Many celebs have graced the hallowed halls of our country's premier institutions, the Ivy League eight: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University. Some went right after high school for careers that had nothing to do with the entertainment biz, while actresses like Meryl Streep and Lupita Nyong'o did, in fact, study acting. A few stars even put their careers on hold to get their degrees. Find out which famous faces attended these elite institutions.
Entering college at just 16 years old, the EGOT winner was a part of the University of Pennsylvania's class of 1999. Legend has previously said his music career went beyond the campus -- though he was part of singing groups, he was also well-regarded among the neo-soul community in Philadelphia.
The famed actress received her bachelor's degree from Vassar College in 1971 before going on to earn her MFA from the Yale School of Drama.
The Israeli-American actress famously put her career on hold to attend Harvard University, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology in 2003. She acted even while taking classes, including starring in 2002's Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones. At the time of her enrollment, Portman even told reporters, "I don't care if [college] ruins my career... I’d rather be smart than a movie star."
The writer-actress started her Dartmouth career studying Latin before switching to theater, obtaining a playwriting degree in 2001. She even joked in her book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, that she picked the New Hampshire school to “pursue [her] love of white people and North Face parkas." She returned in 2018 as a commencement speaker, even visiting her old dorm room.
Like Streep, Nyong'o also honed her chops at the Yale School of Drama. During her Oscars acceptance speech for winning Best Supporting Actress in 2014, she even thanked "The Wilsons," which is the nickname for the university's acting class. This pic of her, by the way, is from her 2012 graduation, where she's excitedly wearing a clown's nose alongside her classmates.
The Girls star has done quite well for herself, but the Connecticut native, whose father is MSNBC anchorman Brian Williams, wasn't allowed to act until after she graduated. Doing just that, Williams got an English degree from Yale in 2010. She did hit the stage in college, however, as she was part of the university's improv group, Just Add Water.
Britton has become a household name thanks to star-turning roles in Friday Night Lights and Nashville, but the Virginia native actually majored in Asian studies at Dartmouth. Though she did act in a few plays at the Ivy League school, the 1989 grad told the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine that her classes opened up her eyes to the challenges of the world. Now an outspoken advocate, it was an internship at a Cleveland production of Born Yesterday that helped the Dirty John star realize she didn't have to choose between acting and advocacy. "Ed Asner was one of the stars, and I watched him spend every spare second he had doing something charitable. Suddenly it all kind of clicked,” she told the mag. “Like I can do this thing I really love, which is acting, and maybe one day I’ll be able to parlay it into this bigger thing the way he did.”
Talk about a woman of many talents! The Parks and Recreation alum belonged to quite a few organizations at Harvard, including the famed Hasty Pudding Theatricals club, as well as a drama club, an a cappella group, the Black Students Association and the Signet Society. Though she acted in many plays while in college, she studied philosophy and religion. The Angie Tribeca star spoke at Class Day in 2016, the only second-generation speaker to do so; her father, Quincy Jones, spoke at the pre-commencement day event ahead of Rashida's 1997 graduation. "I know you may be sad to be leaving college, and you should be," she said on stage. "But if you're lucky, your memories will follow you."
Like her mom, the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star headed to New Jersey to study at Princeton. She played on the field hockey team her freshman year before joining the improv team, Quipfire! and the musical theater group, Triangle. After graduating in 2002 with a degree in English, she spent a year at Oxford University to pursue a graduate degree in English literature.
Though she was well known from years of working as a child actor, Foster hit the books at Yale, graduating with honors in 1985. She acted in five movies as an undergraduate to help pay for school and support her family, even taking her GREs because she thought the rough cut for The Accused was so bad -- but would later go on to win an Oscar for it. While speaking with then-Yale College Council president Matthew Guido in 2018, Foster spoke of the social lessons she learned as a student. "I can’t give you one fact from a history class; I don’t remember one theory. Somebody said, ‘Pythagorean,’ and I was like, ‘Who remembers what that is?'" she admitted. "I really don’t remember one thing, but I feel like I learned more as a human being here than really anywhere else. It really was those human lessons, and some of them were incredibly painful."
A very successful child star known for roles in movies like Pretty Baby and The Blue Lagoon, Shields was well known when she hit the Princeton campus. Graduating in 1987, she dated fellow actor Dean Cain, whom she called "my first real love," during her junior year. Even away at college, she couldn't escape from prying eyes, an ordeal she recalled in her memoir, writing, "The paparazzi tried to sneak onto campus, dressed like what they thought college students looked like, and follow me around. The students were great and they alerted the school and me if anyone saw anybody suspicious. One photographer hid in a vent to photograph me walk to a class; another attempted to bribe a Mathey College freshman to take a camera into the showers and snap me in the nude. They would have been in for a surprise if they tried, because I had taken to showering in a one-piece bathing suit!” Despite the difficulties that came with fame, Shields graduated in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in French literature.
Before he portrayed Clark Kent on The Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Cain was a star college athlete, playing football at Princeton. He also dated fellow thespian and Princeton student Brooke Shields. He received his bachelor's degree in history in 1988 and signed with the Buffalo Bills shortly thereafter, but an injury sidelined his career before he ever hit the field, relegating him to his original love, acting.
Duchovny's got double the Ivy League pedigree! The X-Files star has two English lit degrees, earning his bachelor's from Princeton in 1982 before going on to get his master's at Yale. He even started his Ph.D. with the hopes of becoming a writer -- a poet, specifically -- commuting between New Haven, Connecticut, and New York City twice a week to take acting classes while pursuing the high degree. He never finished it, however, eventually landing roles on Twin Peaks and in The Rapture before X-Files shot him to fame.
Proof that it's never too late to go back to school, the actress earned a master's in public administration from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Yep, that makes her a fellow alumnus of her Where the Heart Is co-star, Natalie Portman. Judd has become as well known for her political activism as her acting and has been a forerunner of the #MeToo movement.
Like Connie Britton, the Academy Award winner was also interested in learning about other cultures, earning her degree in East Asian studies from Harvard in 1989. Sorvino spent a year studying abroad in Beijing, where she learned Mandarin Chinese, and she also helped found one of the university's co-ed a cappella groups, Harvard-Radcliffe Veritones, in 1985.