20 Celebrities Who Completed Their Degree After Hitting Their Big Break

When it comes to college, you might associate celebrities with honorary degrees.

But fame has not prevented some household names from returning to school to better their education.

Meet the VIPs who have proved achieving celebrity should not interfere with completing a degree in higher education.

1. Eva Longoria

Eva Longoria
Presenter Eva Longoria arrives for The Best FIFA Football Awards 2016 on January 9, 2017 in Zurich, Switzerland Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

Desperate Housewives actress Eva Longoria in 2018 received her Master's Degree in Chicano Studies at California State University, after attending classes in person for three years.

The star, who also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology from Texas A&M University, told her Twitter followers on the day of her graduation: "You're never too old or too busy to continue your education."

2. Emma Watson

Emma Watson
Harry Potter actress Emma Watson collected her degree in English Literature from Ivy League establishment Brown University in 2014 Emma Watson/Twitter

Harry Potter actress Emma Watson collected her degree in English Literature from Ivy League establishment Brown University in 2014.

The achievement was all the more impressive as the higher education qualification was completed at the same time as finalizing several big-budget cinematic projects.

3. Nick Cannon

Nick Cannon
Actor Nick Cannon attends the 'Chi-Raq' photo call during the 66th Berlinale International Film Festival Berlin at Grand Hyatt Hotel on February 16, 2016 in Berlin Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

TV star Nick Cannon graduated from Howard University with a bachelor's degree in Criminology in 2020.

The A-list entertainer was so determined to obtain his higher education qualification, he reportedly finished his final semester during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

4. Mayim Bialik

Mayim Bialik
Actress Mayim Bialik attends The Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences Performer Nominees' 64th Primetime Emmy Awards Reception at Spectra by Wolfgang Puck at the Pacific Design Center on September 21, 2012 in West Hollywood Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

The actress is best known for playing Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler in the comedy classic TV series The Big Bang Theory.

And Bialik's academic background made her the perfect candidate to be cast as the intellectual, as she holds a PhD in Neuroscience from UCLA, earned after her first foray into acting in Blossom.

5. Shaquille O'Neal

Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O'Neal receives his doctoral degree in education from Barry University at James L. Knight Center on May 5, 2012 in Miami, Florida Aaron Davidson/WireImage/Getty Images

Seventeen years after putting college on hold to enter the NBA draft, Shaquille O'Neal finally earned his doctorate's degree in Education from Barry University in 2012.

NBA great Shaq has now reportedly next set his sights on working towards a law degree.

6. Amanda Bynes

FIDM graduate 2019 #fidmgraduation pic.twitter.com/KdFI5dPOdK

— amanda bynes (@amandabynes) June 25, 2019

Former child star Amanda Bynes in 2019 graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.

The actress, who faced a problematic few years with mental health issues, was studying for an Associate of Art degree in Merchandise Product Development.

7. Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman
Actress Natalie Portman discusses "Lucy in the Sky" with the Build Series at Build Studio on October 02, 2019 in New York City Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Actress Natalie Portman enrolled at the prestigious Harvard University to earn a degree in Psychology in 2003, following the success of Star Wars: Episode 1.

As if that was not enough, the Oscar-winning high-achiever later took graduate courses at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, while she has also had two papers published in scientific journals.

8. Haley Joel Osment

Haley Joel Osment
Haley Joel Osment participates in the Cinespia 20th anniversary screening of "The Sixth Sense" presented by Amazon Studios at Hollywood Forever on October 19, 2019 in Hollywood, California Rachel Luna/Getty Images

Haley Joel Osment acquired worldwide fame when he was still a child, following his breakthrough roles in M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense and Steven Spielberg's AI.

Although his packed schedule punctuated his studies, the American actor moved to New York to study for and receive a degree in Theater from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

9. Brooke Shields

Brooke Shields
Actress Brooke Shields majored in Romance Language and Literatures, with a focus on French literature, and graduated with honors from Princeton University in 1987 Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Actress Brooke Shields majored in Romance Language and Literatures, with a focus on French literature, and graduated with honors from Princeton University in 1987.

Shields began her acting career when she was 11 months old and by the time of her enrollment, she had starred in multiple major movies and modelled for fashion designer Calvin Klein.

10. Swizz Beatz

Swizz Beatz
Swizz Beatz and Zenith Watches celebrate the launch of The Defy Collection at the Angel Orensanz Center on November 30, 2017 in New York City Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

After three years of hard work, American music producer Swizz Beatz graduated from Harvard Business School in 2017.

He took to Instagram to celebrate his degree, where he motivated his fans to push themselves similarly, writing: "Sky's not the limits it's just the view! The best person you can be in life is you!"

11. Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd
Ashley Judd attends the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Actress Ashley Judd attended the University of Kentucky from 1986 to 1990, but left one course shy of graduation.

However, the star returned to complete her French degree in 2007 and her alma mater has since created the Ashley T. Judd Distinguished Graduate Fellowship in the Office for Policy Studies on Violence Against Women.

12. Dakota Fanning

Dakota Fanning
Dakota Fanning attends Emmy For Your Consideration Red Carpet Event For TNT's "The Alienist" - Red Carpet at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on May 23, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California Presley Ann/Getty Images

Award-winning American movie star Dakota Fanning has described juggling the demands of Hollywood and higher education as a "balancing act."

She attended the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University between 2011 and 2014, where the actress majored in Women's Studies, with a focus on the portrayal of women in film and culture.

13. America Ferrera

America Ferrera
Actress America Ferrera attends the "How To Train Your Dragon 2" premiere during the 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2014 in Cannes, France Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Ugly Betty actress America Ferrera decided to pause her studies at the University of Southern California to kick-start her career.

However, she returned to concentrate on her degree a decade later and eventually earned herself a double major in Theater and International Relations.

14. Tyra Banks

Tyra Banks
Tyra Banks hosts Nine West New campaign launch event in celebration of International Women's Day at ABG West Style Studio on March 05, 2020 in West Hollywood, California Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Supermodel and TV personality Tyra Banks was in her early life admitted to both UCLA and USC, but decided to turn down both in a bid to rule the world's catwalks.

However, she later attended classes on the Harvard Business campus and in 2012 graduated as part of the Owner/President Management extension program.

15. Julia Stiles

Julia Stiles
Actress Julia Stiles visits SiriusXM Studios on December 11, 2019 in New York City Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Movie star Julia Stiles decided to test herself with an academic degree at the height of her Hollywood fame.

The actress attended Columbia University, where she graduated with a degree in English Literature in 2005, having already starred in blockbusters including The Bourne Identity and Mona Lisa Smile.

16. Miranda Cosgrove

Miranda Cosgrove
Miranda Cosgrove speaks onstage during the XQ Super School Live, presented by EIF, at Barker Hangar on September 8, 2017 in Santa California Christopher Polk/Getty Images

As the end of Netflix sitcom iCarly was approaching in 2012, actress Miranda Cosgrove began her first semester at the University of Southern California.

She was able to continue acting while completing her degree, and although she initially majored in Film Studies, she eventually switched her degree to Psychology.

17. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey receives a honorary degree during the Agnes Scott College 2017 Commencement at Agnes Scott College on May 13, 2017 in Decatur, Georgia Marcus Ingram/WireImage/Getty Images

Future actress and doyen of daytime TV Oprah Winfrey attended the HBCU Tennessee State University on a full scholarship she had won in a public-speaking competition in her teens.

However, Oprah left college a credit short of graduating in Speech Communications and Performing Arts in 1975 for her burgeoning career, but she later completed the course and finally collected her college degree in 1987.

18. James Franco

James Franco
Actor James Franco attends IFP's 27th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards on November 27, 2017 in New York Cit Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

While reportedly dissatisfied with his career's trajectory, successful actor James Franco decided to re-enroll at the University of California as an English major with a Creative Writing focus.

The Hollywood star even managed to make the most of his hectic schedule, receiving credits from independent study for his involvement on the set of Marvel movie franchise Spider-Man 3.

19. Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg
Director Steven Spielberg was among the graduates receiving diplomas at Cal State University Long Beach, College of Arts, commencement ceremony May 31, 2002. Spielberg began work toward his degree in 1965, but left the university to pursue his filmmaking career. He re-enrolled in the Department of Film and Electronic Arts in Spring 2001 Maury Phillips/WireImage/Getty Images

Steven Spielberg fulfilled a longtime dream in 2009 after he finally received his college degree—roughly four decades after he started it.

To fulfil his course requirements for his bachelor's degree in Film and Video Production, Spielberg submitted his Oscar-winning Schindler's List, which he produced and directed.

20. Elisabeth Shue

Elisabeth Shue
Elisabeth Shue during DonorsChoose.org Launch "America's Most Innovative Charity" at Grand View Boulevard Elementary School in Los Angeles, California John Shearer/WireImage/Getty Images

Actress Elisabeth Shue became one of the biggest names in Hollywood when she appeared in a succession of hits, including The Karate Kid and Cocktail.

She then paused her Harvard degree in 1985 to continue her acting career, and finally returned to the Ivy League college to finish her Political Science degree in 2020.