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11 Celebrities Who Went Back to School After They Became Famous

They've got spirit!

By Claire Downs

College is a place to meet great friends, pay exorbitant prices for the “new version” of a textbook, and participate in a class discussion, even though you didn’t do the reading. It’s a place where you can eat a waffle AND a meatloaf for breakfast, wear unwashed pajamas 24/7 and watch an esteemed professor spend 35 minutes trying to figure out a slide projector. At the end, you’ll earn a degree (assuming you actually managed to pass) that may or may not help you in the real world. All of these are possible reasons why many celebrities choose to hit the books well into successful acting or athletic careers. Though they’re already killing it in the real world, many celebrities don’t have a degree in a subject they are passionate about, and maybe they’ve always wondered what it feels like to do all of the work in a “group” project.

Whatever their motivations, here are 11 celebrities who know the value of a good education.

  • Eva Longoria

    In 2013, Eva Longoria graduated from California State University Northridge (CSUN). Earning a Master’s Degree in Chicano and Chicana Studies, Longoria found time on the set of Desperate Housewives to complete her homework. Her thesis, titled “Success STEMS From Diversity: The Value of Latinas in STEM Careers” encourages Latinas to pursue jobs in the math, science, tech, and engineering fields!

  • Natalie Portman

    Though she had already achieved fame in Leon: The Professional and as Queen Amidala in Star Wars: Episode II, Natalie Portman attended Harvard University to study the super easy subjects Pyschology and Neuroscience, and graduated in 2003. Fellow students said she was “down-to-earth” and that she even lived in the dorms, with heightened security of course.

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt

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    By the time Joseph Gordon-Levitt had enrolled in Columbia University, he was already well-known for his roles in 10 Things I Hate About You and Third Rock From the Sun. He studied history, literature, and French, becoming a “professed Francophile” and acknowledging that “his time at the university helped him to grow up.”

  • America Ferrera

    Shortly after beginning her freshman year at USC in 2002, Ferrera was offered the title role in ABC’s Ugly Betty. Torn between her desire to act and getting a degree, a professor encouraged her to take the role and come back to get her degree another time. America followed that advice, and re-enrolled at USC in 2008, graduating ten years after she started her degree.

  • Shaquille O’Neal

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    Shaquille O’Neal earned many awards during his time at LSU: All-American, National Player of the Year, and Southeastern Conference Athlete of the Year. But he never earned his degree. Shaq left in 1992 after 3 years to turn pro, but promised his parents he’d get his degree. In 2000, after working seven consecutive summers, he completed his Bachelor’s degree from LSU.

  • Emma Watson

    Several films into the Harry Potter franchise Emma Watson enrolled at Brown University in 2009. After some first day jitters Emma quickly became just another wizard face on campus. She hosted a party for about a 100 classmates and no one posted anything to Facebook! She graduate from Hogwarts Brown University in 2014.

  • James Franco

    James Franco’s academic career is vast. In case you need a refresher, he re-enrolled at UCLA as an English major in 2006 (after not finishing his initial degree many years prior). He finished his degree largely through independent study credits earned as part of “being on the set of SpiderMan 3. Franco subsequently moved to New York to simultaneously attend Columbia University’s MFA writing program, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for filmmaking, and Brooklyn College for fiction writing, while also attending the MFA Program for Writers at North Carolina’s Warren Wilson College for poetry. If that wasn’t enough, Franco is currently a PhD student in English at Yale. It seems Mr. Franco has also majored in the art of being in multiple places at once!

  • Jodie Foster

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    Jodie Foster had already starred alongside Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver when she enrolled at Yale in 1981. She had a rocky couple of years – where she was stalked by several fans, including John Hinckley, Jr – the same man who went on to conduct an assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan. But Jodie Foster remained strong. Her thesis on poet Toni Morrison along with a stellar GPA earned her magna cum laude in 1985.

  • Tyra Banks

    Though Tyra dropped out of Loyola Marymount to walk in her first Milan and Paris fashion weeks (who wouldn’t), she always regretted not finishing a formal education. In 2011, she enrolled in Harvard’s Owner/President Management Program, a division of Harvard’s business school. Though the nine-week program does not offer a traditional MBA, Tyra learned executive business skills to continue being the boss CEO of Bankable Productions.

  • Steven Spielberg

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    Three decades after Steven Spielberg dropped out of Cal State Long Beach, the blockbuster director completed his degree. He was just one credit short of a Bachelor’s degree, until the fall semester of 2001, when he completed a term paper for his Natural Science 492 class. That paper completed his degree, and in 2002, he walked at the graduation ceremony. “I wanted to accomplish this for many years as a thank-you to my parents for giving me the opportunity for an education and a career,” Spielberg said in a statement. “And as a personal note for my own family–and young people everywhere–about the importance of achieving their college education goals.”

  • The Olsen Twins

    Possibly the most notorious “post-fame-college-attendees” are the Olsen twins. They didn’t let their $150 million net worth prevent them from getting a regular education like us everyday schmoes. Enrolling at NYU in 2003, the twins studied at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. But their most notable impact was the fashion sense they brought to the NYU campus at the time. Walking to class in their floppy hats, maxi dresses and giant scarves complete with giant Starbucks cups as accessories cemented the “boho” fashion movement that we know so well today.