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."