Hollywood isn't typically a place people think of when considering great college or university educations, but John Legend, Lupita Nyong’o and Mindy Kaling — amongst others — earned impressive Ivy League degrees.
Some of them didn’t just attend Ivy League schools but graduated magna cum laude or with honors. Lupita Nyong’o earned an MFA at Yale. Ashley Judd received her graduate degree from Harvard. Elizabeth Banks graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania. And in John Legend’s case, he enrolled at his Ivy League school at just 16.
There are great levels of intelligence, dedication and hard work on display here ... and maybe even some surprises.
1. Elizabeth Banks:
From the Hunger Games to Modern Family to Wet Hot American Summer, Banks has graced our screens with wit, beauty and humor. And completing that package, according to BestLifeOnline.com, is that she graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1993.
2. John Legend:
Legend was a child prodigy. He was offered scholarships to Harvard and Georgetown but decided to go to the University of Pennsylvania. Even more impressive, according to InStyle, is that Legend enrolled at just 16 years old. According to BestLifeOnline.com, Legend was introduced to Lauryn Hill a year before he graduated in 1998 and the next thing you know he was playing piano on her track “Everything is Everything.”
3. Mindy Kaling:
A young Kaling attended Dartmouth where she initially studied Latin. According to BestLifeOnline.com, Kaling switched her major to theater and graduated in 2001. She jokes in her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? that she went there to pursue her “love of white people and North Face parkas.”
4. Ellie Kemper:
Ellie Kemper — another former Office star — attended Princeton where, according to BestLifeOnline.com, she played field hockey. According to InStyle she graduated in 2002 with a BA in English.
5. Jon Krasinski:
Finishing up the Office tour, let’s hear it for Krasinski who, according to BestLifeOnline.com, attended Brown University. He began his stint studying English Lit, and the first half of his freshman year was spent teaching English to students in Costa Rica. He ultimately switched majors graduating with a degree in theater.
6. Angela Bassett:
Angela Bassett is a double threat when it comes to awesome college degrees. As if graduating from Yale with a BA in African American studies wasn’t enough Bassett, according to InStyle, Bassett returned to the Yale School of Drama where she earned an MFA.
7. Sigourney Weaver:
She fought with Aliens and battled the Gatekeeper in Ghostbusters. But maybe nothing was more work for Weaver than earning a BA in English from Stanford and then later attending the Yale Drama School (according to InStyle).
8. Maggie Gyllenhaal:
According to BestLifeOnline.com, Gyllanhaal attended Columbia University where she received her BA in English Literature. One of her teachers was Professor Robert Thurman — father to another acting legend, Uma Thurman. According to InStyle, Maggie’s younger brother, Jake Gyllenhaal, also attended Columbia where he was majoring in Eastern Religions before dropping out after two years.
9. Shonda Rhimes:
Ever wondered how Rhimes keeps coming up with the best shows? Maybe it’s because, according to InStyle, she earned a degree in English and Creative Writing from Dartmouth in 1991. According to NewsOne, Rhimes is the first Black woman to develop/executive produce a Top 10 network series and her series Grey’s Anatomy is now the longest running medical drama in US TV history.
10. Lupita Nyong’o:
According to InStyle Nyong’o, the Oscar winner and star of Black Panther, attended Yale where she eventually took home a master’s of fine arts in acting. That MFA came in 2012 — just one year before 12 Years a Slave was released — but her talent had already firmly been established.
11. Ashley Judd:
In 2010, according to BestLifeOnline.com, Judd hauled herself back to school to pursue her master’s in Public Administration. But Judd didn’t go to any old school ... she went to the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. According to NPR, for over a decade Judd’s humanitarian work has focused on gender equality as well as the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women.
12. Rashida Jones:
Jones had wanted to become a lawyer but, according to BestLifeOnline.com, after watching the O.J. Simpson trial decided it wasn’t for her. She decided to study religion, philosophy and the arts at Harvard and graduated in 1997 with a degree in acting. While there she was a member of the Hasty Pudding Club.
13. James Franco:
Franco’s intelligence is legendary. According to Hollywood.com his IQ is a cool 130, and he scored an “almost perfect” on his SAT’s. According to BestLifeOnline.com, he graduated from Columbia’s MFA program in 2010. Franco also enrolled in Yale’s English PhD program that same year.
14. Tommy Lee Jones:
Jones attended Harvard, and his college roomie was none other than Al Gore. According to Insider.com, they were such good friends that they remained roommates for four years. Speaking of famous roommates, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and actress Connie Britton roomed together on a study trip to China while undergrads at Dartmouth.
15. Natalie Portman:
Portman isn’t just any old Oscar winner, she is among Hollywood’s smartest people. According to BestLifeOnline.com, Portman got her degree in psychology from Harvard in 2003. She can speak Hebrew, Japanese, French, German and Arabic. It’s no surprise that she told the New York Post that she’d “rather be smart than a movie star.” Portman proves you can be both.
16. Jodie Foster:
Foster is another smart lady. According to BestLifeOnline.com she graduated from Yale in 1985 with a BA in literature. According to Indiewire, Foster thinks her smarts have helped her career. She told them, “Maybe that is what makes my work different, or at least in the ’60s and ’70s from most actors, because I do have an intellectual approach.”
17. Issa Rae:
According to InStyle, Issa Rae — or Jo-Issa Rae Diop — graduated from Stanford in 2007 with a degree in African and African American studies. Rae, known for her HBO series Insecure , already boasts two Golden Globe nominations as well as an Emmy nom. But Rae’s smarts shouldn’t come as a surprise. According to Biography.com her father is a pediatrician and her mom is a teacher.
18. Tracee Ellis Ross:
Ross isn’t just the star of Black-ish. According to InStyle, Ross graduated from Brown University — the Rhode Island Ivy — in 1994 with a degree in theatre. Ross had her first big break in Girlfriends and her mom, singer Diana Ross, presumably couldn’t be more proud.