Money Matters: 5 Smokin’ College Success Stories

facebook_1.jpgLast night, President Obama addressed the current economic crisis, assuring America that “We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.” That sounds especially promising to the billions of college students across the country, who are faced with escalating tuition costs and skyrocketing student debts, and who are watching as the window of opportunity seems to shrink with news of major layoffs every other day.

However, if you play your cards right, you can find great success after college. Sure, some of us will spend years after college struggling to pay off student loans and going on interview after interview, sometimes for entry-level jobs we are overqualified for but still can’t seem to nab. But some of us are on the brink of making headlines, like these uber-successful post-grad powerhouses have done in recent years.

1. Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda went to Wesleyan University in Connecticut, a school where tuition runs at over $38 grand a year, plus $10-12,000 for room and board expenses. While attending Wesleyan, Miranda, a native of Inwood, New York City, turned his life experience into a theatrical production that has exploded since his graduation from the University in 2002. Miranda is the composer and lyricist behind the smash hit musical In the Heights, which was produced at Wesleyan, picked up for off-Broadway, and transferred to the Great White Way in 2008. Miranda, an actor-slash-rapper who originated the lead role, Usnavi, in his own show, picked up a Tony award last spring and is currently slated to reprise the role when it hits the silver screen.

2. Mark Zuckerberg

Love Facebook today, hate it tomorrow. Either way, Mark Zuckerberg is rolling in dough. Zuckerberg actually dropped out of Harvard to focus on the social networking site that changed the face of the internet forever (saving over $30,000 a year in tuition). This May, Zuckerberg will celebrate a milestone birthday- the quarter-century mark, and with an estimated networth of about $1.5 billion, it’s bound to be one kick-ass party. Check your mini-feed for event details.

3. Fred De Luca

Fred De Luca didn’t become an entrepreneur in college; he opened his own sandwich shop at 17 to raise money to pay for college. When De Luca graduated from the University of Bridgeport with his Bachelor’s degree, his Subway sandwich shops were already taking over Connecticut, and today the chaine consists of over 30,000 stores worldwide. Today, the University of Bridgeport isn’t too daunting, with the relatively low tuition rate of about $23,000 per year- a mere fraction of the $1.5 billion De Luca has netted through his enterprise.

4. Alice Sebold

Alice Sebold didn’t find financial success as quickly as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Zuckerberg, or Fred De Luca, but after being violently raped at Syracuse University as a freshman, she made several amazing accomplishments that have led her down the path of a bestselling author. Not only did Sebold finish her degree from $45,000-a-year Syracuse, but she faced down her attacker in court and later developed the real-life story into her acclaimed memoir, Lucky. Sebold’s next book, and most well-known work, is The Lovely Bones, a film version of which will be released later this year.

5. Stephanie Joanne Angelina Germanotta

This former student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts now goes by the stage name Lady Gaga. Before she could legally drink, Gaga was working as a songwriter at Interscope Records, penning hits for the Pussycat Dolls. Gaga studied music at Tisch, but showed off her smarts in several classes (hey she was paying like $40 g’s in tuition, might as well take advantage), writing research papers on topics such as art, religion, and socio-political order. Now a mega popstar, Steph is also quite the philanthropist, who has made donations to help raise money for schools in Los Angeles affected by educational budget cuts.

These are just a few major names who hit big before, during, or after college by combining their education and talent to explode into household names. Think you have what it takes to start up your own business? Check out the top most profitable businesses for college entrepreneurs. Relying on your talents to pay the rent? Use your time in college to work on your skills– as Norah Jones did. “In college I had a weekend gig at a restaurant, a solo thing that was the best practice I could have ever had. That’s where I learned to coordinate my singing and my piano playing,” the Grammy-award winning singer has stated.

President Obama lamented on the huge rates of both high school and college dropouts in his speech last night. You’re already winning the battle – you’re enrolled! – SSo take advantage of your higher education and maybe we’ll see you on the cover of Forbes in a few years.

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