Many great innovators, from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, did not receive a college degree. And in Thomas Edison’s case, he didn’t even graduate public school. Elon Musk is often compared to these business greats, so what about him? Is Elon Musk a dropout? Did he drop out of college?
Technically yes, but not in the traditional sense. Unlike the men mentioned previously though, Musk does have a degree, two actually. He graduated from university with two Bachelor’s Degrees, one in Economics and one in Physics, so we don’t consider him a dropout. However, he did drop out of his Ph.D. program, so it’s technically a yes.
Musk received a scholarship from Stanford to continue his studies for a Ph.D., but asked to be deferred as he wanted to start a company with his brother Kimbal. He figured the company would probably fail and then he’d go back to school. But it didn’t, and neither did he.
Like the quote, which may or may not be by Mark Twain, says, “I don’t let school get in the way of my education.”, and neither did these famous dropouts:
- Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook
- Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Atlantic
- David Karp, Founder of Tumblr
- Frank Lloyd Wright, Famous Architect
- Michael Dell, Founder of Dell Technologies
- Larry Ellison, Founder of Oracle
These are just a few of the people in business who have dropped out of school to go on to become extremely successful, including Steve Jobs and Bill Gates that I mentioned at the beginning.
Some notable dropouts in the entertainment industry include Oprah Winfrey, Ellen Degeneres, and Lady Gaga.
Schooling vs. Education
Just like Mark Twain’s quote infers, there’s a difference between schooling at education. Elon Musk is a firm believer in that as well, previously stating that he didn’t think a college education mattered, and he doesn’t require his employees to have a degree. They just need the knowledge required to do what they need to do, it doesn’t matter to him how they came to gain that knowledge.
He has often told people that their educational background doesn’t matter, it’s all about their skillset. If they can pass a coding test that the company provides, then that’s what counts.
Elon Musk has never been a fan of school. He was bullied when he attended public school and found some of the lessons to be completely useless, so he did the bare minimum just to get by.
Years later, after becoming a father, he wasn’t happy with how his sons were learning in school. So, being Elon Musk, he took his sons out of school and started a new one for them, and others. Currently, they only have a handful of students but are increasing the numbers.
Musk chose the name Ad Astra, meaning “To the Stars”, for his school, as he believes that children shouldn’t be limited. He carries that philosophy into how education is taught at the school, eliminating grades.
Musk received a scholarship to Stanford, in which two days in, he asked for a deferment so that he could start Zip2, a software company with Kimbal. He fully expected the company to fail and that he would end up back at Stanford to get his Ph.D. in Energy Physics.
Not only did the company not fail, but it took off, and ended up getting sold for over $300 million. After that Musk wasn’t thinking about school, or his Ph.D., anymore. From there he started X.com, an online back, which would then acquire another company and become what is now PayPal. After PayPal, his success only skyrocketed, both literally and figuratively when he started SpaceX.
As I mentioned at the beginning, because he graduated college, he’s not considered a dropout, however he did drop out of his Ph.D. program. I’m pretty sure not having those letters behind his name hasn’t held him back any.
Having more education than some of the other tech greats may not have necessarily given him any advantage at anything, but at least he knows he’s not a dropout, and that he has his degrees.