15 Stars Who Got Their Degrees From Ivy League Universities

A degree may not be a requirement for a career in Hollywood but that doesn’t mean that celebrities don’t have their diplomas! In fact, numerous stars have pursued higher education at some of the most respected universities in the world, namely an Ivy League institution. The elite lineup includes eight highly regarded schools: Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania. Not only do these exclusive schools draw some of the best and brightest students from around the world but they’ve also got a long list of celebrity alumni!

Find out which stars got their Ivy League degrees…

1. Emma Watson

Emma Watson was in the middle of filming the “Harry Potter” franchise when she enrolled in Brown University. There she studied English literature and after taking a gap year to film the final movie in the franchise, she graduated in 2014. Looking back on the experience, Emma says that once everyone got over the initial shock of seeing a celebrity, she had a very normal college experience.

“I’ve never even been asked for an autograph on campus. I threw a party for nearly 100 students and not a single person put a photo on Facebook. Anyway, even if I was being given a hard time, I wasn’t going to wuss out of university because someone said ‘Wingardium leviosa’ to me in a corridor, or ‘Ten points for Gryffindor.’ I’ve been dealing with the media since I was nine. If I can’t stand up to a few people giving me a hard time, it’s a bit pathetic, really. I’ve had so much worse,” Emma told the Sunday Times’ Style Magazine.

2. Yara Shahidi

“Grown-ish” star Yara Shahidi has spent the past few years managing her acting career while getting her degree from Harvard University. In May 2022, Yara graduated and received her diploma from the institution’s Social Studies & African American departments.

“It’s surreal to have finally hit this major milestone. I’ve known I wanted to go to college since I was four. By 17, I knew exactly what I wanted to study, so to see that come to fruition is a goal fulfilled,” Yara told Vogue.

3. Brooke Shields

Brooke Shields was already a well known model and actress when she enrolled at Princeton University to study French literature. Unfortunately, her experience ended up being a little less than ordinary as she says she was often followed by paparazzi on campus. Despite the distraction, she graduated with honors in 1987.

“The paparazzi tried to sneak onto campus, dressed like what they thought college students looked like, and follow me around. The students were great and they alerted the school and me if anyone saw anybody suspicious. One photographer hid in a vent to photograph me walk to a class; another attempted to bribe a Mathey College freshman to take a camera into the showers and snap me in the nude. They would have been in for a surprise if they tried, because I had taken to showering in a one-piece bathing suit!” Brooke wrote in her memoir, “There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me.”

5. Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling received a bachelor’s degree in playwriting when she graduated from Dartmouth College in 2001. Since graduating, Mindy’s been back to campus more than once. In 2018, she returned to give the graduating class’ commencement speech, during which she was given an honorary doctorate. She even stopped by her old dorm room! Later, Mindy returned to campus again to talk with students as part of research for future shows, chatting with members of the Dartmouth Jack O’ Lantern, the school comedy magazine.

6. Lupita Nyong’o

While Lupita Nyong’o completed her undergraduate degree at Hampshire College, she received her MFA from the Yale School of Drama. She beat out 950 other applicants to join the prestigious program’s class of just 16 people. It’s clear that the program was an important part of Luptia’s life as she thanked the school in her Oscars acceptance speech when she won Best Supporting Actress for her role in “12 Years a Slave.”

“I want to thank my family, for your training, and the Yale School of Drama as well, for your training,” she said in her speech.

7. John Krasinski

In 2001, John Krasinski graduated from Brown University with a bachelor’s degree in English. During his time in school, he joined the Out of Bounds sketch comedy group — which he says completely changed his life.

“I went in for the audition, and my entire life changed. Nope, not because I got in, not because I started acting. It was through that group that I found my way into this community. It was through that group that I met my people,” John told News from Brown.

8. Rashida Jones

When Rashida Jones enrolled at Harvard University, she had plans to become a lawyer but along the way, she had a change of heart. She ended up majoring in comparative religion before graduating in 1997.

“I just thought it was so fascinating…And it was the comparative study of religion, so I got a really good, like, buffet of everything…As an organizing principle, I think religion is so fascinating in its ability to bring people together and its ability to, you know, incite war and violence and just to really create order and get people to do, you know, things you want them to do in the name of God. It’s interesting to me,” Rashida told NPR.

9. John Legend

John Legend graduated from high school when he was just 16 and received offers from numerous Ivy League schools. After turning down Harvard, he decided to enroll in the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1999 with a degree in English with a specialization in African American literature. He returned to the campus in 2014 to address the graduating class as a commencement speaker. Then, in 2021, he was awarded with the Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship Alumni Achievement Award because he “applied entrepreneurial approaches to important areas outside of business.”

10. Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman was already an established actress by the time she enrolled at Harvard University. She graduated in 2003 with her bachelor’s degree in psychology. Looking back, Natalie says she’s glad there was no social media at the time, which could have made going to school more complicated for the actress.

“I think I was really lucky to have been there before social media…So I went to school with no Facebook, no Instagram, no cameras on phones…I was really able to go about my business and not have it documented for public consumption. Which was really lucky ’cause, guess what? It’s good to, like, make mistakes and do stupid things when you’re a teenager and young adult and not have it haunt you forever,” Natalie told People.

11. Jenny Slate

Jenny Slate received her bachelor’s in English literature from Columbia University in 2004. She says she partially chose the school because of the comedy scene in New York City. Even as an actress Jenny says she’s still constantly using her degree.

“I use my education a lot, because I tend to make fun of the things that I love. Like any book that’s kind of like ‘A Room with a View,’ where there’s a young, female protagonist who’s about to have a sexual awakening and just cannot handle it,” Jenn told the New York Times.

12. Conan O’Brien

In the early 1980s, Conan O’Brien attended Harvard University, where he majored in history and literature. While there, he wrote for the school’s comedic magazine, the Harvard Lampoon. He graduated in 1985 and over two decades later, he was selected to give a commencement address to the new graduating class. Due to the pandemic, the speech was virtual and he gave it from his backyard.

13. Meryl Streep

In the early 1970s, Meryl Streep earned a scholarship to attend the prestigious Yale School of Drama and in 1975, she graduated with her MFA. Less than a decade later, she was presented with an honorary doctorate and in 2000, she served as the honorary chair for the celebrations surrounding the Yale School of Drama’s 75th anniversary, the Yale University Dramatic Association’s 100th anniversary, and Yale University’s 300th anniversary.

14. Jordana Brewster

Jordana Brewster had a family connection to Yale University when she enrolled at the school — her grandfather, Kingman Brewster Jr., had served as its president from 1963 to 1977. The actress majored in English and graduated in 2003. Looking back, she says her education hasn’t really played a major role in her career and instead has simply given her a “little more cred.”

15. Connie Britton

As a teenager, Connie Britton enrolled at Dartmouth College, where she majored in Asian Studies. Her college experience even included a summer abroad in Beijing while she studied at Beijing Normal University.

“It was a very big culture shock. It was a unique experience and very important and adventurous time,” Connie said at Vulture Fest.

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