The movie awards season is in full swing again and the mother of them all, the Academy Awards, is just a couple weeks away. As the education maniacs we are, we could not resist the opportunity to link college degrees to our favorite actors and actresses, namely those who have been nominated for statuettes.

Hopefully this won’t come as a surprise for you, but acting isn’t the sort of career that attracts a lot of PhD’s. In fact, among actors and actresses college degrees are rare. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few standouts among this year’s nominees:

1. Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

She graduated from Hampshire College with a degree in film and theatre studies, but she didn’t stop there. She went on to earn an MFA in Drama from the prestigious Yale Drama School in 2012, while she was finishing her work on the Oscar-nominated 12 Years a Slave.

2. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

This veteran actress, and avid Oscar-collector, went the distance. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, before also studying at the Yale Drama School.

3. Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)

This best supporting actor nominee and former “Sexiest Man Alive” must have some brains, too. He graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in English, only to soon choose to pursue a career in acting, seeking a master’s degree at the Actors Studio Drama School.

4. Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Anyone familiar with college football knows that this best actor nominee is a proud graduate of University of Texas at Austin. Soon after graduation, he put his new degree to use, starring in drug comedy Dazed and Confused.

5. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)

It seems there’s nothing this 2013 “Entertainer of the Year” can’t do—except finish off that college degree. Sandra pursued a degree in acting at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, only to leave three credits shy of graduation to pursue an acting career.

6. Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) – He studied at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, before moving to School of Visual Arts in New York to study filmmaking. It’s unclear if he actually finished.

7. Bruce Dern (Nebraska) – According to, Bruce ran track for the University of Pennsylvania. When a coach tried to make him get rid of his sideburns, however, all bets were off: Bruce quit track and college and ran off to be an actor.

8. Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street) – This child-actor-turned-Oscar-magnet never had much time for college. In between acting gigs, he went from John Marshall High to the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies and on to a full-time acting career.

9. Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) – This actor chose what seems to be the standard educational path for British thespians. After a couple years of secondary school, he transferred to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art to specialize in acting.

10. Amy Adams (American Hustle) – Douglas County High School in Colorado was the pinnacle of education enough for this ubiquitous actress.

11. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) – Cate studied at the prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Art in Australia before working her way from stage productions to motion pictures and then to the top of the food chain as one of the most reliable actresses working in showbiz.

12. Judi Dench (Philomena) – Again, the British path. Judi began her acting education at the York School of Art, and then continued her studies at London’s Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art.

13. Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) – This breakout Somali native didn’t many educational opportunities, escaping from his worn-torn country at a young age. Before getting a life-changing part alongside Tom Hanks, however, he did take in an engineering course at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

14. Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) – This rising star got his start at boy’s school in England and then moved onto studying acting at Drama Centre London.

15. Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street) – Hoping to join his idols writing comedy for shows like The Simpsons or SNL, this funny man went straight Crossroads School in L.A. to the The New School, where he studied acting and writing.

16. Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) – This relatively new actress studied at the Royal Academy of the Dramatic Art as a start to her full-time acting career.

17. Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) – Graduated from high school two years early with a 3.9 average, Jennifer knew just what she wanted—and it didn’t involve college. She went right into acting full-time and soon found herself landing leading roles in Hunger Games and X-Men movies.

18. Christian Bale (American Hustle) – This former child actor managed to attend Bournemouth School, a boy’s grammar school, on his way to being one of the most respected actors in Hollywood.

19. Julia Roberts (August: Osage County) – High school was quite enough for this starlet.

20. June Squibb (Nebraska) – Nothing is known about this actress’ educational achievements, but we’re assuming she at least completed high school.


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