The lure of fame and fortune can be hard to resist, especially if you were one of the stars of the biggest movies in your youth, such as Home Alone or The Sandlot. However, sometimes even the brightest celebrities decide they want to change paths and take on more regular lives. Whether they wanted to get out of the limelight or simply didn’t know what else to do with their lives after growing up in Hollywood, these eight former child stars decided to go to college and graduate.
1) Brooke Shields
With Hollywood painting her as just another pretty girl in an ideal world, 18-year-old Brooke Shields decided to reject her modelling and acting careers and went to Princeton. Here she studied Spanish and Romance languages and graduated cum laude.
Shields wasn’t just an actress, she also worked as a model. Her most famous appearances were on several magazine covers in 1975, including Life and Vanity Fair. She was credited for having the face that launched a thousand brands and is still credited for making Calvin Klein jeans popular. At only age 12 Shields had been awarded with a New York Fashion Award for her contributions to fashion modeling. Although it appeared as if her fame was boundless at such young age, she knew that Hollywood life wouldn’t last forever and decided to go back to college in Princeton to pursue an education and make something of herself beyond fame.
2) Danica McKellar
She studied mathematics at UCLA and graduated summa cum laude after taking a break from acting after The Wonder Years ended.
While in college, she co-authored a book with her brother and became an advocate for child literacy. She returned to acting after graduation and has since played roles on Hart of Dixie, iCarly, and The West Wing. In addition to acting, she is also a professional math tutor. The Young Adult novelist said if it wasn’t clear already, I don’t want anyone thinking I’m out of my mind or think being an actor was my first choice.
3) Mayim Bialik embarked
After Blossom ended, Mayim Bialik took a 12-year break from acting to study neuroscience at UCLA. Upon graduating with her doctorate in 2010, she moved back to Hollywood and found work on shows like The Big Bang Theory and The New Adventures of Old Christine. She’s now known as a nerd actress with Ph.D., which she says makes it easier for her to advocate for women in STEM fields without being pigeonholed as just the girl who played Blossom.
Bialik didn’t remain childless, either. She adopted her now-famous son, Miles, in 2004. Despite Hollywood’s reputation as an unaccommodating place for mothers of young children, Bialik is proof that actors with kids can carve out successful careers. Her example proves that it’s possible to have a full-time acting career and parent simultaneously.
4) Cole Sprouse
Upon wrapping The Suite Life on Deck, Cole Sprouse paused his acting career to earn a bachelor’s degree from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.
His twin brother, Dylan Sprouse, is also following in his footsteps. After co-starring as a child alongside Cole on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and The Suite Life on Deck, he now attends NYU to study film production. He’s even said that if he can’t make it as an actor, he’d love to write for television shows or become a producer. I would be happy doing anything within show business, but I’m not going to settle for something just because it pays well, he told People magazine in 2010.
5) Dylan Sprouse
Dylan Sprouse, Cole’s brother, graduated from NYU’s Gallatin School with a bachelor’s degree in video game design.
He’s acted since he was 10 years old, appearing in Big Daddy, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and a few episodes of his brother’s series, The Suite Life on Deck. But despite achieving more than most child actors can dream of at such a young age, he decided to put his Hollywood career on hold to attend college. He even did what many students often struggle with and took a year off before finishing. His hard work paid off when Sprouse graduated with honors from NYU’s Gallatin School.
6) Miranda Cosgrove
Miranda Cosgrove completed the fifth and final season of iCarly, she attended the University of Southern California, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.
Cosgrove decided to attend college after wrapping up filming on iCarly, and according to Cosgrove, It was always my plan to go to college. I just wasn’t sure when I was going to fit it in with work. That’s why it never really crossed my mind as something that might be difficult. She did admit there were times when she found being a student difficult, saying I had some hard moments in college where I thought maybe [work] would have been easier than going back to school and studying.
7) Joseph Gordon-Levitt
In the midst of a successful career in the film and television industries, Joseph Gordon-Levitt felt a new kind of longing for a more diversified career and for knowledge of a number of subjects, including literature and the arts.
After briefly attending Columbia University, Gordon-Levitt decided to pursue a career in acting. He quit school and began his acting career. Although he returned to Columbia to complete his undergraduate degree in 2009, Gordon-Levitt has proven that college can be beneficial for successful people even if it isn’t necessarily required for their desired profession.
8) Anna Paquin
When Anna Paquin enrolled at Columbia University at 18, she was ready to give up acting since she’d already won an Oscar at 11. She recalled telling her father, I don’t think I’m going to act anymore. I’m really happy doing this. But now a successful Broadway actress who’s starred in films like True Blood and Interview with the Vampire, she said of the decision in retrospect: It wasn’t until I started doing theater that I realized it was something I wanted to do more than anything else.