Hollywood's supposed to be glitz and glamor — not made up of brainiacs. But celebs like Kate McKinnon and Meryl Streep have bucked that tradition becoming celebrity Ivy Leaguers. OK! has created a list of stars who attended prestigious schools like Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Brown.
From Conan O’Brien to Sigourney Weaver and Jane Lynch to Edward Norton, these celebs walked some pretty hallowed halls before walking the streets of Hollywood. They achieved some amazing grades and degrees — some before getting their headshots taken and trying their luck at acting.
Dive in to see which top-notch university each celebrity went to and how they did. No matter whether they’ve won Academy Awards or Golden Globes, the collegial bonds are just as impressive.
1. Sigourney Weaver — Yale and Stanford, 1972.
This Ivy League celebrity fest begins with a celeb who attended two different ones. According to InStyle, Sigourney Weaver received her BA in English from Stanford in 1972 but that wasn’t enough for her. Ghostbusting Sigourney then went on to attend the Yale School of Drama. She’s certainly no Alien to academia.
2. Meryl Streep — Yale, 1975.
According to Business Insider, Meryl Streep got her BA from Vassar College and enrolled as an exchange student at Dartmouth. Turns out that wasn’t enough for Meryl who decided to pursue her MFA at the Yale School of Drama. According to Vulture, she was such a passionate actress that fellow classmates would urge each other to “Streep it up” to reach her level. She graduated from Yale in 1975.
3. Jane Lynch — Cornell, 1984.
Star of stage and screen, Jane Lynch gleefully attended Illinois State University before heading to Cornell for her MFA in theater. According to Glamour, she’s the school’s first alumna to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
4. Conan O’Brien — Harvard, 1985.
Conan O’Brien was always a smarty-pants. According to Business Insider, he was high school valedictorian before attending Harvard. He edited the infamous Harvard Lampoon for a couple of years while there then, according to Stylecaster, graduated magna cum laude with a major in US History.
5. Rachel Dratch — Dartmouth, 1988.
The second Saturday Night Live star on this list is Rachel Dratch — Debbie Downer herself. Graduating in 1988, Rachel spent just two years at Dartmouth after transferring from the National Theater Institute where, according to Glamour, she took home degrees in both drama and psychology.
6. Mira Sorvino — Harvard, 1989.
Mira Sorvino did a lot better in school than her counterpart Romy of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. According to Stylecaster, she studied psychology at Harvard University while at the same time writing her thesis on racial conflict in China. She graduated magna cum laude with a degree in East Asian studies.
7. Anderson Cooper — Yale, 1989.
What does it take to be an anchor at both CNN and 60 Minutes? If you’re Anderson Cooper a degree from Yale wouldn't hurt. Simplemost stated that Anderson studied political science and was a member of the Manuscript Society — a senior society that was focused on the arts. He returned in 2016 to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.
8. Brooke Shields — Princeton, 1989.
Brooke Shields was another actress who was already making it big before taking time off to get an Ivy League education. According to Glamour, she scored an honors degree in romance languages in 1989 from Princeton. While there, other students would alert her to undercover paparazzi on campus.
9. Paul Giamatti — Yale, 1989 and 1994.
Why are there two different graduation years from Yale? Because, according to Business Insider, Paul Giamatti received his bachelor’s in English in 1989 but then returned to get his MFA. And The Guardian reported that Paul said, “I had just graduated from Yale — in English — and thought about going into academic life, though I don’t think I would have been suited to it. It is because my dad died suddenly that I became an actor. I thought, I’m going to make money doing this thing I enjoy.”
10. Edward Norton — Yale, 1991.
The star of Fight Club was a competitive rower who attended Yale and graduated in 1991 with a BA in History. According to Business Insider, Edward attended Yale alongside Paul Giamatti and Ron Livingston, all of whom acted in lots of shows together.
11. Julie Bowen — Brown University, 1991.
According to InStyle, the star of Modern Family graduated Brown University in 1991 with a degree in Renaissance Studies, which included studying abroad in Florence. While there, Stylecaster reports, Julie Bowen acted in musicals like Guys and Dolls.
12. Aisha Tyler — Dartmouth College, 1992.
Aisha Tyler graduated from Dartmouth College in 1992 where she scored a political science major and a minor in environmental policy reported SimpleMost. So how did she end up acting? She told Boston.com that “I realized that I wasn’t happy doing what I thought I was going to be happy doing, and that what I really loved was performing.”
13. Claire Danes — Yale, 1998.
Claire Danes began studying psychology at Yale University in 1998. Her father had also graduated from the prestigious institution years before. But, according to Stylecaster, she only made it two years before dropping out to focus on her acting career.
14. Julia Stiles — Columbia, 2005.
In 2000, according to InStyle, Julia Stiles put her acting career on hold to enroll as an English major at prestigious Columbia University. She told Elle, “The reason I went in the first place was because I don’t want to be 40 years old, surrounded by studio executives who went to good colleges, and feel like I’m at a disadvantage.” And Business Insider wrote that Julia won the John Jay Award five years later in 2010 — an award that is only given out to five alums each year.
15. Kate McKinnon — Columbia, 2006.
While Julia Stiles was attending Columbia so was Saturday Night Live star Kate McKinnon. According to SimpleMost, Kate was cast in various productions of the Varsity Show while there and graduated with a major in theater in 2006. Just a year later, Kate was appearing in Logo’s The Big Gay Sketch Show.
16. Emma Watson — Brown University, 2014.
Harry Potter star Emma Watson took a break from acting in 2009 to attend college. According to Glamour, before you could say ‘acting imperialus’ she took time out to star in five different movies. Emma ultimately finished her English degree in 2014, telling US Weekly, “I’ve never even been asked for an autograph on campus. I threw a party for nearly 100 students and not a single person put a photo on Facebook.”