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10 Intelligent Celebrities with Degrees from the USA that Will Shock You

Published by Afterschool.my on Nov 20, 2017, 09:49 am

The status of celebrities as the years fly by continue to reach lofty levels that are sometimes scarcely believable. These regular humans are given a God-like treatment, their following cult-like, their fans bordering on obsessive and their wealth burgeoning. When going around a table full of average joes and janes to list down what people usually associate with an A-list celebrity, the expected generally makes up the list; dashing good looks, blindingly white teeth, physically fit, larger than life personalities and a dash of pizzazz, that certain X-factor that helped them stand out from the sea of millions. But what many of us are perhaps guilty of, is assuming that these worshipped mortals are merely empty shells. A horribly common preconceived notion, the age ol’ adage of ‘celebrities being just a pretty face’ is as outdated as a Nokia 3310 in the year 2017. While there are hundreds of them who have left their mark both in both entertainment and academic arenas, the 10 celebrities we’re counting down all obtained their education in the USA, and some of their accomplishments will know your socks off (If you’re using a pair), so do sit and strap yourself in.


1. Shaquille O’ Neal

Anyone who’s even had a peek over into the National Basketball Association (NBA) knows that Shaquille O’ Neal, or Shaq as he’s fondly known, is an indubitable legend of the game. Gargantuan even by basketball standards, the 7’ 11”, 147kg mountain of a man amassed a total of 4-NBA championship rings throughout his illustrious career (The equivalent of 4 Champions League wins). While his other feats fill a list that goes on as long as he does, a lesser known fact is how Shaq emphasised the importance of an education. While O'Neal left his Louisiana State University for the NBA after three years, he had every intention of fulfilling a promise he made to his mother, duly returning and completing his Bachelor of Arts in General Studies in the year 2000. His head coach even permitted him to miss a home game just so he could attend his graduation, where he wore a robe that was sized XXXL. Shaq then earned his MBA online via the University of Phoenix a mere 5 years later, and finally commenced work on his PhD in Human Resource Development as his career reached its twilight. Oh, he also studied directing and cinematography with the New York Film Academy's Filmmaking Conservatory.


2. David Duchovny

Some of the younger folk may be screaming, “Who’s that?”. Those who do know him however, are well aware that his name is synonymous with the X-Files, as one part of the dynamic yet enigmatic duo of Mulder & Scully. The hit TV show that spanned 10 seasons and 2 movies (with an 11th in the pipelines) earned Duchovny the first of his 2 Golden Globes, with the latter coming from his next project, starring in the TV show Californiacation. The actor’s educational credentials however somehow surpasses those of his successful foray into the entertainment business; a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Princeton, and a Master’s from Yale, before beginning work on his PhD which he is yet to complete at the very same Ivy League university.


3. James Franco

Initially making a name for himself alongside the original Spiderman (Tobey Maguire) as the Green Goblin, James Franco’s acting chops were put on full display as he continued to take-on an array of roles, treating each one with no less dedication. It may stun you then, to learn that the Hollywood heartthrob picks up degrees the way we pick out dishes at the economy rice stall; as many as humanly possible. Starting off at UCLA, he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in English with a CGPA of 3.5.  As soon as Franco finished at UCLA, he moved to New York and enrolled in not one, not two, not three, but a staggering four of courses: NYU for filmmaking, Columbia for fiction writing, Brooklyn College for fiction writing, and—just for good measure—a low-residency poetry program at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. After getting his academic passport stamped multiple times, he went in for the only one missing for his repertoire, an Ivy Leaguer, enrolling in a phD programme at Yale. So yes, next time you see his name scrawled below a movie poster from the dozen or so films he stars in annually, it may just read ‘Dr. Franco’.


4. Vampire Weekend

This youthful alternate rock trio have shockingly been together for more than a decade, having achieved everything a band could possibly hope to. TWO albums that reached #1 on the Billboard chart, doing so back-to-back no less, followed up with a Grammy win for Best Alternative Music Album, has helped shed any early doubts, shooed away the naysayers, and cemented their legacy as a legitimate, genre defining act. The modern-day equivalent of rock stars, perhaps they all channelled their inner Brian May when deciding to obtain a tertiary education, for all members of Vampire Weekend possess an Ivy League education. Specifically, they all completed courses at Columbia University, and seemingly not satisfied going down the easy route, these would-be stars all did so with their instruments in one hand, and a scholarship in the other!  


5. Natalie Portman

There’s a short few seconds in the Social Network (movie about Facebook’s creation), where a boy suing Mark Zuckerberg testifies that he was the biggest thing on the Harvard campus, which included a Hollywood star, to which Zuckerberg’s lawyer asks, “And who was that?”. Sadly, the question was never answered, and many who were curious about the identity of the mysterious individual who managed to conquer both Harvard and Hollywood is, who left in a state of limbo---- Until now that is. Because the person the movie referred to, is none other than Natalie Portman. Clad in a suit of brilliance, Portman has been a fervent disciple in overachieving from a young age. Not only did she enrol and graduate from Harvard with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, she starred in a second Star Wars film (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones) AND opened in New York City's The Public Theater production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull in 2001 while doing so. "I don't care if college ruins my career," she told the New York Post. "I'd rather be smart than a movie star." She however, managed to achieve the implausible feat of being both.


6. Ken Jeong

Yes, everyone’s favourite Hollywood doctor is an actual doctor in real life! (No wonder he scored the role). While people around the world know him from roles in the Hangover trilogy, Community and the titular character in the sitcom Dr. Ken, Kendrick Kang-Joh "Ken" Jeong is a bona fide physician, having earned his M.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine before completing his internal medicine residency at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans. While comedy and medicine probably look like they would get along as well as an irate cat and dog would, Jeong has drawn uncanny parallels between the two contrasting choices he’s made.

"Comedy and medicine are similar in that you have to be quick on your feet. You have to have technical knowledge of your craft, but you also need to follow your instincts. Comedy and medicine are both art forms that require discipline and improvisation".


7. Lisa Kudrow

Yes everyone, the singer-songwriter of the mega-hit ‘Smelly Cat’, the bumbling, eccentric, lovable but sometimes downright loopy Phoebe Buffay is quite smart, or rather, the actress who portrays her is. Lisa Kudrow, a household name to anyone whose binge watched all 10 seasons of Friends (How else does one watch it?), was trotting down a very different path prior to her comedic career sky rocketing: She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biology form Vassar College! In the years that followed, Lisa worked for her father, a headache specialist and physician. Accumulating eight years of experience, she earned herself a research credit on his study of the likelihood that left-handed people would develop cluster headaches.


8. Conan O'Brien

The flame-haired, late night talk show stalwart, was given the incredulous opportunity to replace the legendary David Letterman upon his retirement (Remember him on NT7?). Initially faced with vociferous sceptics and sub-par ratings, Conan, like his towering bee-hive hair-do, rose to the occasion and defied the odds, carving his name into the late-night talk show folklore. The proof? His illustrious, now 22-year long career spanning two decades and the of thousands celebrity interviews, sees no end in sight: His current talk show is contracted to run till 2022. An absolute shocker then, to find out that Conan studied History (Bachelor's in American History and Literature) at university, doing so in none other than Harvard. Oh, there’s also the small fact that he graduated magna cum laude (top of his class).


9. Mayim Bialik

What we’re about to say may shock you, so don’t say we didn’t give you a fair warning. Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj from Big Bang Theory aren’t geniuses. We know, shocking. But here’s something which may astound you even further. Mayim Bialik, who portrays Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, actually has a doctorate in real life! That’s right, she’s earned that ‘Doctor’ denotation, in neuroscience no less! Bialik earned a B.S. degree in neuroscience at UCLA, having rejected both Yale and Harvard. After a short academic hiatus where she channelled efforts into her acting carrer, Bialik returned to her old stomping grounds, and obtained her PhD in 2007. Her final thesis you ask? It was delved into the investigation of hypothalamic activity in patients with Prader–Willi syndrome. Complicated stuff!


10. Donald Trump

What better way to end the list with perhaps the most breathless inclusion of them all, the 45th and current President of the United States of America, Donald John (Now you know what the J stands for) Trump. The outspoken, and often controversial figure has contorted his to fit into numerous cookie jars, from real estate, to casinos, then film and media, finally culminating in his foray into politics which went rather successfully for the Donald. With such a vast and elaborate CV, one would be forgiven for assuming he was always in business, but Trump did indeed obtain a proper, formal education before taking the leap. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania was where he went, studying and then obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Economics at the private, Ivy League institution. The rest, as they say, is history.

Are you interested in gaining a degree from the United States? If so, you should know that's it's probably not as far fetched, nor as expensive as you think. Click here to learn everything about the American Degree Transfer Program (ADTP), an option students can choose directly after SPM

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