Top 30 Inspiring Celebrities With College Degrees

We look up to celebs for inspiration when we want to change our haircuts, our home styles and even our training routines. But celebs can also inspire us to pursue an interesting college degree. Find out which celebs with a college degree inspired our Top 30! Do not miss our favorites: #26, #12 and #1!

#30. Eva Longoria: Kinesiology

This desperate housewife earned a B.Sc. degree in Kinesiology, the study of human movement, at Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 1997. During her time in college, she also won the title of Miss Corpus Christi USA. But her academic record is far from over. In 2013, Eva received her M.A. in Chicano Studies from California State University, Northridge.

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Chicano studies deals with the study of Chicanos, Latinos, and Mexican Americans. On her graduation day, Eva tweeted:

You’re never too old or too busy to continue your education!

#29. Carrie Underwood: Mass Communications

The talented Carrie Underwood received a bachelor’s degree in mass communication with an emphasis in journalism from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in 2006. Moreover, she graduated magna cum laude (an honorary distinction).

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When she was in her senior year, she decided to try out American Idol where she made history. After winning the show, Carrie returned to college to complete her studies, as she was only three credits short of earning her degree. In 2014, she returned to Tahlequah for a special acoustic performance to benefit student scholarships at NSU.

#28. Aziz Ansari: Marketing

Aziz Ansari graduated from the New York University Stern School of Business with a degree in marketing. The Parks and Recreation star was interested in being an entrepreneur but it wasn’t what he had hoped for.

I wasn’t aware of that whole finance culture of kids who wanna work at Goldman Sachs and all that stuff and blah blah blah. It was just…not interesting me.

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While in college, the comedian worked at NYU’s Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning Department.

I just got a sense of pride every time I was in an NYU building that had cool air,” he said. “And when it was too hot or too cold, I felt shame.

#27. Gabrielle Union: Sociology

The actress, activist, and author, Gabrielle Union, holds a sociology degree from UCLA, which she paid for with student loans and a job at a bookstore. The Being Mary Jane star knows the importance of education and has tweeted that:

Looks fade, money runs dry and fame leaves” but “education is forever.”

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When a parent can tell me their child’s fave basketball player/rapper/actor but doesn’t know the name of their kids teacher, [I feel] rage,” Union wrote. “It’s great your kid wants to model, but is she a model student? We’ve gotta get serious about education!

Up next is one of our favorites!

#26. Danai Gurira: Social Psychology

This badass warrior holds two degrees. Danai earned her first B.A. in psychology at Macalester College, in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 2001, but she was very passionate about theater and activism. So, in 2004, she earned a Master of Fine Arts in acting, from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. In 2016, Danai delivered the commencement speech for graduating students at Macalester College.

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[Macalester] was preparing me for the larger world, not just in the sense of having a degree but in the sense that I was going to face institutions in the larger world, of all sorts, that I would need to challenge and enact change upon. That I would always need to speak up for others, to attempt to empower people other than myself.”

#25. Mayim Bialik: Neuroscience

It’s no surprise that The Big Bang Theory star is smart. Mayim earned a B.S. degree in neuroscience, with minors in Hebrew and Jewish studies, from UCLA in 2000. But she didn’t stop there! Mayim returned to UCLA and, in 2007, earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience. Her dissertation was entitled “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative and satiety behaviors in Prader–Willi syndrome.”

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If I had not gone to college, I might have kept acting and been happy like that. But I loved going to UCLA and doing something that was very challenging academically. I loved doing research with adolescents with special needs—that was seven years of my life. It was exciting to get my Ph.D. in 2007. But in terms of time to raise my two sons, the flexible life of an actor was better than the long hours of a research professor.”

#24. J. Cole: Communications

J. Cole is another genius! After graduating from high school with a 4.2 GPA, he moved to NYC where he accepted a scholarship to St. John’s University. The rapper was going to major in computer science but he changed his mind and switched to communication and business after witnessing the life of a lonely computer science professor. He graduated magna cum laude in 2007, with a 3.8 GPA.

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Although the musician graduated in 2007, he didn’t receive his diploma until 2015 because he owed money for a library book. Before receiving his degree, in an interview, he stated:

I guess they let me slide. If you have any outstanding fee, that translates to money. There’s a price associated with it. I never paid. That’s why I don’t have my degree.”

You won’t believe our next celeb!

#23. Kourtney Kardashian: Theatre Arts

This Kardashian mom and icon, after transferring from the Southern Methodist University, attended the University of Arizona where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts and a minor in Spanish. Interesting fact: she was classmates with Nicole Richie and Luke Walton.

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Although she majored in theatre arts, she has admitted that she is not an actress. Kourtney made her acting debut as a guest on One Life to Live, where she was able to fulfill her dream, however, she later realized it was not an easy job.

I’d thought I’d only have two lines. But my script is so long… I’m not an actress.”

#22. Natalie Portman: Psychology

Natalie is a beautiful and talented actress but she also has the brains! She attended Harvard University where she earned a B.A. degree in psychology in 2003. While in Harvard, she was a research assistant and co-authored two research papers that were published in scientific journals. Natalie was invited in 2015 to deliver the commencement speech at her alma mater. There, she revealed that she was still insecure about her own worthiness.

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My parents have always stressed education over success, over money, over everything,” she said, “and I think college was great in terms of how it has made me want my career to be as interesting as school. And with fascinating material like this, its all about finding the questions that don’t have answers.”

#21. Cole Sprouse: Geographical Information Systems

The Riverdale star graduated in 2015 from the New York University. At NYU, Cole majored in geographical information systems and satellite imaging. The actor worked briefly in the field of archaeology, and participated in excavations and performed lab work. While at college, he performed summer digs in Europe and Asia, and when he was on a dig in Bulgaria, he unearthed a mask of Dionysus.

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Cole has also an interest in photography. In fact, his love for photography is so strong that he launched a personal photography website and took classes at NYU. Cole has had shoot assignments for key fashion publications such as Teen Vogue, L’Uomo Vogue and The Sunday Times Style, among others.

Check out our next celeb!

#20. Chris Martin: Greek & Latin

Chris Martin went to University College London where he formed a rock band called Pectoralz in 1996, which was eventually renamed Coldplay in 1998. At UCL, Coldplay’s lead singer read Ancient World Studies and graduated with first-class honors in Greek and Latin.

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I went to London like Dick Whittington looking for gold. I didn’t have a cat but about 12 bags and my dad had to drive me there. I arrived at this big place called Ramsay Hall, Tottenham Court Road – brilliant – and I met Jonny [Buckland] and everything changed.”

#19. Rashida Jones: Comparative Religion

Another star from Parks and Recreations makes it to our list! This actress, writer and producer attended Harvard University where she earned her degree in religion and philosophy in 1997. While she studied, she was part of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, Harvard Radcliffe Dramatic Club and became the musical director of the Harvard-Radcliffe Opportunes, a co-ed a cappella group.

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In 2016, the actress became the fourth alumna to give the commencement address at Harvard. Rashida advised the students to live every day as if it is their last and to live in love, not fear.

When big decisions pop up, get quiet—real quiet, and listen. Turn off your phone, turn off your computer, and listen to your true heart,” she said. “Hear the thing that makes you feel sick with excitement, and scared because you know you’ll learn, and do that thing.”

#18. Will Ferrell: Sports Information

The comedian earned a B.A. degree in sports information in 1990 at the University of Southern California. Occasionally, he would dress in a janitor’s outfit and stroll into his friends’ classes. Ferrell was also known for streaking around campus with a few other people. The actor also earned an internship at a local television station in the sports department, however, he did not enjoy the work.

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Even though the comedian didn’t pursue a career in sports broadcasting, he has performed in a variety of movies about sports: Blades of Glory, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Semi-Pro, and Kicking & Screaming. Moreover, if we think of politics as being similar to sports, then we can’t forget about Ferrell’s The Campaign. It’s clear that his love for sports has influenced his acting career.

#17. America Ferrera: International Relations

America Ferrera was able to attend the University of Southern California on a presidential scholarship, double majoring in theatre and international relations. However, the actress dropped out to focus on her acting career but later earned her bachelor’s degree in May 2013. She also attended Northwestern University to take theatre classes.

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I am using so much of what I learned in the School of International Relations in my life,” she said in 2013. “I’ve learned about the root causes of so many issues I’m passionate about and how to improve people’s lives. Sometimes the issues have taken me across the world, sometimes here in our own backyard.”

#16. Sam Hunt: Economics

This singer and songwriter attended Middle Tennessee State University from 2003 to 2004. There, he was a quarterback although he didn’t play in any game. Sam then transferred to the University of Alabama and redshirted his first season there. At UAB, Sam majored in philosophy before graduating with a business degree in economics. Always hard-working, the singer would teach himself how to play acoustic guitar after practice.

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[Attending UAB] was one of the most social times in my life, and I was able to learn a lot and grow up a lot during those years.” He commented: “Playing ball and going to school required discipline and dedication. That helped instill the work ethic that being successful in the music industry requires.”

#15. Regina Hall: Journalism

Widely known for her role as Brenda Meeks in the Scary Movie film series, Regina enrolled at Fordham University in the Bronx, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1992. Later, the actress enrolled at New York University, where she earned a Master’s degree in journalism in 1997.

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(…) in the first month of grad school my dad had a stroke. He passed away and that kind of shifted my thinking. (…) Then I thought, well, my dad would want me to finish school and so I’m going to, but I’m going to try something I’m really excited about doing. And I did love journalism, actually. (…) [The shift to acting] wasn’t necessarily planned, it just kind of organically happened.”

#14. Ben McKenzie: Economics & Foreign Affairs

The lead actor of the TV series The OC and Gotham graduated from the University of Virginia in 2001, where he earned an undergraduate degree in foreign affairs and economics. This university was also his father and paternal grandfather’s alma mater.

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UVA was a tremendous place to try my hand at any number of creative and intellectual endeavors. The ability to study econ and foreign affairs during the day and perform onstage at night was a true blessing,” McKenzie recalls. “I’m not sure I would have had the opportunity to receive such a well-rounded education anywhere else.”

#13. Freddie Highmore: Spanish & Arabic

This English actor shot to fame for his acting skills but he has shown that he is smart too. The former child star earned his degree in Spanish and Arabic from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, while filming the first two seasons of Bates Motel. At the same time, he was a member of the university’s football team.

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Freddie didn’t act at all during the first two years of college. In fact, he never acted in a Cambridge production because he wanted to play football for the college and keep a separation with his career.

I’m used to combining acting with other things, like doing a degree. I like to be exercising both sides of my brain.”

#12. Laverne Cox: Dance

The Orange is the New Black star first went to the Alabama School of Fine Arts before switching to Marymount Manhattan College, where she earned a B.F.A. in Dance. Laverne had to put up with many difficult situations during her life but her love for the arts helped her deal with them.

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I begged my mother to put me into dance classes and finally, in third grade, she did,” Laverne said. “Tap and jazz but not ballet. She thought ballet was too gay (…) Throughout all of that, I was very feminine and I was really bullied, majorly bullied. There was this side of me that was this over-achiever that loved learning.”

Laverne is the first openly-transgender person nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in any acting category and she is also an LGBTQ+ advocate.

#11. Bradley Cooper: English

This Grammy and BAFTA award-winning actor studied at Georgetown University where he earned a B.A. in English and graduated with honors in 1997. During his time in college, he became a member of the Georgetown Hoyas rowing team and acted with Nomadic Theatre. At his alma mater, Bradley became fluent in French and spent six months as an exchange student in Aix-en-Provence, France.

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It seems that Bradley was not satisfied with his B.A. so he later earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in acting from the Actors Studio Drama School at The New School in NYC. In 2018, Bradley returned to Georgetown to give advice to students about entering the film industry and pursuing their dreams.

I fought tooth and nail to get into this school. I soaked up Georgetown like nothing else. I had one of the most incredible experiences here,” he said.

#10. Rebel Wilson: Law

The Pitch Perfect actress was born in Sydney, NSW, Australia and earned a B.A. in Theatre and Performance studies as well as a Bachelor of Laws in 2009 at the University of New South Wales. Although she never practiced law, she benefits from what she learned in law school to look over her work contracts and negotiate her deals.

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Rebel was in Africa when she decided she wanted to study theater. She suffered from hallucinations when she contracted malaria, where she saw herself winning an Oscar award.

I hallucinated that I won an Oscar and then I went up there and gave an acceptance rap instead of an acceptance speech, and it brought the house down. I like came back and I enrolled in the Australian Theatre For Young People and people thought I was nuts.”

#9. Whitney Port: Gender Studies

This talented TV personality, fashion designer, and author majored in gender studies at the University of Southern Carolina in 2007. In an interview, she confessed she wanted to pursue a career in fashion but USC didn’t offer a major in fashion. Because Whitney had an interest in sociology, she found the next best fit, gender studies.

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While Whitney was starting her third year at USC, she made her first appearance on the TV show The Hills. As the show became more popular, it became harder for her to manage her student and professional lives. However, she managed to succeed and interned at Women’s Wear Daily, W and Teen Vogue as well as at People’s Revolution (a PR company).

#8. Uzo Aduba: Voice Performance

Actress Uzo Aduba, better known as ‘Crazy Eyes‘ from the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, went to Boston University where she studied classical voice and competed in track and field. She obtained her degree in Voice Performance in 2005.

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Uzo accepted to speak at the BU College of Fine Arts convocation ceremony in 2017, where she used a recurring nautical analogy during her remarks.

You all stand on the shore of a unique and irreplaceable time, ready to set sail from this Boston harbor into the unknown of this next chapter.”

#7. Ken Jeong: M.D.

Ken Jeong, son of South Korean immigrants, graduated from high school when he was 16 years old and his achievements earned him Greensboro’s Youth of the Month award. In 1990, Ken graduated from Duke University and, in 1995, he obtained his M.D. at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

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The actor began a career as a physician while developing his stand-up comedy. He gave up his career in medicine to pursue acting. In 2018, while he was on stage during a live comedy club act, he jumped off stage to assist a fan who went into a seizure in the third row until paramedics arrived.

#6. Connie Britton: Asian Studies

TV actress Connie Britton majored in Asian Studies with a concentration in Chinese at Dartmouth College. Britton also studied in Beijing at the Beijing Normal University during her freshman summer together with Kirsten Gillibrand, a U.S. Senator from New York. The actress, also singer and producer, graduated in 1989.

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In a 2012 interview, she said:

I always wanted to be an actor. But when I went to college, I had to fulfill a language requirement and so I thought it would be really cool to do it speaking Chinese. My Chinese these days is real, real shaky. Let’s put it this way: these days, my singing is better than my Chinese.”

#5. Rooney Mara: Psychology & Nonprofits

In 2011, Rooney Mara shot to fame when she portrayed Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But, in 2010, she obtained her B.A. in Psychology from NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study. There, she also studied international social policy and nonprofits.

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While she studied at NYU, Mara acted in a few student plays and then began her career in acting, first auditioning at the age of nineteen. Additionally, Mara was part of Forbes Magazine’s 2015 30 Under 30 List for being part of the ‘game changers, movers, and makers’ under 30.

#4. John Legend: English With Concentration In African-American Literature And Culture

The well-known singer, songwriter, record producer, and actor, John Legend, earned his English degree in 1999. During his stay at Penn, Legend worked as president and musical director of a co-ed jazz and pop acapella group called Counterparts. Thanks to his friend and roommate, he met Kanye West, who played a key role in Legend’s getting a major recording contract in 2004.

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Legend gave a commencement speech at his alma mater in 2014, where he stated:

The key to success, the key to happiness, is opening your mind and your heart to love. Spending your time doing things you love and with people you love.”

#3. J.K. Rowling: French With Additional Greek And Roman Studies

The renowned author of the Harry Potter series attended the University of Exeter in England where she received her B.A. in French and Classics in 1986. Rowling also studied one year in Paris before graduating. In 1988, Rowling wrote a short essay about her time studying Classics titled “What was the Name of that Nymph Again? or Greek and Roman Studies Recalled“; it was published by the University of Exeter’s journal Pegasus.

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Soon after graduating, in 1990, she came up with the idea for the Harry Potter series. In 2018, the author dispelled a famous Exeter urban legend:

She tweeted: “If you want real fantasy, go to an estate agent. Never visited [the Old Fire House]in my life.”

#2. John Cho: English

This Korean American actor earned his degree in B.A. in English at the UC Berkeley in 1996. After he graduated, he taught English at Pacific Hills School in West Hollywood, California while working at East West Players’s theater in downtown Los Angeles.

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At present, John plays Hikaru Sulu in the reboot of the Star Trek franchise, following in the footsteps of George Takei, who was also a UC Berkeley attendee (but UCLA graduate). Also, his fellow Star Trek coworker, Chris Pine, also obtained a BA in English at the same college six years after Cho.

#1. Lisa Kudrow: Biology

Lisa studied biology at Vassar College and received her B.A. in Biology in 1985. She was following her father’s footsteps, Lee Kudrow, a physician specialized in headaches, when she found her love for acting. Once she graduated, Lisa worked together with her father.

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In 2010, Lisa was invited to give the commencement address at her alma mater,:

“(…) I learned you have to surrender to the fact that you are one of too many in a highly competitive field where it is difficult to stand out…for now. Over time, through your work, you will demonstrate who you are and what you bring to the field. Just stay with it and keep working.”

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