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10 Famous Authors Who Never Graduated From College

by Team PoetrySoup

Famous Authors Who Never Graduated From College

Undoubtedly, a college education is important and offers the platform for success in life. However, a lack of college education doesn’t automatically translate to failure also. People have made a name for themselves in the literary field without a college education. This is quite surprising because of how sophisticated writing and the literary field can be. Even active college students outsource their literature to the best essay writing service to avoid doing it themselves. But some people became very famous authors without graduating from college.

1. Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 is a classic novel familiar to a generation of high school students, but so was the name Ray Bradbury. Bradbury never attended college and even struggled to complete his high school education. He wasn’t interested in it and claimed not to believe in colleges. He preferred to go to libraries to read and write stories on paper. He started writing at the age of 11. It’s safe to say he justified his beliefs because he became a successful author. 

2. Maya Angelou

Maya had a tragic childhood circumstance involving racial discrimination and sexual abuse. She went on to become mute for five years. During this period, she developed her love for books and languages. She couldn’t afford college and had to struggle to raise her son. Her writing career began at 40 when she published her first book – her autobiography; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

3. Truman Capote

Truman also had a challenging childhood. He was abandoned by his parents and was a small and eccentric child. He decided to become a writer at 11 and spent his childhood learning and perfecting the craft. To toughen him up, his mother sent him to a military school. It was a failed experiment, but it interrupted his plans. He, however, got employed as a copyboy after high school but didn’t publish his first novel, In Cold Blood, until he was 41. 

fountain pen on black lined paper

4. Mark Twain 

Originally named Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Mark dropped out of school when he was 12 after his father’s death to work for food rations. By 15, he started contributing articles to a newspaper before moving to New York. He educated himself through public libraries, became a journalist by 30 and became an author later. He got the name “Mark Twain” from working as a steamboat pilot. 

5. Augusten Burroughs

He was born into a highly-educated family with the name Christopher Richter Robison. Although he obtained his GED at 17, he stopped attending school after the sixth grade. He enrolled as a pre-med student at Holyoke College after changing his name but dropped out before completing the first semester. In 2002, he published his first memoir, Running with Scissors, which garnered many controversies.  

6. Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens always wanted to be famous as a kid. He only got sporadic formal education in-between several factory jobs with poor working conditions. His childhood as an impoverished child became the inspiration behind his novels. He also became a freelance reporter but made his name as a Victorian novelist.

7. H. G. Wells

Wells had a leg injury that kept him bedridden at eight. However, this unfortunate incident was the genesis of his love for literature. His father bought him lots of books to help him pass the time, and he fell for the fictitious settings. Wells was forced to leave school as a child after his father suffered his injury to become a draper’s apprentice. He had several nightmare jobs until he became a teacher and started to educate himself to become a writer. He became famous for the science fiction novels The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds.

8. Jack London

Although he found he was at UC Berkeley, he had a very unconventional route to college. As a boy, he was mentored by Oakland Public Library’s librarian and became self-educated with her encouragement. He couldn’t complete high school until he was 18, after returning from jail for vagrancy. He took a loan from his friend to attend UC Berkeley but dropped out after running out of money a year later. He became an author and wrote White Fang and The Call of the Wild classics.

9. Jack Kerouac

He attended Columbia University on an athletic scholarship because of his football ability but broke his leg in the first year. He returned after a year but always fought with his coach and was compelled to leave school. However, his sojourn into Columbia is where he was introduced to the Beats, which he used to start a literary revolution. 

10. William Faulkner

William became a Nobel Prize winner but never got a high school diploma. He couldn’t enlist in the US Air Force because of his height, but he lied to the Royal Air Force of Canada before the end of WW1. He enrolled in the University of Mississippi later but only lasted three semesters before he dropped out. He published his first novel at 27 after working as a postmaster and bookseller’s assistant.