Class Acts: Hollywood’s Actors Who Went to College

Find out where your favorite A-lister went to get their smarts

It’s almost the end of the school year! While we already highlighted celebrity ladies who graduated from college, we’re celebrating the upcoming season with a list of hot Hollywood actors who went to college. While some graduated with a degree and others chose to focus on their acting careers, each has had their own academic journey. Time to click through, and check out all these collegiate cuties.

The Eccentric History of the Cannes Film Festival 

James Franco

He initially left school after his freshman year to pursue acting, but James Franco reenrolled at UCLA as an English major in 2006. After he graduated from UCLA, he enrolled in a whopping three graduate school programs simultaneously: Columbia University’s MFA writing program, Brooklyn College for creative writing, and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for directing.

Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey attended the University of Texas in Austin where he graduated in 1993.

Hugh Grant

Hugh Grant went to New College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford, where he studied English literature and graduated with honors.

Ed Harris

Ed Harris studied acting at Oklahoma University for a year before moving to California and spending two years at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.

Jon Stewart

Stewart graduated from The College of William & Mary in Virginia. He started off majoring in chemistry before switching to psychology.

Tommy Lee Jones

Tommy Lee Jones attended Harvard University, where he completed a degree in English in 1969. He was actually roomies with fellow actor John Lithgow and Al Gore. Not too shabby!

Ashton Kutcher

Ashton Kutcher attended the University of Iowa, where he studied biochemical engineering. The reason? He hoped to develop a cure for his brother’s heart problem.

Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt studied journalism at the University of Missouri but dropped out just two credits shy of graduation!

George Clooney

George Clooney majored in broadcast journalism at the University of Kentucky and then briefly attended the University of Cincinnati but did not graduate from either.

Will Ferrell

Will Ferrell wanted to be an actual Anchorman! He attended the University of Southern California where he completed a degree in broadcast journalism.

Adam Sandler

Adam Sandler went to New York University where he graduated with a degree in Fine Arts.

Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington graduated from Fordham University with a degree in journalism.

Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner attended California State University at Fullerton, where he graduated with a degree in business in 1978.

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford majored in philosophy at Ripon College in Wisconsin, but dropped out shortly before graduation.

Sean Penn

Sean Penn attended Santa Monica College, where he studied auto mechanics and speech.

Gerard Butler

Gerard Butler studied law at the University of Glasgow and graduated in 1991.

Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal attended Columbia University with hopes of studying Eastern religions and philosophy but dropped out after two years to focus on acting.

Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger majored in accounting and finance at the London School of Economics but did not complete his degree.

Zac Efron

Zac Efron was accepted to the University of Southern California but deferred his enrollment in order to focus on his film career. He did take classes at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in 2000 and 2001.

Forest Whitaker

Forest Whitaker graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in drama.

John Krasinski

John Krasinski attended Brown University where he graduated with honors. He studied theatre arts and English literature.

Ed Burns

Ed Burns attended Hunter College and received a degree in English.

Matt Damon

Matt Damon did not complete his degree, but he did attend Harvard University where he majored in English.

James Marsden

James Marsden attended Oklahoma State University, where he studied broadcast journalism. However, he left after a year and a half in order to move to LA.

Sean Combs

Sean “Diddy” Combs attended Howard University but eventually dropped out after landing a gig as a talent director at Uptown Records in NYC.

Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks majored in theater at California State University in Sacramento but did not receive a degree.

Josh Hartnett

Josh Hartnett studied theatre arts and film at SUNY Purchase but left after a year to head to LA.

Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller studied film at UCLA but only lasted one and a half semesters before dropping out to pursue acting in NYC.

Zach Braff


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  1. wellokaythen says:

    Hang on a minute. I got stuck on the James Franco one and fired off a response before reading all the others.

    So, on this list “went to college” includes people who went for a year and then left and never went back. I’m not sure what the audience or message is for this article. All you need for success in the entertainment biz is a brief stint at a college or university? The people with graduate degrees are essentially just as cool and successful as the ones with only a year of intro classes? A 100-level Drama class is all you need to springboard to a successful acting career?

    A semester or two is all you need to “get your smarts”?

    • creative_username says:

      It’s not that they were geniuses and suddenly dropped out to succeed in Hollywood. They obviously worked in the industry before they attended school and took opportunities that their schools could never offer. That’s all they did.

  2. wellokaythen says:

    Three programs simultaneously? That explains why James Franco almost never showed up for his NYU film class and slept in the ones he did attend. It makes me wonder why he had that professor fired for giving him a D, when he was already getting two other degrees.

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