For many, college is a rite of passage, a means to a good job.
Prior to entering Brown University in Providence, R.I., in the fall of 2009, Watson told Teen Vogue: "I'm doing this because I want to be normal. I really want anonymity. I want to do it properly, like everyone else. As long as I don't walk in and see, like, 'Harry Potter' posters everywhere, I'll be fine."
There were no posters or autograph-hounding fans. Nor was there any truth to earlier reports that Watson was being heckled with "Harry Potter" phrases like "Three points for Gryffindor!" when she answered a question correctly in class.
But after 18 months, Watson made the decision to leave Brown because she realized that she is not like everyone else.
"I was in denial," the 21-year-old actress told the U.K.'s Sunday Times Style Magazine recently about her decision to drop out. "I wanted to pretend I wasn't as famous as I was. I was trying to seek out normality, but I kind of have to accept who I am, the position I'm in and what happened."
For one thing, no one wanted to date the woman who has graced magazine covers and was chosen as the face of Burberry.
"I say to my friends, 'Why hasn't X called me? Why doesn't anyone ever pursue me?' They're like, 'Probably because they're intimidated.' It must be the fame wall," she told the Times. "It must be the circus that goes around me. Me, as a person, I find it hard to believe I would be intimidating."
Watson's representative told The Associated Press that the actress will transfer to another school this fall, though she declined to give the name.
In the meantime, Watson can draw encouragement from other child stars who attended college. Some finished, some did not, and still others went on for an advanced degree. Here are a few:
Academy Award-winning actress Jodie Foster is the poster child for child stars who went to college.
By age 14, she had appeared in two dozen television series and 10 feature films, including "Taxi Driver." Yet, this former high school valedictorian stepped away from the film business at the height of her career to attend Yale University. At the time, People magazine called it "the most startling movie career decision since Garbo chose exile."
It paid off: Foster graduated in 1985 with a degree in literature, and she was later awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts. Her career didn't suffer, either. She went on to win two Oscars, for "The Accused" and "Silence of the Lambs," and to direct several films.
Actor Jerry O'Connell made a name for himself at age 11 as the portly star of "Stand by Me." After a few more projects, he took a break from acting to attend New York University.
Now, at age 37, the father of twin girls with model/actress Rebecca Romijn, is finishing up his law degree at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. He enrolled in night classes in 2009 before landing his most recent gig playing a lawyer on the CBS series "The Defenders."
"I had always planned on continuing my education, at some point," the star told People in 2009.
"It was either [law school] or play video games until 2 a.m.," he joked.
The former star of "My So Called Life," Claire Danes was 17 and had just finished filming "Romeo + Juliet" with a baby-faced Leonardo DiCaprio when she exited Hollywood for Yale University in 1999.
Danes majored in psychology but returned to acting after two years, sans diploma.
"I'm sure I missed something, but I learned how to think critically and read and write," she told The Washington Post recently. "I felt basically fulfilled."
By the time "True Blood" star Anna Paquin entered Columbia University in 2000, she had already won an Oscar (at age 11 for "The Piano") and starred in more than a dozen features, including "Jane Eyre."
But she didn't stay past her first year. The lure of work was too great.
"I'm nowhere near being finished," she told Time Out Chicago in 2005. "I've deferred multiple years. I've attempted to go back, and then ended up getting jobs I wanted to do. This is a really awesome period of time in one's career if you're young and female and in this particular industry."
Natalie Portman found a way to juggle her studies with her acting early on.
The brainy "Black Swan" star, who made her feature film debut at 13 in "The Professional," reportedly skipped the premiere of "Star Wars: Episode I" to study for her high school finals. She went on to Harvard, where she worked as lawyer and political commentator Alan Dershowitz's research assistant and graduated with a bachelor's in psychology in 2003.
"I don't care if [college] ruins my career," Fox News Channel quoted her saying. "I'd rather be smart than a movie star."
Turns out she's both. After Harvard, Portman took graduate courses at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and later appeared as a guest lecturer at a Columbia University course in terrorism and counterterrorism. And earlier this year, she won her first Oscar for "Black Swan."
Model/actress Brooke Shields essentially came of age on screen, playing a preteen prostitute in "Pretty Baby" and sexually awakened teenagers in "The Blue Lagoon" and "Endless Love."
So when she went for her bachelor's degree at Princeton University, it seems she brought an insider's knowledge to her senior thesis, "The Initiation: From Innocence to Experience: The Pre-Adolescent/Adolescent Journey in the Films of Louis Malle, Pretty Baby and Lacombe Lucien."
But it was the degree, in the end, that served her.
"Without the four years of learning and growth that culminated in my degree, I would have never survived my industry, a business that predicates itself on eating its young," Shields told the 2011 Princeton graduating class last month when she spoke at "Class Day." "I would have become a cliche. I would never have been able to adapt and to re-invent: from movies to television, to stage, to author, to mom."