Microsoft founder Bill Gates is probably the most famous billionaire college dropout. He’s often held up as a shining example that you don’t need to graduate from college to be successful.
And it is true there are many successful college dropouts. But even Gates explained: “It is strange to call me a college dropout in all but the most literal sense. I went for three years and took enough courses to graduate.” He also scored 1590 out of 1600 on the SAT, which is probably why he was admitted to not just any college, but Harvard University.
While we like to tell the dropout-turned-billionaire story, most people in powerful positions graduated from college — and not only that, highly elite colleges.
Here are just a few examples: Billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos graduated from Princeton University; Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Stanford University; and Ben Bernanke, former chair of the Federal Reserve, got undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from MIT.
In a recent research study titled “Investigating The World’s Rich And Powerful,” I examined the education level of three groups of global elites: billionaires (people in the top 0.0000001% of wealth), the people who attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, and the world’s most powerful men and women according to Forbes magazine. The total sample size included over 4,000 global elites.
In the graphs that follow, black bars indicate the percentage that attended an elite school, which were those schools that appear at the top of the U.S. News & World Report rankings and the QS World University rankings.
Dark gray bars indicate the percentage that attended graduate school, independent of the elite school category. Brown bars indicate the percentage independent of the first two categories that attended college. And finally, light gray bars indicate the percentage that did “not report” or had “no college.”
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