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7 college dropouts who made millions

Shortcuts to the entrepreneurial dream

Source | | Paul Maidment

Some of the world’s biggest entrepreneurs share an unlikely path to success. These bold leaders abandoned their educational careers to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams — the path trod most famously before them by Bill Gates, who left Harvard to start what would become Microsoft.

From Ryan Seacrest and Elon Musk to Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso, see what catapulted these visionaries — all members of CNBC’s NEXT list — to phenomenal success.

Ryan Seacrest/University of Georgia
Ryan Seacrest speaks during Ryan Seacrest On-Air Live From Macy's Herald Square
Ryan Seacrest speaks during Ryan Seacrest On-Air Live From Macy’s Herald Square
Kris Connor | Getty Images

As a high school student, Seacrest interned at WSTR, an FM radio station in Atlanta. He later enrolled in the University of Georgia to study journalism. The following year, he landed the host’s role for a weekend TV sports game show for ESPN, Radical Outdoor Challenge. In his junior year, he quit school to move for L.A., where he got his breakthrough fronting KYSR-FM’s afternoon drive-time show (reportedly for $15 an hour) and hosting three TV shows for kids.

Elon Musk/Stanford

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX.
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX.
Getty Images

Musk is a bit of a cheat in this list of dropouts because he does hold two bachelor’s degrees.

He began the first in physics at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, after he moved to Canada from his native South Africa. He completed it at the University of Pennsylvania, where he transferred after two years to earn his second bachelor’s degree, in economics, at the Wharton School. He completed it the following year.

Musk then headed for Stanford to start a Ph.D. in applied physics but dropped out after two days to develop Zip2, a company owned with his brother, Kimbal, that created online city guides for newspaper publishers. Four years later, they sold the business to Compaq for $340 million.

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