Leaving college early can be a little daunting – telling your parents, planning what to do instead and wondering if you’ve made the right choice. However, dropping out of college isn’t the end of the world.

In this guide, we’ll show you our top 10 college dropouts who are now reaping the benefits. At the end of the day, college is just one option – there are many more pathways to get you to your career goal.

The top 10

  1. Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Group. Richard Branson

    Sir Richard Branson started his first business venture at the age of 16 - ‘Student’ magazine. The Virgin Group controls over 400 companies from telecommunications to rail.

    Estimated fortune: £3.6 billion.

  2. Lord Alan Sugar, well-known entrepreneur.Lord Alan Sugar

    Lord Sugar left school at 16 and started selling car radio aerials and other electrical goods out of a van. He has a number of business ventures that have now been passed onto his sons, such as: Amstrad, Amsair and Amsprop. He’s best known for the TV series, The Apprentice where he gives the winner a £250,000 investment for a business start-up.

    Estimated fortune: £1.5 billion

  3. John Caudwell, co-founder of Phones 4U.

    John left college early and didn’t complete his A-Levels, he started at Michelin (French tire manufacturer) as an apprentice. By 2003, the Caudwell Group employed more than 8,000 staff worldwide and is selling 26 phones every minute.

    Estimated fortune: £1.5 billion.

  4. Chris Dawson, owner of British retail chain, The Range.Chris Dawson

    Chris didn’t attend school much and struggled with dyslexia – he left at 15 with few qualifications. He started CDS Superstores in 1989, selling toys, homewares and DIY equipment. In 2015, the retail chain has around 100 stores and since then, he’s established several other companies in property, dry cleaning, manufacturing and waste management services.

    Estimated fortune: £1.28 billion.
    Richard Desmond
  5. Richard Desmond, owner of Express Newspapers and founder of Northern & Shell, which owns celebrity magazines OK!, NEW! and British newspapers Daily Star and Daily Express.

    Richard left school at 15 and started working at Thomson Group, he then became sales director of Beat Instrumental Magazine at the age of 18. At the age of 21, he owned two record shops. On the 2016 Sunday Times Rich List, his net worth was £2.25 billion – making him the 48th richest person in Britain.

    Estimated fortune: £1.2 billion.

  6. Lord Graham Kirkham and family, founder and chairman of DFS. Lord Kirkham DFS

    Lord Kirkham left college without his O levels and got a job at a local furniture store. He is now one of South Yorkshire's richest men. DFS started with one shop and it now has 79 stores, three factories and 2,600 staff. He sold DFS in 2010 and entered the billionaire league - he now has a large share in Iceland supermarkets.

    Estimated fortune: £1.15 billion. 

  7. Melvyn Morris, chairman of King, the games studio behind Candy Crush.

    Melvyn left school at 16 and started numerous businesses such as a Spanish property group and dating agency ‘uDate’. He’s now one of the masterminds behind Candy Crush with a shareholding value of $821 million.

    Estimated fortune: £500 million

  8. Rita Sharma, CEO of travel agency, WorldWide Travels and Bestattravel.com.

    Rita dropped out of college and built up her business from her garage. She’s the richest female Asian entrepreneur in Britain – with her company reaching sales of £100 million.

    Estimated fortune: £100 million

  9. Charlie Mullins, owner of Pimlico Plumbers. Pimlico Plumbers

    Leaving school at 15 with no qualifications, Charlie started a four-year apprenticeship in plumbing and started out with a second hand van and a bag of tools. Now he employs 200 people and has a £18 million turnover. Britain’s first ‘millionaire plumber’.

    Estimated fortune: £100 million.
  10. Julie Burchill, writer for NME, the Independent and numerous other columns. 

    Julie started a college to study A-levels and after a few weeks she dropped out and began writing for NME. Since then, she’s written a number of best-sellers and is now a columnist for the Independent.  She often gives back to charity - one year she gave
    away £250,000.

And you?

We hope we’ve reassured you that dropping out of college doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. The options are limitless and looking at the entrepreneurs above – anything can be possible. 

If you're interested in finding out more about apprenticeships, but aren't sure where to start - get in touch with our friendly team today and we'll be happy to talk through your options:

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