Can time in a classroom teach you how to become rich? Millions of students buckle down in both high school and college, hoping the lessons they learn will offer insights into how to think like a millionaire.
Yet, despite the fact that these celebrities have found many different ways to become a millionaire, their academic backgrounds included at least one class that left a major impression on them. We compared what 10 millionaires had to say about their favorite classes in school. Click through to find out more.
1. James Franco: Film Studies, Art and Writing
Actor and director James Franco has studied in six graduate programs on film, art and writing. Known for his Oscar-nominated work in “127 Hours” as well as roles including the “Spider-Man” franchise, “The Green Hornet,” and “Eat, Pray, Love,” Franco has even taught graduate-level film students.
Franco has a net worth of $20 million, according to the Celebrity Net Worth website. (All net worth figures in this story come from Celebrity Net Worth.) That has given him the freedom to pursue his passions on all fronts. He’s indulged that desire by choosing college classes that fit with his profession in film and his fascination with language arts.
Franco sees his studies as a commitment to the rest of his life.
“I went because I had spent years as a professional actor and as a mature student of everything else; I wanted to treat my other interests with as much seriousness as I did my acting,” he wrote in a piece for the New York Daily News.
He’s dropped not-so-subtle hints as to which of his graduate-level courses he’s felt the most at home in. “I’m not saying that writing students are weird,” he wrote, “but maybe I am.”
2. Bill Gates: Big History
Microsoft co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates didn’t get to be Forbes’ richest man in America with a college degree. Deemed by the Harvard Crimson to be “Harvard’s most successful dropout,” he didn’t earn a degree until 2007, when he earned an honorary doctorate from Harvard more than 30 years after he’d left.
The lack of a degree certainly hasn’t handicapped the world-class entrepreneur and philanthropist, who is now worth $86 billion. Nevertheless, helping prepare American high school students for college and ensuring they get college degrees is one of the primary missions of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Although I dropped out of college and got lucky pursuing a career in software, getting a degree is a much surer path to success,” he wrote on his blog.
Keep Reading: 6 Things Bill Gates Says You Should Do With Your Money
Gates’ favorite class was actually a DVD he discovered while working out on a treadmill. “Big History” from Australian professor David Christian sprawls across topics such as history, biology, chemistry and astronomy to create a unified perspective of life.
“I just loved it,” Gates told The New York Times Magazine. “It was very clarifying for me. I thought, God, everybody should watch this thing!”
3. Taylor Swift: Math and English
Singer/songwriter Taylor Swift has made a name for herself as a relatable gal with the same boyfriend troubles as the rest of us.
The classes she enjoyed most in school reflect those same girl-next-door sensibilities. While she may not have gone to college — yet — she maintained a 4.0 GPA in high school and finished her last two years of coursework in just 12 months.
“I was really good in math and I loved working with problems and numbers,” she has said.
Swift has also talked about her love of the written word. “In school, I loved reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ and I’m very interested in any writing from a child’s perspective,” she told Rolling Stone.
Swift has a net worth of $240 million and an annual salary of $80 million. With that kind of money, she can afford to be choosy about the projects she takes next. She has appeared onscreen in “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “Hannah Montana: The Movie,” is seen frequently on the pages of fashion and lifestyle magazines, and is the current face of L.E.I. Jeans.
4. Ashley Judd: Public Administration
Judd’s work is high-profile: She has given the keynote address on the modern slave trade at the 2008 General Assembly of the United Nations, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on preventing the spread of HIV to girls and women, and worked on three documentaries seen by more than 1 billion people worldwide.
Judd holds a degree in French from the University of Kentucky, with minors in anthropology, art history, theater and women’s studies. She earned a master’s in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2009, where she was awarded the Dean’s Scholar Award for her work in the Harvard Law class “Gender Violence: Law and Social Justice.”
“I didn’t go to Harvard Kennedy School to be approved of by anyone, but to immerse myself in some very serious, earnest, practical learning with people who have literally dedicated all they have to public service,” she told The New York Times.
5. Arnold Schwarzenegger: Business and International Economics
Arnold Schwarzenegger has accumulated a personal net worth of $300 million from his years in sports and movies. But many fans don’t realize he’s a self-made millionaire via real estate. From a nest egg of $27,000 from bodybuilding competition winnings, his canny real estate investments made him a millionaire by the time he was 25.
Schwarzenegger leveraged his fame to be named a cooperating faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, which allowed the university to waive residency requirements so that he could complete his degree via a distance program. He spent most of his time on campus dodging the limelight, reportedly saying of his classmates: “The people talk to you here. They are not spoiled like they are in bigger cities such as Los Angeles or New York.”
The former Mr. Universe, Hollywood actor and governor of California earned his bachelor’s degree in international marketing of fitness and business administration after acquiring a mish-mash of classes at Santa Monica College and UCLA’s extension program during the early 1970s. He has since been awarded an honorary doctorate from UW-Superior for his work with the Special Olympics and the Inner City Games Foundation.
6. Mark Zuckerberg: Computer Science
Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard in his sophomore year to focus on Facebook, which he famously started in his dorm room as a service for fellow Harvard students. The psychology and computer science student seems to always have understood implicitly that becoming a millionaire has less to do with a diploma and more to do with hard work and holding out for the right deal.
Zuckerberg was a tech-head from the start. His parents hired a private computer tutor for him as a kid. While he went on to show talent in fencing and literature, his fascination with computers kept him tinkering and coding his way to what is now a net worth of $43 billion via the success of Facebook.
“The question I ask myself like almost every day is, ‘Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?’” he said in the book “Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook Creator.” “… Unless I feel like I’m working on the most important problem that I can help with, then I’m not going to feel good about how I’m spending my time.”
7. Christy Turlington: Public Health
Supermodel Christy Turlington turned a brush with life-threatening complications after the birth of her daughter in 2003 into a worldwide crusade for maternal health.
Best known as one of the original supermodels and the face of Calvin Klein from 1987 to 2007, Turlington has appeared on more than 500 magazine covers and music videos, most famously in George Michael’s 1990 “Freedom” along with fellow supermodels Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford and Tatjana Patitz.
She earned a degree in comparative religion and eastern philosophy from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study of New York University while she was still modeling, in keeping with her lifelong practice of yoga. She is worth $18 million because of her modeling career as well as her two businesses: Sundari, an ayurvedic skincare line, and a yoga-inspired fitness line in conjunction with Puma.
After the birth of her daughter, Turlington obtained her master’s degree in public health from Columbia University and went on to become an advocate for maternal health and founder of Every Mother Counts, which works to reduce preventable deaths from pregnancy and childbirth.
8. Ariana Grande: Science
What’s not to love about a pop star who loves science? Singer/actor Ariana Grande, worth an impressive $16 million from her stage and screen career, never thought she’d end up in front of the cameras. “My family thought I’d be a doctor or biologist because I loved science,” Grande said. “I still love science and technology.”
While Grande left high school in 2008 to appear in the Broadway musical “13,” she continued her studies by correspondence. She is also known for her work on TV’s “Victorious” and “iCarly,” and she was the voice of Princess Diaspro for the “Winx Club.” She released her debut album “Yours Truly” in 2013, which made it to No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard top 200 chart and reached No. 1 on iTunes in more than 30 countries.
9. Carrie Underwood: Journalism
It’s easy to imagine Carrie Underwood as a perky news anchor, and her winning season on “American Idol” helped her earn a degree that would qualify her to do just that. Underwood withdrew from Northeastern State University’s mass communications program just three credits short of a degree in order to compete in “Idol.”
As it turned out, the show experience helped her wrap up the missing course requirement: “I’ve obviously done enough with television. There was my internship right there!” she told People magazine.
Now worth some $70 million, the country singer has said that if she hadn’t won “American Idol,” she probably would have used that degree to become a TV news reporter or anchor. Apparently, the Grammy Award-winning star found better ways to become a millionaire. The winner of multiple Grammy, Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music awards, Underwood became the youngest person to be inducted in the Grand Ole Opry in 2008 at age 26.
10. Justin Bieber: English
Self-taught musician and hit-maker Justin Bieber may be suffering a bit of an image hit from his exploits involving DUIs, drag racing and resisting arrest. However, his fond memories of a favorite class in school sound more befitting of the boy next door.
“I used to love English, and I really liked reading poems,” Bieber said. “When I was younger and I had a tutor with me, I was always excited when we got to English because I knew it was going to be cool.”
A lack of formal education hasn’t held Bieber back from a net worth of $200 million, and he continues to bring in some $60 million to $80 million a year. The Canadian pop star, who began his career as a YouTube sensation, has sold 11 million albums in the U.S. and more than 25 million albums worldwide.