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50 Smart Celebrities Who Went to Ivy League Schools

  • Click through the gallery to see 50 smart celebrities who attended Ivy League schools!

  • Funnygal Mindy Kaling graduated from Dartmouth in 2001, and in her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? she joked that she went to the Ivy League school to "pursue [her] love of white people and North Face parkas." With her theater degree, she continued on to TV fame (and racked up two million followers on Twitter). 

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  • Actress Connie Britton majored in Asian studies with a concentration in Chinese at Dartmouth College.

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  • Emma Watson's decision to attend Brown University caused quite the stir in 2009. Since then, she took a brief leave of absence to focus on her acting career, but will be returning to finish her degree this year. We can't even imagine how many "Hermione" jokes that she was faced with in class.

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  • Rashida Jones is another female comedian with brains: In 1997, the actress graduated from Harvard (a celebrity favorite, it seems). Although she pursued a degree in acting, she also demonstrated her musical abilities by writing scores for the university's illustrious Hasty Pudding Club.

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  • Natalie Portman has a reputation in the industry for being brainy, and with good reason. The actress attended Harvard University and emerged with a degree in Psychology in 2003. A former professor commented on her academic performance, stating that "she is a very determined person and capable of focused effort over a sustained period. She is now demonstrating the results of that determination and focus." She also speaks Hebrew, French, Arabic, German and Japanese. Not too shabby.

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  • John Legend attended the University of Pennsylvania, receiving scholarship offers from Harvard, Georgetown and Morehouse before settling into his alma mater. In 1998 (a year before his graduation), a college friend introduced him to Lauryn Hill, who recruited him to play piano on her track "Everything is Everything," and in 2001, another college friend introduced him to Kanye West, who later worked with him. 

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  • John Krasinski is known for his role as lovable Jim on "The Office," though he's also quite intelligent, too. He graduated from Brown University in 2001, starting out with an interest in English Literature, before eventually pursuing theater. He spent the first half of his freshman year in Costa Rica teaching English to students, to boot.

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  • Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o attened Yale School of Drama, where she received a Masters in Acting.

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  • Tyra Banks caused quite a stir when the "America's Next Top Model" host announced she was heading to Harvard Business School. Banks has indeed attended business classes at Harvard, but did not receive a degree from the graduate school because she was enrolled in a special syllabus, called the "Owner/President Management Program," which is basically a certificate program rather than an actual M.B.A. degree.

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  • Julia Stiles graduated from Columbia University in 2005 with a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature. Not unlike her bookwormish "10 Things I Hate About You" character, who was always reading Sylvia Plath.

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  • After starring in the racy movie "The Blue Lagoon," Brooke Shields decamped to Princeton University to pursue her bachelor's degree in French Literature. She graduated in 1987.

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  • Maggie Gyllenhaal earned a B.A. in English literature from Columbia University in 1995. While there, she took a class with Uma Thurman's father, Professor Robert Thurman. Her brother, Jake Gyllenhaal, also attended Columbia University, but later dropped out.

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  • James Franco is known to dabble in a ton of various professions and projects, and the man of many talents attended quite a few prestigious schools, as well. He holds a bachelor's degree from UCLA (where he graduated with a GPA above 3.5), received an MFA from Columbia, studied film at NYU, and is currently enrolled at Yale University but has yet to receive a degree.

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  • Elizabeth Banks graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1993. While in school, she was active in the Greek scene, as a member of the Delta Delta Delta Sorority. She met her husband, Max Handleman, on their first day of classes at the university.

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  • Red-carpet favorite and "Modern Family" star Julie Bowen went to Brown University and earned a diploma in 1991. While pursuing her degree, she acted in musicals such as "Guys and Dolls." 

    Photo: Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images For Tie The Knot
  • Conan O'Brien attended Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude in U.S. History. While there, he edited the Harvard Lampoon for two years.

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  • Jordana Brewster graduated from Yale University in 2003, despite having achieved success in Hollywood at a much younger age.

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  • "Breaking Bad" actor Dean Norris not only graduated from Harvard in 1985 where he majored in social studies, but he also went to the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for one year.

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  • Ed Norton graduated from Yale University in 1991. He rowed crew competitively while studying History at the Ivy League school, and took acting classes on the side. 

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  • Ellie Kemper attended Princeton University as a field hockey player, earning her degree in 2002. "The Office" actress followed in the footsteps of her comedian mother, who was one of the first women to attend the prestigious university. 

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  • Tatyana Ali, the former star of "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," went to Harvard University, graduating with a degree in anthropology in 2002.

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  • Laura Linney attended Northwestern before transferring to Brown University. A senior lecturer in theater at the school commented, "As a student, she was bright and natural. She was delightful to work with, and she pushed herself. I don't think anyone's quite like Laura. She always had a clear focus and wonderful energy that touched everyone around her." 

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  • Meryl Streep is widely considered one of the most distinguished actresses of all time, and she's also impressively smart: After attending Vassar College, she continued onto the Yale School of Drama to receive a Masters of Fine Arts in 1975. In the program, she reportedly felt immense pressure and harsh competition, but powered through and became, well, Meryl Streep. 

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  • Despite being a successful child star, Jodie Foster graduated from Yale University with a bachelor's degree in literature in 1985. 

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  • In 1998, Claire Danes attended Yale (her father's alma mater), but—after studying psychology for two years—she dropped out to focus on her film career.

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  • Matt Damon made an interesting choice in his college career: he attended Harvard University for almost four full years, to the completion of an undergraduate degree, before making the decision to drop out in 1992 to pursue his acting career in Hollywood.

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  • Jane Lynch, the hysterical star of "Glee," attended Cornell University.

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  • Anna Paquin went to Columbia University for one year before taking an "indefinite leave of absence" to pursue her acting career. She never returned to finish her degree.

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  • Just like his sister Maggie, Jake Gyllenhaal also enrolled in classes at Columbia University. The only difference: unlike Maggie, he didn't finish. He was only in school for two years, when he focused his studies on Eastern religions.

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  • Liev Schreiber graduated from the Yale School of Drama in 1992.

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  • A late bloomer: In 2010, Ashley Judd went back to school to pursue a masters in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

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  • Actress Angela Bassett attended Yale University.

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  • Before breaking off to pursue acting, younger sibling to brother Ben Casey Affleck studied Physics at Columbia University.

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  • CNN anchor Anderson Cooper graduated from Yale University in 1989.

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  • Mira Sorvino studied Psychology at Harvard University, and while there penned her thesis on racial conflict in China.

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  • Sigourney Weaver  attended Stanford University as an undergraduate before going on to graduate from the Yale School of Drama.

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  • Ivanka Trump graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business in 2004.

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  • After studying ballet as a child and embarking on a successful music career, Vanessa Carlton enrolled for a semester at Columbia University in the Fall of 2003.

    Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
  • "Saturday Night Live" funny gal Vanessa Bayer graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication in 2004.

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  • Actor David Duchovny graduated from Princeton in 1982 with a B.A. in English Literature.

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  • Actress and comedian Jenny Slate graduated from Columbia University in 2004.

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  • Actor and director Tommy Lee Jones went to Harvard.

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  • Actor Paul Giamatti attended Yale University.

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  • Actress Aisha Tyler attended Dartmouth and studied Polital Science.

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  • Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker") graduated from Columbia.

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  • Actress Frances McDormand went to Yale.

    Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
  • Actress Amanda Peet went to Columbia University.

    Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images
  • Donald Trump went to the University of Pennsylvania and studied—what else?—economics.

    Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images

50 Smart Celebrities Who Went to Ivy League Schools

50 Smart Celebrities Who Went to Ivy League Schools

50 Smart Celebrities Who Went to Ivy League Schools
49 Start slideshow

Let’s clear something up: Just because you’re a wildly successful Hollywood star doesn’t mean you’re not smart. In fact, there are plenty of actors who not only have solid educations to back them up, but attended Ivy League schools.

MORE: Short Celebrities! 30 Starlets That Are 5’3 Or Under

Some of these stars we already know are brainy—Natalie Portman and Rashida Jones are both Harvard grads, and Emma Watson famously made the decision to go to school at Brown University in 2009. But others are more under-the-radar: Did you know, for example, that “Glee” funny lady Jane Lynch went to Cornell University, or that Mindy Kaling graduated from Dartmouth?

MORE: 35 Celebrities Who Were Sorority Girls in College

Click through the gallery above to see 50 super-smart celebrities who went to Ivy League schools!

  • alice smith

    claire danes went to yale, too

  • Mommydoc

    Ann Coulter, Bill Maher and Kieth Olbermann, all Cornell undergrad alumni..

  • Lexi

    Lady Gaga is clever she went to Tisch of New York City University

  • JDW

    Courtney Vance, Yale Drama School, Samuel Jackson, Yale; Angela Bassett Yale

  • Roger Dio


  • Twenty six

    Gerard butler graduated with a law degree from Glasgow university

  • dfhowes

    Though not as well known as these other celebrities, Ellen Muth is not only a member of Mensa but also Intertel. Intertel is a step above Mensa and to qualify as a member one must score in the top one percentile on a standardized, supervised IQ test.

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