9 Highly Successful Engineering College Dropouts

Getting a degree is often touted as the route to success but is that necessarily true? The following 9 college dropouts might prove otherwise.
Christopher McFadden

College graduate students tend to earn 60%  more than high-school graduates according to statistics but, as the following college dropouts will show, it might not be essential for you to become ultra successful. So that begs the question, is college actually worth it? Do you really need to get a degree to be successful? 

With increasing tuition fees and growing student debt, these are worthy questions for any prospective student to ask. Clearly for some careers, like medicine, a degree is essential, but for others, is it really worth the cost?

The following 9 engineering college dropouts have become some of the richest people in the world. You'll probably know most of them already, but it's interesting to hear their stories nonetheless. 

The following are some of the colleges dropouts, in no particular order and are far from exhaustive.

1. Bill Gates

The first of our college dropouts is, arguably, the most famous one. Bill Gates is officially "Harvard's most successful dropout" according to the Harvard Crimson. The son of an attorney and a schoolteacher, Bill probably had a little pressure to succeed. To this aim, he enrolled at Harvard in the fall of 1973. Two years later, Bill would be persuaded to drop out to co-found one of the most successful companies on the planet, Microsoft. 

Ironically enough, thirty years later, Bill would receive an honorary doctorate from Harvard from his alma mater.  

At the graduation ceremony, Gates mockingly said, "I'm a bad influence. That's why I was invited to speak at your graduation. If I had spoken at your orientation, fewer of you might be here today."

9 Highly Successful Engineering College Dropouts
Source: Kees de Vos/Wikimedia Commons

2. Paul Allen

That brings us nicely to our second entry on our list of engineering dropouts. Paul Allen always had an interest in computers and science from a young age. He would later meet Bill Gates at Lakeside School, Seattle at the tender age of 14. He would quickly begin to experiment with different languages and programs for computers. 

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He would later enroll at Washington State University only to drop out and convince Bill to do the same from Harvard. Given the success of these two men, does that count as being a bad influence? 

9 Highly Successful Engineering College Dropouts
Source: Miles Harris/Wikimedia Commons

3. Buckminster Fuller

Fuller, one of the most successful architects, thinkers, inventors of all time was a college dropout. Well, technically speaking, he was expelled from Harvard. Actually not just once, but twice. 

He had a string of bad business adventures plus a lot of personal trauma when his daughter died. When he turned 32, he made a concerted effort to turn his luck around. Through his less than orthodox thinking, he would go on to give the world the Dymaxion and geodesic dome, amongst other things.

9 Highly Successful Engineering College Dropouts
Source: State Archives of North Carolina Raleigh, NC/Wikimedia Commons

4. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs would drop out of Reed College after a matter of six months. This was partly due to the financial strain his education had on his working-class parents. Despite this setback, Jobs would go on to co-found Apple, one of the tech giants of our age. 

His time at Reed wasn't completely wasted, however. He has famously credited a calligraphy class he took there for forming the basis for the typography on the first Mac.

9 Highly Successful Engineering College Dropouts
Source: matt buchanan/Wikimedia Commons

5. Steve Wozniak

OK, we can't really talk about Steve Jobs and not include Steve. Steve Wozniak is pretty much the very definition of "a computer wizard". He is the man responsible for the very creation of the Apple 1 and II series of computers. He is famously very critical of formal education and promotes self-learning and experimentation as the best way to learn.

His attitude to formal education might explain his expulsion from the University of Colorado Boulder in his first year for hacking the institution's computer system.

Steve would meet Steve Jobs through a mutual friend and their shared passion and obsession for electronics would forge a union that would change the world forever. His current net worth is in the order of $100 billion as of April 2017.

9 Highly Successful Engineering College Dropouts
Source: Al Luckow/Wikimedia Commons

6. George Westinghouse

The son of machine shop owner, George would go on to become one of the most important engineers and industrialists in history. He, more or less, single handily revolutionized the rail and electrical industries during the 19th Century. Ok, Mr. Tesla might have helped with that later.

After a stint in the Army and Navy during the civil war, George would later enroll at Union College. After only a few months, he would drop out in his first term to pursue a rather fruitful career under his own steam.

9 Highly Successful Engineering College Dropouts
Source: Joseph G. Gessford/Wikimedia Commons


7. Mark Zuckerburg

Here's another high profile college drop out from Harvard. Mark would famously use his college dorm room to create one of the most successful social media sites in history. Originally intended for the sole use of Harvard students, his networking site would grow beyond all expectations to the behemoth we know today as Facebook.

It would seem his decision to drop out of college paid off. He has become one of the youngest billionaires in the world. 

9 Highly Successful Engineering College Dropouts
Source: Vickychen970707/Wikimedia Commons

8. Daniel Ek

In 2005, Daniel was studying engineering at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. He lasted a total of 8 weeks before deciding to quit and pursue something more interesting. Daniel worked for multiple websites during his time out of college and would, eventually, establish an online marketing company called Advertigo.

He sold this business in 2008 and went on to co-found Spotify the same year. Spotify has since grown exponentially making Ek a millionaire a few years later. Spotify currently has around 75 million active users.

9 Highly Successful Engineering College Dropouts
Soure: Magnus Höij/Wikimedia Commons

9. Michael Dell

The last of our college dropouts is Michael Dell. Dell has originally enrolled at the University of Texas to study medicine. His fascination with computers would ultimately dictate Michael's future. In his first year, Dell used $1,000 to buy and upgrade some old computers that he later sold for a profit

This would inspire Dell to drop out of University at the age of 19 and concentrate on his new enterprise. He was making around $80,000 a month at this time and decided to build the computer business we all know today.

9 Highly Successful Engineering College Dropouts
Source: Oracle PR/Wikimedia Commons

So there you go, 9 of the most highly successful engineering college dropouts in history. But, before you decide to ditch your own studies, it might be worth reading this first. Food for thought.

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