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These Actors Went to College (But Not for Acting) 

Post-secondary education is a pursuit that many people hope to achieve in their lives. While for some it may seem too great of a feat, others see it as a necessity to get the best experience and opportunities out of life. Hollywood seems rather indifferent towards college education, instead focusing on raw talent rather than academic credentials. That said, many actors do hold academia in high esteem.

It may seem obvious that actors would choose to focus on acting when attending college, but that’s not always the case. There are a plethora of actors who’ve graced the silver screen but haven’t received a formal education in acting, instead choosing to focus on a different topic. Here’s a list of actors that went to college, but didn’t study acting.

Related: Best Movies That Perfectly Capture College Life, Ranked

8 Natalie Portman


This ambitious actress well-known for her work in Black Swan, which won her an Academy Award for Best Actress, has a surprising education. Natalie Portman earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Harvard University in 2003, but this wasn’t the end of her education. For her role in the Jewish-American film Free Zone, Portman studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which she said brought her closer to the history of her people and gave her a greater understanding of her heritage. Portman has always been studious, notably choosing to study for her exams rather than attend the premiere of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, choosing her education over the fame that she would receive for her role in the film.


7 Mayim Bialik


Known for her role as Amy on The Big Bang Theory, Mayim Bialik is just as smart as her TV counterpart. After her graduation from high school, she was granted admission to UCLA and earned a Bachelor of Science, majoring in neuroscience while minoring in Hebrew and Jewish studies. While she wished to go to medical school, she did not have the grades for it, but she went on to eventually earn a PhD in neuroscience. All of this education was completed before her appearance on The Big Bang Theory. It could be said that Amy was based on Bialik overall, as they both have a focus on neuroscience.

6 Ashton Kutcher


This typecast pretty boy wasn’t always sure of himself. Growing up in Iowa, Ashton Kutcher knew he had to move to California if there was any hope in getting into acting seriously, but he didn’t have the financial means to do so. Kutcher attended the University of Iowa and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Genetic Engineering. His decision to major in genetic engineering was motivated by his wish to help find a cure for his brother’s heart condition. While at a convention at the University of Iowa, he was discovered by a modeling scout and ended up entering a modeling competition which earned him enough money to move to the west coast and pursue a Hollywood career.


5 Cole Sprouse


Former Disney star Cole Sprouse starred as Cody on The Suite Life of Zach and Cody with his twin brother Dylan. While Dylan’s acting career has somewhat dwindled, Cole has seen a whole new level of popularity in his role as Jughead on the hit teen drama Riverdale. After his stint on the Disney Channel, Cole chose to focus on his education. While his initial interest was film, he quickly switched schools and majors and wound up studying archeology at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, graduating with his degree in 2015. During his study, he participated in excavations around the world. On top of this, Cole also took some photography classes at NYU to improve his skills.

4 Ken Jeong


You might recognize Ken Jeong from his appearance in The Hangover as Leslie Chow or in the long-running comedy series Community as Ben Chang. While Jeong is known for his comedic roles, what some may not know about him is that he is a licensed physician. He was a pre-med student at Duke University and while he did consider majoring in acting, he chose to continue to pursue a medical degree. He earned his MD at the UNC School of Medicine in 1995. Jeong completed a medical residency in internal medicine in 1998, and proceeded to practice medicine for several years until putting his practice aside, choosing to focus on his acting career.

Related: Howard University Officially Renames College of Fine Arts After Chadwick Boseman

3 Eva Longoria


Recognized for the role on The Young and the Beautiful, Eva Longoria eventually rose to fame during her time on Desperate Housewives. This talented soap-opera actress earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Texas A&M University with a focus on Kinesiology. While she was attending college, she entered a talent contest that brought her to Los Angeles where she discovered her passion for acting. While in California, Longoria attended California State University and received a Master’s Degree in Chicano studies.

2 Yara Shahidi


Known for her role as Zoey on the hit sit-com Black-ish, Yara Shahidi is more than just a prolific actress. Shahidi attended Dwight Global Online school and graduated in 2017. In 2018, Shahidi enrolled at Harvard University with a reference letter from the former first lady Michelle Obama, planning to major in Interdisciplinary Sociology and African American Studies. While Shahidi’s post-secondary education has only begun, being enrolled at Harvard is no small feat as the Ivy League school is one of the most prestigious universities in the world.


1 Kerry Washington


Kerry Washington is one of the most prolific actors of her generation. Gaining international popularity from her role as Olivia Pope on Scandal which led to her roles in films like Django Unchained. While Washington’s acting career is quite impressive, so is her academic background. Washington attended Georgetown University and graduated in 1998 with a double major in anthropology and sociology. Shortly after her time at Georgetown, Washington began to focus more on her acting career, despite having no professional training aside from a few classes at Michael Howard Studios.


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