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Mar 07 2017
by Stacy Andryshak

11 Celebrities Who Graduated From Ivy League Schools

By Stacy Andryshak - Mar 07 2017

As if it isn't hard enough to focus on your college degree, imagine juggling a career in entertainment at the same time. Even worse, imagine trying to break into the entertainment industry while you're still obligated to complete your educational requirements — at an ivy league school nonetheless. That's how many of the celebrities below had it during their time in college. With some help from a similar article on StyleCaster, Fresh U put together a list of eleven celebrities who have not only followed their dreams of fame, but have also achieved their educational goals. The following eleven personalities graduated from ivy league schools either before or during their ascents into stardom. 

1. Natalie Portman

John Steven Fernandez via Wikimedia Commons

Known for her roles as Padmé in the Star Wars movies, Nina in Black Swan and Evey in V for Vendetta, Portman has a reputation in the film industry for being incredibly multifaceted. Her intelligence was acknowledged at Harvard University, where she studied psychology. She snagged a degree in 2003, after she had already appeared in Zoolander and two of the Star Wars movies. Harvard Law School Professor Alan M. Dershowitz wasn't aware of Portman's fame when he began teaching her, according to The Harvard Crimson“She was in my seminar called Neuropsychology and the Law, and I didn’t know who she was... It was a few weeks into the semester that I learned she was an actress — but she was a terrific student,” Dershowitz recalled.

2. John Krasinski

Athena LeTrelle via Flickr Creative Commons

Best known for his role as Jim Halpert on The Office, Krasinski graduated from Brown University in 2001. "He entered Brown as an English concentrator after spending the first semester of freshman year in Costa Rica teaching English," according to The Brown Daily Herald. He eventually shifted his focus to theater arts and was a member of "Out of Bounds," a sketch comedy group at Brown. 

3. Mindy Kaling

iDominick via Wikimedia Commons

Mindy Kaling — current actress, comedian and writer — graduated from Dartmouth in 2001 with a theater degree. According to Dartmouth's website, "Kaling began as a Latin major, but decided to pursue a degree in playwriting instead; she went on to earn an Eleanor Frost Playwriting Award in 1999. She also wrote the popular comic strip 'Badly Drawn Girl' for The Dartmouth." However, her involvement in student life didn't end there. She took part in an improv comedy troupe, The Dog Day Players and was a skit writer for the a cappella group, The Rockapellas. Kaling was definitely kept busy in her academic and extracurricular affairs during her time in college.

4. John Legend

PopTech via Flickr Creative Commons

John Legend decided to attend the University of Pennsylvania after receiving scholarship offers from Harvard, Georgetown and Morehouse. While in college, Legend was president and musical director of a co-ed jazz/pop a cappella group called Counterparts. His lead vocals on the group's recording of Joan Osborne's "One of Us" received critical acclaim and a spot on the "1998 Best of Collegiate a Cappella" compilation CD. He graduated UPenn in 2001, at the age of 20, with an English degree. A decade after graduating, Legend delivered the commencement address for the school.

5. Rashida Jones

Digitas Photos via Flickr Creative Commons

Best known for her television roles as Ann Perkins on Parks and Recreation and Karen Filippelli on The Office, Jones studied comparative religion as an undergraduate at Harvard University. She was an active member of the college’s arts and cultural scene, participating in the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club, Signet Society and the Harvard Black Students Association. She was musical director of the co-ed a cappella group the Harvard Opportunes and was a member of the Hasty Pudding Club, co-writing the music for the group’s 149th annual theatrical production.

6. James Franco

David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons

Seasoned actor James Franco received a Masters in Fine Arts degree in fiction writing from Columbia University at 32 years old. But thats not all, apparently Franco has a crazy work ethic because — while pursuing his MFA at Columbia — Franco was also enrolled in NYU for filmmaking, Brooklyn College for fiction writing, and Warren Wilson College for poetry. Before he even finished all of those degree programs, Franco was also accepted into Yale for a Ph.D. in literature. He had a reputation for showing up on-time to classes even while in the midst of filming movies like Milk, Howl and Eat, Pray Love.

7. Conan O'Brien

Comedian and talk show host, Conan O'Brien, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in History & Literature in 1985. He was a writer for the Harvard Lampoon humor magazine and during his sophomore and junior years he served as the Lampoon's president.

8. Lupita Nyong'o

Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

Right before her breakout role in 12 Years A Slave, Nyong'o enrolled in a master's degree program in acting at the Yale School of Drama. She appeared in many stage productions (such as Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, Uncle Vanya, The Taming of the Shrew and The Winter's Tale) while she was there, earning her the Herschel Williams Prize for "acting students with outstanding ability" during the 2011–12 academic year. Right after graduating, in 2013, she landed her Academy award-winning role in the aforementioned film and sufficiently broke into the film industry. 

9. Emma Watson

Georges Biard via Wikimedia Commons

Emma Watson initially enrolled in Brown University in 2009, but took a brief leave of absence in 2011 to film Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows. After taking some classes at Oxford University, she finally earned her English degree from Brown in 2014. According to, "Watson claimed she chose an American university over a British education because the American system allows students to study many subjects at once. Brown was also a place, Watson said, where she could more easily blend in."

10. Ned Fulmer

An online personality, Fulmer is best known for his role as one of the four hilarious "Try Guys" on Buzzfeed's Youtube channel. He attended Yale University, where he studied chemistry. In 2008, he was severely criticized for an inflammatory column he wrote for Yale Daily News on student athletes — apologizing soon after. However, his courage to create daring new content landed him a job as Development Partner at Buzzfeed in 2013. 

11. Aisha Tyler

Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

Aisha Tyler, current host of comedy show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and actress on Criminal Minds, studied environmental policy at Dartmouth University in 1992. Like Mindy Kaling, she was a member of a capella group The Rockapellas. Pertaining to her college degree, Tyler told, “I think my environmental background plays more of a role in my personal behavior [than my performances]... It informs my charity work, which, after my creative life, is the most important part of my job.”

On top of those listed, Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), David Duchovny (The X-Files), Jodie Foster (The Silence of the Lambs) and Allison Williams (Get Out) are some additional high-achieving celebrities that attended ivies. However, ivy league colleges aren't everything — comedic powerhouse Tina Fey initially got rejected from Princeton before going on to play a Princeton admissions officer in a 2014 movie, ironically bringing her full-circle. 

Lead Image Credit: Parriswells via Wikimedia Commons

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Stacy Andryshak - Northeastern University

Stacy is a freshman pursuing a combined major in Communication Studies and Media & Screen Studies at Northeastern University. In high school, she spent most of her free time acting in dramas and musicals. She enjoys obscure vegan restaurants, British soap operas, and her pet rabbit. Find her on: Instagram @stacy.a / Twitter @standryn

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