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As these seven individuals have shown, having the grit and persistence to return to college after failing the first time around can in fact be the key to success. From Denzel Washington to Oliver Stone, these high-achievers were so committed to their higher education goals, they went back to school as adults - and graduated.
Oscar-winning director and producer Steven Spielberg finally graduated from California State University in 2002 – 33 years after dropping out of college to pursue a career in film.
Successful: Steven Spielberg, pictured in Madrid last month, was already a world-famous director when he returned to California State University to complete his Bachelor's degree in 2002
Spielberg, now 69, enrolled in a Bachelor's degree in Film and Electronic Arts at the university's Long Beach campus in 1965, but left three years later without completing his studies.
The legendary director, who counts E.T., Saving Private Ryan, Jaws, Schindler's List and Jurassic Park among his hits, has said that his parents were behind his desire to graduate.
He said: 'I wanted to accomplish this for many years as a thank you to my parents for giving me the opportunity for an education and a career, and as a personal note for my own family - and young people everywhere - about the importance of achieving their college education goals.
'But I hope they get there quicker than I did. Completing the requirements for my degree 33 years after finishing my principal education marks my longest post-production schedule.'
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey dropped out from Tennessee State University in 1975, just one credit short of graduating, after starting work as a television anchor for a local station.
Inspiring: Oprah Winfrey, pictured at the premiere of The Butler in Los Angeles, dropped out from Tennessee State University in 1975, but then returned to complete her studies over a decade later
But the much-loved talk show host, now 62, returned to the school to complete her degree over a decade later after the university invited her to give their commencement address.
Years later, during her speech at Stanford's Commencement ceremony in 2008, Winfrey explained: 'By then, I had my own show, was nationally syndicated. I'd made a movie, had been nominated for an Oscar and founded my company, Harpo.
'But I told them, I cannot come and give a speech unless I can earn one more credit, because my dad's still saying I'm not going to get anywhere without that degree. So, I finished my coursework, I turned in my final paper and I got the degree.
'And my dad was very proud. And I know that, if anything happens, that one credit will be my salvation.'
Legendary basketball player Michael Jordan, 52, was a student at the University of North Carolina, but he left college after his junior year to join the NBA.
Talented: Michael Jordan, pictured at the NBA China Games press conference last year, may be one of the most successful sports stars of all time, but he also has a Bachelor's degree in Cultural Geography
But despite excelling on the basketball court, Jordan remained committed to his education and returned to the college in 1985 to finish his Bachelor's degree in Cultural Geography.
During a question and answer session at one of his Flight Schools in Santa Barbara, California, posted by Bay Area HQ last year, Jordan said that had a sporting career not worked out for him, he would have liked to be a weatherman.
He explained: 'I went to college, I got my degree in cultural geography, and everybody wanted to know, what is cultural geography? Well, it's an introduction to meteorology. I always wanted to be the weatherman.
'So if I wasn't playing basketball or baseball, I was going to tell you what the weather was going to be like tomorrow.'
Legendary film director and screenwriter Oliver Stone spent one year at Yale University before dropping out in 1965 and moving to Saigon to teach, just as the first U.S. troops arrived in Vietnam.
Undefeatable: Oliver Stone, pictured at the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival in Spain last year, spent one year at Yale University before dropping out in 1965 - but he returned to school to study film making
Two years later Stone enlisted in the United States army and was sent to Vietnam, where he was wounded twice and was honored with a Bronze Star for heroism and Purple Heart for his service.
But on his return, Stone went back to his education, enrolling at New York University, where he studied film making with teachers including Martin Scorsese.
During his time at the school he made three short films, including Last Year In Vietnam, before graduating in 1971 with a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts.
Stone, now 69, went on to become known as a master of American film making, with movies including Platoon, Scarface, Born on the Fourth of July and Natural Born Killers to his name.
Actress Elisabeth Shue was an Ivy League student in the 1980s, but she dropped out of Harvard one semester short of receiving her degree to pursue an acting career.
Ivy League: Elisabeth Shue, pictured at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Governors Awards in Hollywood last year, returned to Harvard in 2000 – 19 years after she first enrolled at the school
But Shue, who is known for her roles in movies including The Karate Kid and Leaving Las Vegas, returned to Harvard in 2000 – 19 years after she first enrolled at the school - to graduate with a degree in Politics and Government.
'My brain was starting to dry up,' Shue, now 52, told Movieline magazine at the time. 'In Hollywood, you're fortunate if you get a role where your brain is engaged, but those experiences are rare.
'I felt I needed to do something with your life. I wanted to be more connected to the world.'
David Plouffe, who is best known for managing Barack Obama's historic 2008 presidential campaign, originally dropped out of college to work in politics.
Ambitious: David Plouffe, pictured at the Cities For Tomorrow conference in New York last year, dropped out of college to work in politics, but he returned to complete his degree more than two decades later
Plouffe, now 48, was short of several credits when he left the University of Delaware in 1989 to take the role of on-the-ground organizer for Iowa Senator Tom Harkin.
But after his success in Obama's unprecedented campaign, Plouffe returned to the school in 2010 to complete his Bachelor's degree, before becoming the president's Senior Advisor the following year.
He later went on to join Uber as senior vice president of policy and strategy, and in May 2015 he left that role to become a full-time strategic adviser for the company.
Before becoming an Oscar-winning actor, Denzel Washington attended Fordham University in New York City, initially hoping to become a doctor.
Dropout: In his junior year, Denzel Washington, pictured on Good Morning America in 2014, left college for a semester and worked as a creative arts director at a YMCA summer camp in Connecticut
But by mid-way through his junior year, Washington dropped out of college for a semester and worked as a creative arts director at a YMCA summer camp in Connecticut.
After taking part in a staff talent show for campers, a colleague suggested he try acting and Washington returned to Fordham to study drama.
The actor, now 61, went on to star in an array of films, including Glory, Malcolm X, Training Day, American Gangster and Flight, earning himself two Oscars and three Golden Globes among his many awards.
From Denzel to Spielberg, these seven high-achievers prove once and for all that being a 'dropout' does not spell disaster for your future.
In fact, maturity and real-world life experience can play in your favor at college - especially when it comes to the business of learning how to manage people and make sound decisions.
And school today presents plenty of study solutions for adult students whose jobs or children prevent them from committing to a nine-to-five study schedule.
At Strayer University, we've been breaking down barriers and making college possible for working adults for over 120 years. Giving you the power to learn anywhere. Online, on campus or on the go. Strayer makes it possible. Find out more at strayer.edu.
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