Celebs Who Went Back to School After They'd Already Become Famous

Anthony Anderson, Leah Remini, Kim Kardashian and more prove that it is never too late to hit the books — even if you're a star

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Stephen Curry

Golden State Warriors vs Los Angeles Lakers Celebs
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On May 22, 2022, the 34-year-old basketball star received his college diploma 13 years after first entering the NBA. He celebrated the achievement with a series of photos on social media, calling the degree a "dream come true."

"Class of 2010….aka 2022 but we got it done!" Curry shared in his caption. "Thanks to my whole village that helped me get across the finish line. Made the promise when I left and had to see it through."

His team, the Golden State Warriors, also shared the news via Instagram with a doodle of Curry in his Warriors uniform, holding a diploma and graduation cap.

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Anthony Anderson

Anthony Anderson Howard University
Anthony Anderson/Instagram

Weeks after his series black-ish wrapped after eight seasons on air, Anderson celebrated another major milestone: graduating from Howard University!

"Words can't begin to describe the emotional roller coaster I'm on right now. It's literally been 30 years in the making," the actor wrote in a May 2022 Instagram post, sharing shots from commencement day. "It's never too late! Things happen when they're supposed to happen!"

Anderson earned a BFA from the Chadwick Boseman College of Fine Arts, achieving a dream that began decades ago. The star previously spoke about his time at the HBCU in 2018 interview with Jimmy Fallon, revealing that he initially dropped out due to financial reasons.

"I was paying for college myself, and I ran out of money after my junior year," Anderson explained. "I've been speaking to the university... about creating a curriculum that I can take online, and at home, and do some practical classes on campus so I can walk with my son [Nathan] in 2022."

Though the dad and lad weren't ultimately able to share the stage, Anderson thanked his son "for inspiring me to return to school" on Instagram.

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Leah Remini

Leah Remini. Neilson Barnard/Getty

School's out for summer for the PEOPLE Puzzler host, who revealed on Twitter in May 2022 that she closed the books on her first finals at New York University.

"Going to college for the first time at 51 after living most of my life in a cult and only having an 8th grade education hasn't been easy," Remini wrote. "But I took my first NYU final exams this week and I'm glad I decided to educate myself."

"It's never too late. It's tough, but it's worth it," she added of going back to the classroom.

Remini announced her acceptance to the Manhattan college in May 2021, enrolling for an associate's degree in the Liberal Arts program last fall.

Speaking with PEOPLE about juggling school with her busy career and life as a wife and mother, the star said the experience had been "amazing."

"It's been difficult when I'm working because sometimes I'll work from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. and then have to come home and read chapters and do a quiz when my brain is shutting down," Remini said in February. "But I'm doing it, and I am proud of myself. With my degree, I might eventually want to go into politics, but who knows? I would like to be of some kind of public service."

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Renée Zellweger

Renée Zellweger
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While chatting with Today's Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie in early 2022, the actress revealed that during her hiatus from Hollywood, which was from about 2010 to 2016, she took law classes.

"I needed to step away and kind of grow as a person and learn some things that were not related to work. I mean, that's one of my favorite things about the work, is that you have an opportunity to learn things that you wouldn't otherwise have occasion to explore. Went to school and just, you know, took some time out and decided I wanted to maybe participate in a different way."

When Kotb asked about going to school, Zellweger clarified, "I snuck into UCLA for a little while and did some public policy. International law. Interested in politics."

"Is this toward an end goal, or just something you wanted to do in the interim?" asked Kotb. The Judy actress responded, "I'm not sure. But it's one of my favorite things. I'll bore you to death at a dinner party, I really will. Just don't get me started. It's true — ask any of my friends!"

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Bridgit Mendler

Bridgit Mendler Wasn’t Looking For an Acting Job When She Was Cast in Merry Happy Whatever
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The Disney Channel star and pop singer combined a little Good Luck [Charlie] and a lot of brains to get into a joint JD/PhD program between Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Megan Thee Stallion

Megan Thee Stallion Instagram
Megan Thee Stallion Instagram

Despite her supersonic rise to fame — including taking home several Grammys including Best New Artist in 2021 — the rapper was committed to earning her degree to honor her late mother.

The star graduated in December 2021 from Texas Southern University (and yes, she walked!).

"I want to get my degree because I really want my mom to be proud," the entertainer told PEOPLE about her mom Holly Thomas, who died in March 2019 after battling brain cancer. "She saw me going to school before she passed."

The rapper, whose father died when she was a teenager, also lost her grandmother shortly after her mother died.

"I want my big mama to be proud. She saw me going to school before she passed," said Megan. "My grandmother that's still alive used to be a teacher, so she's on my butt about finishing school. I'm doing it for me, but I'm also doing it for the women in my family who made me who I am today."

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Poppy Harlow

Poppy Harlow
Poppy Harlow. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The CNN anchor is heading back to the classroom, announcing in August 2021 that she'd be attending Yale Law School come fall. Harlow is pursuing a year-long program designed for "mid-career journalists seeking an intensive immersion in legal thinking so that they are better able to educate their audiences upon their return to journalism."

"Starting next week, I will be taking a break from being with you every morning on this show so that I can go back to school. Yes, school! I'm going to study law for a Master's degree," the CNN Newsroom anchor explained on air. "It's something I've wanted to do for a long time. And if this year and a half has taught me anything, it is, why not try!"

The journalist said her late father, intellectual property litigator James Harlow, and the the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg inspired her decision to advance her legal knowledge.

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Kim Kardashian

kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian. Stefanie Keenan/Getty

The Keeping Up with the Kardashians alumna is following in the footsteps of her late father, attorney Robert Kardashian, in pursuing a law degree.The reality star first opened up about her legal aspirations in an interview with Vogue in April 2019, saying she had begun a four-year apprenticeship with a firm in San Francisco.

Though she briefly attended Pierce College in Los Angeles, she never graduated. However, California is one of three other U.S. states that offers a path to passing the bar without attending law school by "reading the law," or apprenticing with a practicing lawyer or judge.

Studying with private tutors, the beauty mogul revealed during a May episode of KUWTK that she had failed the baby bar exam for a second time.

"I feel bummed, like totally bummed," she said of the disappointment. "It is what it is, I know I just have to not stress about it, there's so many other f------ things, stressful things, going on, I just have to do better in the future.."

On her fourth try, in December 2021, she passed, sharing her pride with followers on Twitter.

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Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman
Zhou jianzhong - Imaginechina/Sipa

In 1999, the 18-year-old actress enrolled at Harvard University, graduating with a degree in psychology. The actress famously said of her decision, "I don't care if [college] ruins my career ... I'd rather be smart than a movie star."

Fun fact: Portman was a senior at the university when Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook.

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Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen

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Both Olsens famously enrolled in New York University, bought a $7.3 million penthouse in the West Village and then decided to leave school in order to "pursue personal interests" and run their company, Dualstar Entertainment.

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Shaquille O'Neal

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The basketball legend got his career start at Louisiana State University, but left after three years to turn pro. He promised his parents that he would eventually graduate, and made good on that promise in 2000, when he finally earned his bachelor's degree after seven summers of hard work.

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Haley Joel Osment

Haley Joel Osment
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Haley Joel Osment graduated from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts in 2011, choosing to perfect his craft in the classroom rather than on the big screen.

He told The New Yorker in 2014, "A film like The Sixth Sense burns an image of who you are into people's minds. In the midst of that it can be difficult to know who you are, or who you are becoming. College seemed like a manageable next step, a place where I could figure that stuff out."

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Georgia May Jagger

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Daughter of Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, Georgia May was already making a name for herself as a model when she decided to enroll at the New York School of Visual Arts in 2010. She studied photography.

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Karlie Kloss

Karlie Kloss
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Kloss isn't just a super successful model: she attended NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study and runs an education nonproft, Kode with Klossy.

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Brooke Shields

Brooke Shields
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Shields, who had been acting and modeling since she was just 12 years old, decided to take a break from Hollywood to get an education. She graduated from Princeton University in 1987 with a degree in French literature.

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Jodie Foster

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Talk about an overachiever! Foster made five films, turned in her term papers early and earned straight As at Yale. The actress earned a degree in Literature in 1985.

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Miranda Cosgrove

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Cosgrove studied psychology at the University of California, where she enrolled in 2012. The Nickelodeon star was originally studying film, but explained in December 2017 on Live! with Kelly and Ryan that she changed her major with just one year left in her studies.

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Swizz Beatz

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In November 2017, the producer wrote on Instagram, "Today I will become Harvard alumni and although I'm not getting an 'MBA' no one can EVER take this accomplishment away from me." He graduated from Harvard Business School's Owner/President Management Program.

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Ashley Judd

2018 Greenwich Film Festival
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It may have taken 17 years, but Judd finally graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in French. Judd had left school just one course shy of a degree for a career in acting.

In 2016, Judd decided that it was time to go back to school, announcing on Facebook that she had been accepted into a Ph.D. program for public policy at UC Berkeley.

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Elisabeth Shue


Shue, who began her career with a role in The Karate Kid, had to put her Harvard degree on hold in 1985 in order to star in films like Back to the Future and Leaving Los Vegas. She did eventually return in 2000 to finish her political science degree, but only after getting nominated for an Oscar.

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Julia Stiles

Julia Stiles
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Stiles studied English Literature at Columbia University while making films like The Bourne Identity and appearing on SNL. When asked how she managed to juggle it all, Stiles told Rolling Stone, "I think about that all the time, I really do. Somehow I just do it. But college will help me as an actress, because it makes me more interesting."

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Dakota Fanning

2019 Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Red Carpet, Cannes, France - 21 May 2019
Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Fanning pursued a degree from the NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where she was studying "film and the portrayal of women in film." She said on Today in 2018 that it was taking her a bit longer to graduate, but "it's something that's important to me and I know I'll be happy when I accomplish it."

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Yara Shahidi

Yara Shahidi
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What's cooler: Being accepted to Harvard University or getting Michelle Obama to write you your letter of recommendation? Shahidi doesn't have to choose. The Black-ish star originally deferred her acceptance to the Ivy League school for one year to work on some projects, but is headed toward graduating from Harvard.

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Claire Danes

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Danes didn't end up finishing her degree in psychology and fine arts at Yale (she left after two years), but told Howard Stern in 2018 that her time at the Ivy League "felt sufficient," adding, "Mostly I just, like, smoked pot and played Mario Tennis with my friends."

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Anna Paquin

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Paquin already had an Oscar under her belt (she won in 1993 for her role in The Piano) when she enrolled at Columbia University in 2001. She ended up dropping out to return to Hollywood, but her famous classmates included Julia Stiles and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

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Nick Cannon

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In 2016, the Wild 'n Out host revealed he'd enrolled as a freshman at Howard University — at age 35. (But did he try out for the Drumline?)

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Tyra Banks

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Not only did Banks go back to school, enrolling in Harvard's Owner/President Management Program in 2012, she even taught a class at Stanford's business school. The course focused on how to use social and traditional media to one's advantage.

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Dylan & Cole Sprouse

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The twin brothers started young, playing kids in films like Big Daddy and The Astronaut's Wife before making the move to TV with roles on Friends (for Cole) and eventually their own series, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. When their time with Disney was up, both enrolled at New York University, graduating in 2015. They've since returned to the spotlight, with Cole starring on Riverdale and Dylan appearing in several upcoming films.

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt

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When Gordon-Levitt enrolled in Columbia University in 2001, he was already super-famous for his roles in 10 Things I Hate About You and 3rd Rock from the Sun, which is why it wasn't the worst thing ever when he dropped out in 2004 to get back to acting.

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Emma Watson

Courtesy Emma Watson

Taking a brief hiatus from acting, the Harry Potter star enrolled at Brown University in 2009 and graduated with a degree in English Literature in 2014.

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Eva Longoria

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The actress received her master's degree from California State University Northridge in 2013 — while she was still filming Desperate Housewives. Her degree was in Chicano and Chicana Studies.

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Mayim Bialik

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Life imitates art … imitates life. Bialik played a super-nerd on The Big Bang Theory — and also happens to be one (and we mean that in the best possible way). After starring on Blossom as a teen, she got her undergraduate degree from UCLA in 2000 and earned her Ph.D. from UCLA in 2007.

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Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg holding his two Oscars at the 1994
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During the fall semester of 2001, long after he'd become an iconic director, Spielberg sat down and wrote the term paper for his Natural Science 492 class at Cal State Long Beach, allowing him to finally earn that one missing credit and thus his Bachelor of Arts – 37 years after he had first enrolled.

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Oprah Winfrey

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When Winfrey dropped out of Tennessee State University to pursue media, it certainly paid off. But in 1987, the talk show queen returned to finish her degree in Communications.

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America Ferrera

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The actress was offered her starring role on the ABC sitcom Ugly Betty in 2002, right before she was to begin her freshman year at USC. She took the role, as her acting career continued to take off, and returned to USC in 2008, graduating in 2013.

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Bryce Dallas Howard

Bryce Dallas Howard at an awards show wearing a black and silver gown.
Bryce Dallas Howard on Her Feature Directorial Debut, 'Dads'. Getty Images

Celebrating her graduation from NYU in 2020, Howard revealed that she started at school back in the day, but never completed her degree.

She explained that she had left NYC ahead of graduating in 2001 because she got an Off-Broadway acting job. "I fully intended on graduating one day," she insisted. "In fact, I continually deferred the following semester and the semesters after that, hoping that instead of 'dropping out,' I was simply taking a 'leave of absence.' Again, and again, and again."

But Howard — who married her college sweetheart, Seth Gabel, in 2006, and has "two awesome kids," — stressed that she never lost her goal of getting her degree.

"I wasn't at all intimidated by the fact I would be decades older than the majority of graduates," she said. "My husband and I did the math and realized that many babies born the year I first started NYU were probably graduating alongside me, which made me even more excited. How wild, how weird, and what a great story."

"I am so overcome with joy," Howard wrote on graduation day. "This has been 21 years in the making."

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James Franco

Leah Remini. Neilson Barnard/Getty

The man loves learning! Franco grabbed his undergraduate degree from UCLA in 2008, and in 2011, he moved to New York City to attend Columbia University's MFA writing program, New York University's Tisch School of the Arts for filmmaking and Brooklyn College for fiction writing, all before enrolling in Yale's Ph.D. program.

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