed him a handful of excavations. ‘I had a job in Brooklyn, in some dingy lab in a basement in Williamsburg, bagging artefacts like a treasure goblin.’ Then Riverdale, his first post-NYU, non-artefact gig, came around.


6 Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen

ashley olsen



One year after enrolling at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualised Study, Mary-Kate took a leave of absence. At the time, her rep told PEOPLE that the actress and fashion designer was taking time off ‘to focus on her increasing responsibilities as co-president of Dualstar Entertainment Group and to pursue personal interests,’ referring to the production company behind several of the Olsen twins’ wildly popular TV movies in the 90s and early ‘00s. MK never returned to NYU.


Ashley and her sister Mary-Kate famously purchased the top floor of a high-rise in the West Village for R85 million when they began their studies at NYU. As their lawyer and manager Robert Thorne told the LA Times in 2004, their decision about ‘not living in a dorm was less about Mary-Kate and Ashley’s business than about interfering with other people’s college experience. They visited the dorms last year and within a few minutes there was a crowd around them.’ Like Mary-Kate, Ashley eventually took a leave of absence and never went back.

7 Dakota Fanning


After making waves in Hollywood in movies including I Am SamSweet Home AlabamaCharlotte’s Web and yes, an episode of Friends, Dakota began her studies at the NYU Gallatin School of Individualised Study in 2011, majoring in women’s studies with an emphasis on the ‘portrayal of women in film and culture.’ She previously told The Daily Beast, ‘It’s something I’ve studied and thought about a lot. It’s rare to see women in a film who are not somehow validated by a male, or discussing a male, or heartbroken by a male, or end up being happy because of a male. It’s interesting to think about, and it’s very true.’

8 Tyra Banks

America's Next Top Model


In 2012, the America’s Next Top Model creator, model, and smize queen shared a photo of her graduation ceremony at Harvard Business School, writing that it was ‘SUCH an exciting moment.’ Between Tara’s own interviews and the media’s assumption that she had gone to Harvard Business School to earn an M.B.A., the folks at Jezebel launched a mini investigation into her studies. TL; DR, not to take anything away from Tyra’s genius, but if you must know, she completed a non-degree-granting certificate course called the Owner/President Management Program (O.P.M.)

9 Oprah


By the time Oprah was one credit shy of graduating from Tennessee State University, she was already a recognisable face on TV. (She accepted a job offer from CBS during her sophomore year.) In 1987, about three years after she took over a Chicago-based program and reformatted it to become The Oprah Winfrey Show, the Queen of TV was invited to TSU to speak at its commencement: ‘I’d made a movie, had been nominated for an Oscar and founded my company, Harpo. But I told them, I cannot come and give a speech unless I can earn one more credit… So, I finished my coursework, I turned in my final paper and I got the degree.’

10 Karlie Kloss


Karlie, who was the seventh highest-paid model of 2017 according to Forbes (with over R100 million in earnings), is currently enrolled at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualised Study. She also runs the education nonprofit Kode With Klossy and a YouTube channel.

This article originally appeared in Cosmopolitan.com

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