23 Surprisingly Highly Educated Celebrities

POSTED BY Naseema Perveen, UPDATED ON February 16th, 2024
Surprisingly Highly Educated Celebrities

Folks! Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t it a general perception that those who couldn’t perform better in their studies are the ones who intend to join the entertainment industry? The reality however is upside down. Many highly qualified and intellectual celebrities earned fame due to their passion for the entertainment industry and not because them being bad at their academics. With our list of surprisingly highly educated celebrities, we would surely help you in negating the general public perception today:


23. Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon

While the world may know her as the blonde dumb due to her portrayal of the character Elle Woods in 2001’s super hit Legally Blonde, Reese in reality is counted among the highly intelligent celebrities of Hollywood.

She enrolled at the prestigious Stanford University to major in English Literature but left within a year due to her interest in pursuing a career in acting.


22. Ron Jeremy

Ron Jeremy

Before he started his career in the adult entertainment industry, Ron was a special education teacher. Jeremy earned his BA degree in theatre and education from Queens College in New York.

He continued his educational endeavor even after his graduation and earned his Master’s degree in special education from the same institute.


21. Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep

She earned her B.A. degree in Drama from Vassar College; is the same institute where she started her acting career. Later she enrolled in the School of Drama at Yale University where she earned her degree in Master of Fine Arts in 1975.

Eight years later Meryl Streep received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Princeton University in 2009 which is located in New Jersey (her home state).


20. Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper studied at Germantown Academy and after graduating enrolled at Villanova University. He, later on, got transferred to Georgetown University where he earned a BA in English.

He continued his educational pursuit until he earned an MFA in acting from Actors Studio Drama School at The New School in New York City.


19. David Duchovny

David Duchovny

The X-Files actor earned a BA degree from Princeton University, along with a Master’s in English from Yale University. In 1987, he enrolled in a Ph.D. but abandoned it after being booked for a beer commercial.

Later on, he revealed in an interview that the title of his unfinished thesis was, “Magic and Technology in Contemporary Poetry and Prose.”


18. Conan O’Brien

Conan O’Brien

Image Copyright: NBC Universal

Conan O’Brien earned his Master’s degree in American History majoring in history and literature from Harvard University in 1985. He was titled a “preeminent jokester” by the school newspaper.

His thesis was titled “The Old Child in Faulkner and O’Connor” and consisted of 72 pages.


17. Angela Bassett

Angela Bassett

Angela Bassett earned a Bachelor’s degree from Yale University in Afro-American studies on a scholarship. She, later on, accepted an MFA in drama from the same university.

As a graduate student, she worked with Lloyd Richard (the world-renowned director) which paved her career path in the entertainment industry.


16. Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman

Best known as the “Sexiest Man Alive” declared by People Magazine in 2008, the Australian star combines brains and talent.

Before he earned his recognition as one of the best-known Australian faces, he trained himself to be a journalist and received a BA degree in Communications from the University of Technology in Sydney. In addition to that, he has also been a part of the School of Practical Philosophy since 1992.


15. Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster

This Oscar-winning glamorous light-headed queen graduated from Yale University in 1985 earning a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature.

Twelve years later Jodie Foster was awarded an honorary Ph.D. degree from the same University in 1997 due to her professional achievements.


14. Miuccia Prada

Miuccia Prada

This fashion world tycoon, best known for PRADA, earned a Ph.D. in Political Sciences from the University of Milan. She has also over five years experience of performing as a mime artist.


13. Spike Lee

Spike Lee

Image Source: Flickr/Thomas Rome

Regarded as the famous African-American filmmaker, who revolutionized the participation of blacks in the entertainment industry, Spike Lee earned his BA degree from Morehouse College, Georgia.

Later on, Lee earned his Master’s degree in Fine Arts degree in Film and Television from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.


12. Lisa Kudrow

Lisa Kudrow

Lisa Kudrow (also known as Phoebe Lisa Kudrow) is opposite in her real life to what she appears on-screen. She is a graduate of Vassar College earning a degree in biology.

Before she was spotted on the prime show Friends (which later earned her an Emmy award), she was a medical researcher for over eight years.


11. Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner studied business at California State University and graduated in 1978. As a university student, he used to practice acting as well and developed a real interest in acting in the last year of his studies.

Soon after graduating, he took a marketing job that only lasted for 30 days as he started pursuing a career in acting full-time.


10. Hugh Grant

One of Britain’s best-known faces in real life and on-screen graduated from Oxford University in 1982 majoring in English Literature where he was awarded an educational scholarship.


9. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger 2011

Image Source: Flickr/Lon R. Fong

The famous politician, actor, and bodybuilder, popular for his well-known “Terminator” series, literally knows his business because he is a University of Wisconsin alumni from where he earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing and business administration.


8. Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Nyong’o at Collision 2022

Image Source: Flickr/Collision Conf

Distinguished as the first Mexican actress to earn an Oscar, Lupita Nyong’o studied film and theatre at Hampshire College after she moved to the United States from Mexico, her birth country.

In 2012, she graduated from Yale School of Drama and earned her Master’s degree in Fine Arts majoring in acting.


7. Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman from Israel

This Oscar winner is a Harvard alumnus in psychology and to be precise the very first-ever Harvard alum with an Oscar win. Apart from getting a bachelor’s degree from Harvard, she also accepted a graduate degree from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Natalie was counted among exceptional students at Harvard and has an Erdős–Bacon number of 7. Her publications appeared in a scientific journal twice and rightfully said in an interview:

“I’d rather be smart than a movie star.”


6. Milo Aukerman

Milo Aukerman

You would be surprised to know that the lead singer of the rock band Descendents is a graduate of the University of California from which he earned his BA degree in Biology. Later he completed his Ph.D. at the same university and the title of his thesis was “Analysis of opeque-2 Function in Maize“.

Moreover, he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in a post-doctoral program in biochemistry.


5. Rowan Atkinson

Rowan Atkinson

Rowan Atkinson more popularly known as Mr. Bean graduated from Newcastle University, earning his degree in electrical engineering in 1975, and is counted among the most educated actors out there. Later he earned a Master’s degree in electrical engineering at the Queen’s College of Oxford University. In 2006, Oxford blessed Atkinson with the honorable title of “honorary fellow“.

As a student at Oxford, he was quite involved in the Oxford University Dramatic Society and several other clubs, and it was at this time that he started developing the iconic qualities of our beloved Mr. Bean.


4. James Franco

James Franco earned a graduate degree in English from UCLA with an impressive 3.5 GPA all while working on several films. He, later on, moved to NYU to study filmmaking, enrolled in fiction writing courses at Brooklyn College and Columbia University, and studied the poetry program at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.

Currently, he is pursuing his Ph.D. in English at Yale University and his educational journey continues along with his illustrious career in acting.


3. Brian May

Brian May

Image Source: Flickr/Mark Kent

Brian May is not only a lead guitarist but also a very intelligent scholar. This English lead guitarist and musician of the famous band Queen graduated from Imperial College London majoring in Physics.

Thirty-three years after he abandoned his Ph.D. in 1974, he completed his Ph.D. in Astrophysics in 2007 and the title of his long-delayed thesis was: “A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud”.


2. Greg Graffin

Greg Graffin

The famous songwriter and the lead vocalist of the Bad Religion-American rock band earned his bachelor’s degree from UCLA majoring in Geology and Anthropology and later received a master’s degree in geology from the same university.

His educational pursuit led him to Cornell where he earned his Ph.D. His thesis was titled “Evolution, Monism, Atheism, and the Naturalist World-View: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology“.


1. Dolph Lundgren

Dolph Lundgren 2010

Image Source: Flickr/Gage Skidmore

The Swedish-born Dolph Lundgren graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Sydney, Australia in the late 1970s. Later he was awarded an academic scholarship to Clemson University and the University of Washington.

After successfully graduating with top marks in his class, his educational endeavor led him to the prestigious MIT where he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship. Apart from being a successful action hero, he is also counted among the best-educated actors in Hollywood.

Did we miss any highly educated celebrities on our list worth mentioning? Let us know in the comments below!

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