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Character Studies: Famous Actors’ Majors in College

As college students prepare themselves for a new semester of higher learning (and partying), we decided to look at some big-named actors who embraced academia…and then made zillions of dollars doing something unrelated to their majors.

It’s no secret that a college diploma isn’t a prerequisite for becoming a Hollywood superstar. Heck, you don’t even need a certificate in diesel-engine repair from a correspondence school headquartered in Yemen (although that probably wouldn’t hurt). So it might be a surprise to find that many successful Hollywood A-listers have, in fact, given higher ed the old college try. Here are a few big-named actors who had a life on campus before trading up to the big lights.

Ashton Kutcher

Long before he was disappointing us with inexplicable romantic comedies, Ashton Kutcher was a biochemical engineering major at the University of Iowa. Why biochemistry? Reportedly, he chose that area because he wanted to cure cerebral palsy. But in true Kelso fashion, the Cedar Rapids native instead took a break from frat parties, won a local modeling contest, and then dropped out to pursue a career in modelling and acting.

Josh Duhamel

Rough life, Josh Duhamel. Rumor has it you couldn’t achieve your dream of being a dentist because you were one credit shy of a biology degree. Hopefully, being a football star at Minot College helped ease the disappointment of missing out on all that glorious gingivitis. Or maybe what eased the blow was beating Ashton Kutcher in an international modeling competition in 1997 or landing acting roles where you rocked machine guns and hung out with the Autobots. Unbelievable but true.

Anne Hathaway

“Major in English and minor in women studies and you shall wind up a destitute street walker with no dental insurance.” I honestly never took my freshman advisor’s warning too seriously, but Anne Hathaway proved his words to be true. Hathaway, who played Fantine, the teeth-selling prostitute in this summer’s Les Miserables, studied those very subjects at Vassar College but finished her undergraduate degree at New York University. She certainly had no regrets. In fact, she has said enrolling at Vassar was one of the best decisions she ever made.

Brad Pitt

It’s common knowledge Brad Pitt studied journalism at the University of Missouri. But there’s some mystery surrounding exactly why he dropped out only two weeks before graduation. In 2011, he told NPR: “It just came to the time of graduation and everyone—all my friends were committing to jobs—and I just realized I was not ready for that yet,” he said. “I packed up my car. I didn’t graduate—I had two weeks left—and I moved out to L.A.” Nice story, but there’s an alternate version floating around. Rumor has it, Pitt was in danger of flunking an advertising class because—for his final assignment—he tried submitting a shoddy “hunk calendar” comprised of photographs of his frat brothers. Which begs the obvious question: Why would anyone create a calendar in May? Whether or not we believe this urban legend-of-the-fall, Pitt reportedly was offered a chance to finish up his remaining two credits, but apparently the actor felt his current gig was going just fine without it thanks.

Dakota Fanning

Twilight star Dakota Fanning is pursuing individualized study at New York University’s Gallatin School, which basically means she could major in Postmodern Volturi studies if she wanted to (although she says her favorite subjects are literature and psychology). She insists she’s just like any other college students, and occasionally even wears sweatpants to class. Nice try, Dakota, we’ve seen pictures of that swanky two-bedroom you’re renting for $8,400 a month.