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Dropout Boogie: 14 Celebs Who Never Got Their Degree

Don’t draw any lessons from this

Johnny Depp, Alicia Keys, Ryan Gosling, Robert Downey Jr., Cher, Eminem

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As graduation month continues across our fine land, and hordes of ambitious young adults board the bus to reality armed with nothing more than framed diplomas and student debt, it's only natural we highlight those celebrities who've made millions without so much as a BA or GED.

Now, we're not advising future alumni close their books and seek fortune in Hollywood. But through a combination of luck, good looks and/or truly singular vision, these 14 auteurs (tutored kid stars need not apply) found success sans academic follow-through. Draw your own conclusions. By Kenny Herzog

Robert Downey Jr., 'Iron Man 3' , Hollywood, California.

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Robert Downey Jr.

Last Place of Education: Santa Monica High School (Santa Monica, California)
How Long Did He Last? Junior year
Reason for Ditching: Budding A-lister and easily distracted student Downey Jr. thought about his actor father's ultimatum to "either show up [to school] every day or quit and get a job" and went with the latter at just 15 years old.
How'd That Work Out? Downey, who notoriously struggled with drug abuse and served jail time during portions of his 20s and 30s, probably would have benefitted from a bit of straight and narrow. Still, there's no denying the guy's talent and resilience. Not only is the once-ubiquitous teen star (Weird Science, Less Than Zero, etc.) clean and sober, but he's been riding high on the Iron Man and Sherlock franchises and is arguably the most bankable male lead of his generation. 

Eminem, On stage, MTV Movie Awards, Los Angeles, CA

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Eminem

Last Place of Education: Lincoln High School (Warren, Michigan)
How Long Did He Last? 9th Grade
Reason for Ditching: Mr. Mathers was actually 17 when he left Lincoln High after failing to pass freshman year a third time. His goals, instead, shifted entirely to making an impact on the local Detroit hip-hop scene.
How'd That Work Out? The sum total of his accomplishments is staggering. Over the past 15 years, Mathers has sold close to 45 million albums, making him the second-biggest selling male artist since Soundscan began tracking units in 1991. And his troubled childhood and hardscrabble rise to fame were depicted in the 2002 biopic 8 Mile, which featured Em playing himself. Never one to rest on laurels, the 41-year-old-MC did eventually receive his GED.

Ryan Gosling, 'White Shadow', San Francisco, California

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Ryan Gosling

Last Place of Education: Lester B. Pearson High School (Montreal, Quebec, Canada)
Age He Dropped Out: 17
Reason for Ditching: Gosling was never a straight-A student, and was even home-schooled for a year to improve his academic standing. Then Disney's All-New Mickey Mouse Club came calling when he was just 13. Once that brush with fame concluded ("I couldn't sing or dance like they could, [so] they stopped using me in the show so much,'" he's quipped), Gosling went back to public school north of the border, but the acting bug had bitten deep, and he headed back to Hollywood.
How'd That Work Out? Without much of a hitch, really (excepting maybe Gangster Squad). Gosling's steely demeanor, Marlon Brando-affected delivery and ability to toggle between romantic lead (The Notebook) and silent ass-kicker (Drive) have served him well. Only question is if he still qualifies for that free Canadian health coverage.

Alicia Keys attends the 2014 DVF Awards

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Alicia Keys

Last Place of Education: Columbia University (New York, New York)
How Long Did She Last? Freshman year
Reason for Ditching: No surprise that the piano prodigy graduated valedictorian of New York's Professional Performing Arts high school at 16, then enrolled at Columbia University. Alas, Columbia Records came a-callin', and after one semester, Keys cut the cord on college life.
How'd That Work Out? Not too hot at first. Her deal with Columbia, who sought to pre-package her as a conventional R&B star, fell apart. Even when Clive Davis came to the rescue, signing her to Arista, the legendary A&R man left the label. Good thing he had startup J Records up his sleeve, which released Songs in A Minor and its smash single, "Fallin'," in 2001. Thirteen years and 14 Grammys later, Keys' career has been nothing short of superlative.

Ozzy Osbourne attends the 2014 MusiCares Person in Los Angeles, CA

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Ozzy Osbourne

Last Place of Education: Birchfield Secondary Modern School (Perry Bar, Birmingham, U.K.)
How Long Did He Last? Age 15
Reason for Ditching: The soon-to-be metal god was suffering from dyslexia and persistent bullying (and, as he later revealed, sexual abuse) from his peers before finally deciding to call it quits.
How'd That Work Out? As he stated in his autobiography, I Am Ozzy, the young boy who would be Prince of Darkness didn't have "a single qualification. I had two career choices: manual labor or manual labor." He busied himself with the latter, and some petty thievery (for which he did a short stint in jail), before at last hooking up with his Black Sabbath bandmates in 1968. The rest is hard rock, Behind the Music and reality TV lore.

Seth Rogen, Actor, The CinemaCon Big Screen, Las Vegas, Nevada

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Seth Rogen

Last Place of Education: Point Grey Secondary School (Vancouver, British Columbia)
How Long Did He Last? Age 16
Reason for Ditching: Three words: Freaks and Geeks. Rogen had already been working on scripts like Superbad with friend and writing partner Evan Goldberg, and when Judd Apatow plucked him out of obscurity for the role of angsty headbanger Kenneth, the choice was clear. Or, as the Neighbors star once opined, "If you have a career in mind that isn't academically oriented, then high school is probably not going to lead you to what you want to be."
How'd That Work Out? Perhaps more seamlessly than anyone else on this list. Freaks was sadly canceled after one season, but famously launched Seth's and his co-stars' (James Franco, Jason Segel and Busy Phillips, to name a few) careers. Not long after, that Superbad idea turned into a Hollywood mega-hit, and Rogen's made nary a comic misstep since. 

Quentin Tarantino, 39th Cesar Film Awards 2014, in Paris, France.

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Quentin Tarantino

Last Place of Education: Fleming Middle School (Lomita, California)
How Long Did He Last? Ninth Grade
Reason for Ditching: The rebel auteur determined early that his time was better spent in the arts. After leaving public education at 15, he began taking acting classes under James Best, better known as Rosco P. Coltrane from Dukes of Hazzard. Until, at least, he realized, "I just knew more about cinema than the other people in the class. I cared about cinema and they cared about themselves… I wanted the movies to be my movies."
How'd That Work Out? After messing around with a couple of shorts, Tarantino made a splash on the festival scene and cult-movie circuit with 1992's Reservoir Dogs, ultimately become everyone's critical darling−and beginning his tradition of resurrecting actors' careers−with 1995's seminal Pulp Fiction. Whether because of Kill Bill or Django Unchained, the junior-high dropout managed to become every wannabe screenwriter/director's idol and a true showbiz subversive. 

Kanye West in Paris, France.

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Kanye West

Last Place of Education: Chicago State University (Chicago, Illinois)

How Long Did He Last? Freshman year

Reason for Ditching: The art student and music-production hopeful opted in favor of making records.

How'd That Work Out? Mr. Kim K came out the gate like a house of fire, amassing credits behind the boards for Jermaine Dupri, Foxy Brown, Beanie Siegel and Lil' Kim, among others, within his first few post-Chicago State years. But it was his work on Jay-Z's 2001 classic The Blueprint that made him a household name. The 36-year-old wunderkind still crafts tracks for the likes of Drake, B.o.B. and Rick Ross, but has primarily left his mark as a producer/writer/performer on a string of groundbreaking and platinum-selling solo albums (including, aptly, 2004's The College Dropout). Although he's also found time to acknowledge his brief stint in higher learning, once showing up at CSU as a stand-in professor.

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