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Celebrities with Surprising College Degrees

Can you believe your favorite movie star wrote a custom thesis on some difficult subject? Most of your favorite celebrities either studied acting in college or went straight from high school into a life of the arts. But, hey, not all of them. Some, like Aziz Ansari, went into academia with a completely different profession in mind, before being lured onto the stage. Others, like Natalie Portman, went to college once they were already famous, in order to pursue other interests alongside their screen careers. And others, like Danica McKellar, have made such major accomplishments in another profession that they’re basically leading double lives. Read on to find out which famous celebrities also have surprising college degrees.

Mayim Bialik: Neuroscience

Turns out Bialik is just as much of a genius as the one she plays on The Big Bang Theory. She earned her Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles, focusing on obsessive-compulsive disorder among people with Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare condition in which the hypothalamus malfunctions.

Natalie Portman: Psychology

Little known fact: Portman skipped the premiere of Star Wars: Phantom Menace because she was studying for her high school exams. She had two papers published in scientific journals while she was still in high school, and graduated from Harvard University with a B.A. in Psychology.

“I don’t care if [college] ruins my career,” Portman has said. “I’d rather be smart than a movie star.” Turns out she’s both!

Eva Longoria: Kinesiology

The Desperate Housewives star earned her Bachelor’s in kinesiology—the study of the mechanics of body movement—from Texas A&M University-Kingsville. And for more on the secret lives of celebrities, here are 30 Celebs with Amazing Hidden Talents.

Carrie Underwood: Mass Communications

The country music star graduated magnum cum laude from Northeastern University, in 2016, with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications. If she hadn’t hit it big on American Idol, the singer and actress have said she would have pursued a career in TV news.

Aziz Ansari: Marketing

Like his Parks and Recreation alter ego, the comedy superstar originally wanted to become an entrepreneur. He majored in marketing at NYU but decided the culture ultimately wasn’t for him.

“I wasn’t aware of that whole finance culture of kids who wanna work at Goldman Sachs and all that stuff and blah blah blah. It was just…not interesting to me,” he told Paste Magazine.

Chris Martin: Greek and Latin

The Coldplay frontman completed a degree in Greek and Latin at the University College London, where he met his three future bandmates: Will Champion (Anthropology), Jonny Buckland (Mathematics), and Guy Berryman (who studied engineering, then architecture, before dropping out).

“I went to London like Dick Whittington looking for gold,” Martin told BBC Radio.” I didn’t have a cat but about 12 bags and my dad had to drive me there. I arrived at this big place called Ramsay Hall, Tottenham Court Road—brilliant—and I met Johnny and everything changed.”

Rashida Jones: Comparative Religion

Jones is another Harvard alum, who went to college with the intention of becoming a lawyer but changed her mind because of the O.J. Simpson trial.

“The O.J. Simpson trial was disillusioning for me,” Jones wrote in LA Magazine. “It was the first time I realized that sometimes privilege can trump justice. It seemed insane to me that the man could have so much evidence stacked against him and still because he managed to get a great defense team, be acquitted…I hated the fact that Simpson was in any way representing justice for black people in California. I had wanted to be a lawyer, but after that, I decided to do something else.”

She graduated in 1997 with a degree in comparative religion, but was also involved in several theater productions while on campus, and landed her first TV series role before she even finished college.

Will Ferrell: Sports Information

In 1990, Ferrell graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in Sports Information, which most people don’t even know exists.

“Yes, you heard me, sports information,” he joked in a commencement speech at his alma mater in 2017. “A program so difficult, so arduous, that they discontinued it eight years after I left. Those of us with sports information degrees are an elite group. We’re like the Navy SEALs of USC graduates. There are very few of us, and there was a high dropout rate.”

As Ferrell implies, “Sports Information” doesn’t really exist anymore, but you can still combine your interest in athletics and business by getting a degree in Sports Management.

Rebel Wilson: Law

Wilson may play a lot of airheads in movies, but in real life, she earned a law degree at the University of South Wales.

“A lot of people look at me and think I’m stupid,” she told Seth Meyers in 2016. “But no, I graduated from a school that’s kind of like the Harvard of Australia.”

John Legend: English

The acclaimed musician studied English with a concentration on African-American literature and culture at the University of Pennsylvania. During this time, he was involved in choir and Cappella groups, performed in musicals and talent shows, and wrote his own songs.

“I put a lot of energy into becoming a better artist, a better writer, and a better performer,” Legend said in a 2014 commencement address at his alma mater. “And in some ways, it made me a better student and a better leader. Because when you actually care about something, you want to lead.”

Following graduation, he started a job at a consulting firm in Boston but left when he realized that his true passion was music.

Lisa Kudrow: Biology

The Friends star earned a degree in biology from Vassar College in 1985. And to hear her really a sweet behind-the-scenes story about the sitcom that made her famous, read Lisa Kudrow Reveals the “Friends” Cast’s Adorable Pre-Show Tradition.

David Duchovny: English Literature

Before he got into acting, Duchovny graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English literature from Princeton University. He went on to do a Masters in English at Yale which remains ABD (“All But Dissertation”), as he never finished his doctoral thesis, titled “Magic and Technology in Contemporary Fiction and Poetry.” His degree didn’t totally go to waste, however, as he has since published three books.

Kourtney Kardashian: Theater Arts

While her sisters opted to go straight from high school to live in the spotlight, Kourtney has a degree in Theater Arts from the University of Arizona.

James Franco: Creative Writing

You may know him primarily as an actor, but Franco is a dedicated creative writer as well. In 2010, he completed an M.F.A at Columbia University, in New York City, and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in English at Yale. The year he graduated from Columbia, he debuted his short story collection, Palo Alto, and has since had several other poems and stories published in notable outlets.

Ashton Kutcher: Biochemical Engineering

Like Wilson, you might be tempted to think of Kutcher as an airhead due to the roles he usually plays. But he actually studied Biochemical Engineering at the University of Iowa, in 1996, in the hopes of finding a cure for his brother’s heart disease.