Natalie Portman was only twelve when her acting career took off. Did she find the time in her busy schedule to attend one of the most prestigious Ivy League universities?
Natalie Portman’s Early Education
Natalie Portman’s family moved around a lot before finally settling in Long Island, where she attended a Jewish elementary school, Solomon Schechter Day School. She continued her education at the Syosset High School, and being a movie star didn’t stop her from getting straight A’s.
Her after-school schedule was packed with ballet lessons and classes at the Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts. She was also passionate about foreign languages and studied French, Japanese, German, and Arabic – in addition to English and Hebrew that she spoke fluently.
She also showed an interest in science, and one of her school papers was even entered in the Intel Science Talent Search. Portman described herself as “a very serious” and “ambitious” kid because she knew what she wanted and worked hard to get it.
She graduated from high school in 1999 and skipped the world premiere of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace to study for her final exams. Her persistence paid off when she received an acceptance letter from the prestigious Harvard University.
Natalie Portman’s Harvard Experience
Natalie Portman became a global superstar after winning the role of Padmé Amidala and could’ve easily skipped college to focus on her acting career. Many child stars went down that road, but Portman said she’d “rather be smart than a movie star”.
She switched movie sets for a college campus and reduced her acting workload while attending Harvard. Her decision took many people by surprise, but Portman felt it was important to have “a very normal student life” and learn who she really is when cameras aren’t rolling.
“I was always very driven and busy as an actress, and at university, I learned how to socialize much more. I was also able to have a life that had nothing to do with the film industry and the kind of strange existence celebrity creates for you,” the actress told Mirror.
Portman received her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2003 and went on to take several graduate courses at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She returned to her alma mater in 2015 and looked back at her time at Harvard in a powerful commencement speech.
The Black Swan star admitted that she was completely overwhelmed during her freshman year. She feared people would assume that she “had gotten in just for being famous and not worthy of the intellectual rigor here.”
Portman admitted she dealt with depression and had some “pretty dark moments” at Harvard, but also reflected on the lessons she learned and the confidence she gained along the way.
Natalie Portman’s Harvard Connections
Natalie Portman isn’t the only famous Harvard graduate, and several familiar faces graced the halls of this Ivy League university during her time there.
She was a senior when Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg started attending Harvard, but they never really crossed paths. That didn’t stop Portman from helping Aaron Sorkin with the script for The Social Network by sharing first-hand stories about the social life at Harvard.
Portman was also “friendly” with Jared Kushner, who went on to become a senior White House advisor to his father-in-law, Donald Trump. She discussed their relationship with Stephen Colbert, and said it’s not funny to watch “someone you were friends with becoming a supervillain.”
Several people that Portman worked with also attended Harvard, just not at the same time as her. The Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky majored in social anthropology and studied filmmaking at this Ivy League university, while her Song to Song director Terrence Malick majored in philosophy.