Celebrities With the Most Surprising College Majors
When you hear about the college days of some of your favorite stars, it’s no surprise that many studied acting, performance or drama. Then again, there are some super smart celebs that followed totally unrelated academic paths before they graced the big and small screens.
Explore our "yearbook" of celebrity majors to find out the study tracks of celebrities. You might be surprised by the pre-acting aspirations of some famous alumni.
Major: Neuroscience, with minors in Hebrew and Jewish studies
Quote: "I was always kind of a school person — my parents were teachers, and my grandparents were immigrants, so their big thing was, 'Go to college, go to college, go to college.'"
Bottom Line: Mayim Bialik
Mayim Bialik best known for playing Sheldon’s nerdy wife Amy Farrah Fowler on TV’s "The Big Bang Theory," and she’s pretty brainy in real life, too.
She continued her education between acting jobs to earn her Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA in 2007.
Major: Comparative religion
School: Harvard University
Quote: "In high school, I never drank, I never smoked, I never smoked weed. I was president of the varsity club and was on the math team and then student government. I was in every activity. I saved all the bad stuff for college."
Bottom Line: Rashida Jones
The daughter of Quincy Jones and the late Peggy Lipton is an Ivy League grad.
Best known for her roles in "Parks and Recreation" and "The Office," Rashida Jones cultivated her creative side as musical director of the co-ed a cappella group the Harvard Opportunes.
She also was a member of the Hasty Pudding Club and Hasty Pudding Theatricals.
School: Vassar College
Fun fact: When Kudrow and Mira Sorvino, a Harvard grad, worked on "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion" together, they nicknamed each other "Smart and Smarter."
Bottom Line: Lisa Kudrow
She might have played ditzy Phoebe on "Friends," but Lisa Kudrow is as smart as they come.
Kudrow graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1985.
Major: Biochemical engineering
School: University of Iowa
(Not so) fun fact: In college, he was so poor that he donated his own blood.
Bottom Line: Ashton Kutcher
Before he became famous on "That '70s Show" or even met Demi Moore or Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher was studying hardcore science.
That is, until he was discovered by a local talent scout and dropped out to pursue modeling.
Majors: Spanish and Arabic
School: Cambridge University’s Emmanuel College
Fun fact: Freddie achieved 10 A* grades (which is like an A+) on his General Certificate of Secondary Education exams (GCSEs) — a big deal for United Kingdom teens.
Bottom Line: Freddie Highmore
He plays "The Good Doctor" on TV, but British actor Freddie Highmore was more of a language scholar in real life.
Schools: Duke University (undergrad), University of North Carolina (medical school)
Fun fact: Even while studying medicine, he had his sights set on comedy, taking on roles in Duke's Hoof 'n' Horn campus productions.
Bottom Line: Ken Jeong
His breakout role in "The Hangover," and all of his screen appearances since, are quite the opposite of Ken Jeong’s academic background and first career as a licensed physician.
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson
School: University of Miami
Quote: "The one thing that I keep learning over and over again is that I know nothing. I mean, that’s my life lesson."
Bottom Line: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson
He might be known for his brawn, whether he’s in the professional wrestling ring or in a big-screen blockbuster, but "The Rock" used his brains, too, to complete his bachelor’s degree on a full football scholarship.
Major: Asian studies
School: Dartmouth College
Fun fact: As part of her degree program, Britton spent a semester in Beijing learning to speak Chinese.
Bottom Line: Connie Britton
On TV, she spent several seasons on a high school football field in "Friday Night Lights," but she didn’t shy away from higher education after her own high school days.
Major: General studies, MBA, leadership
Schools: Louisiana State University, University of Phoenix, Barry University
Fun fact: Shaq wanted to leave college early to pursue his NBA career, but his dad talked him into finishing his degree first — advice that he’s now glad he followed.
Calling Dr. Shaq! Shaq has his bachelor’s in general studies, but he didn’t stop there, despite becoming an NBA star and celebrity. He went back to school – partially through online learning – to earn his MBA from the University of Phoenix and then his Ph.D. in leadership from Barry University.
Bottom Line: Shaquille O'Neal
Calling Dr. Shaq! Shaq has his bachelor’s in general studies, but he didn’t stop there, despite becoming an NBA star and celebrity.
He went back to school — partially through online learning — to earn his MBA from the University of Phoenix and then his Ph.D. in leadership from Barry University.
Majors: Eastern religion and philosophy
School: Columbia University
Fun fact: He named his dog Atticus Finch after his favorite book character from "To Kill a Mockingbird."
Bottom Line: Jake Gyllenhaal
The fact that he’s been acting since he was 11 years old didn’t stop Jake Gyllenhaal from pursuing higher education — at any Ivy League school to boot.
After two years, though, he left school to focus solely on acting.
Major: Chemistry (later switched to fine arts)
School: Denison University
Fun fact: Garner was a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority in college, and graduated in 1994.
Bottom Line: Jennifer Garner
Jennifer Garner’s original plans were to follow in her dad’s footsteps (he was a chemical engineer), but once she discovered a passion for acting during her college years, she changed her major from chemistry to drama.
School: East Tennessee State University
Quote: "When I was playing for tips in college, I felt a fire in my soul."
Bottom Line: Kenny Chesney
While he pursued and finished his college degree in marketing, Kenny Chesney also was writing songs and playing local bars during his college years.
It paid off.
School: Queens College
Quote: "If my father had hugged me even once, I'd be an accountant right now."
Bottom Line: Ray Romano
Before the comedian Ray Romano conquered the stand-up stage and prime-time TV on his show "Everybody Loves Raymond," he had aspirations to be an accountant.
He only lasted two years in college, however.
Major: Business administration
School: Florida A&M University
Fun fact: Common is an ambassador for the Adopt-A-Classroom initiative, which helps provide funds to teachers to purchase classroom supplies.
The rapper Common studied business for two years before he decided to leave school to pursue a full-time career as a performer. Based on his success, those business classes must have stuck.
Bottom Line: Common
The rapper Common studied business for two years before he decided to leave school to pursue a full-time career as a performer.
Based on his success, those business classes must have stuck.
School: Kalamazoo College
Quote: "What I loved about Kalamazoo was that it gave me an opportunity to try everything at least once. I got to study the sciences while also jumping into the theater. I got to write my thesis on religion while studying abroad in the U.K. ... It was a true coming-of-age college experience."
Bottom Line: Steven Yeun
You know him as Glenn Rhee on the "Walking Dead," but Steven Yeun credita his college days for all of his success and star power.
School: New York University’s Stern School of Business
Quote: "By the time I was in my sophomore year, I was confident I could do well in comedy. Luckily, I was right."
Before he was a “Master of None,” he tried mastering marketing as an undergrad. He earned his degree in 2004.
Bottom Line: Aziz Ansari
Before he was a "Master of None," Aziz Ansari tried mastering marketing as an undergrad.
He earned his degree in 2004.
Majors: Philosophy and computer science
School: Grinnell College
Quote: "I grew up watching 'Ghostbusters' and 'Knight Rider' and Hot Wheels commercials. When I got to college, having never set foot in America, I knew more American pop-culture references than my friends did."
From “The Big Sick” to “Silicon Valley,” Nanjiani, a stand-up comedian turned actor, seems to be popping up everywhere on both the big and small screens. But if it wasn’t for the fact that he moved to the U.S. to attend college, we might not have gotten to love his work.
Bottom Line: Kumail Nanjiani
From "The Big Sick" to "Silicon Valley," Kumail Nanjiani, a stand-up comedian turned actor, seems to be popping up everywhere on both the big and small screens.
But if it wasn’t for the fact that he moved to the U.S. to attend college, we might not have gotten to love his work.
Major: Ph.D. in Astrophysics
School: Imperial College in London
Quote: "I think music is about our internal life. It's part of the way people touch each other. That's very precious to me. And astronomy is, in a sense, the very opposite thing. Instead of looking inwards, you are looking out, to things beyond our grasp."
Bottom Line: Brian May
Wait, what? The iconic guitarist of the band "Queen" is not just a musical genius, but he has a mind for science, too?
That’s right. After returning to his alma mater to finish his Ph.D. in 2007, he’s also found time between concert tours to be a visiting researcher there.