'Shark Tank': Where Did the Sharks Go To College?
Season 12 of Shark Tank is wrapping up just as high school and college students are donning their graduation gowns. Often sharing advice on jobs and education, the Shark Tank panel (Barbara Corcoran, Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John, and Kevin “Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary) has few similarities when it comes to alma maters.
Corcoran built her real estate empire from the ground up. One of ten kids, Corcoran grew up in a small two-bedroom apartment in New Jersey and learned the value of hard work at a young age.
The Shark Tank star has been vocal about having dyslexia, as well as her struggles in school. Graduating St. Thomas Aquinas College in 1971 with a degree in education, Corcoran still values street smarts over book smarts.
“Most of my very successful entrepreneurs, myself included, cannot read a financial statement,” Corcoran remarked, according to Business Insider. “We don’t know a thing about numbers. But what we’re very good at is thinking on our feet and sizing up people. And what do you build a business on in the end? It’s people.”
The only billionaire on the Shark Tank panel, Cuban took an unorthodox route to higher learning. Earning college credits at night during his junior year of high school at the University of Pittsburgh, the NBA team owner used those credits to bypass his senior year and become a full-time college student.
After one year, Cuban transferred to Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business without ever touring the campus, being wooed by the college’s low tuition. He graduated in 1981 with a degree in Business Administration. “I’ve always tried to be different,” Cuban said.
The “Queen of QVC” attended Loyola University in Chicago as a communications major. Studying journalism, film, and TV, Greiner went on to become a multimillion-dollar inventor and is now a sought-after Shark on the ABC reality show. She currently funds a scholarship in the hopes of helping others pursue their dreams.
“While I’ve always given to humanitarian causes, I love that by providing a scholarship, I’ll impact one person’s life, watch that process… and pay it forward,” Greiner told the Hollywood Reporter.
Rather than focusing on the tech industry, Herjavec graduated from the University of Toronto in 1984 with dual degrees in political science and English literature. While his academics didn’t cover entrepreneurship, the cybersecurity firm founder and CEO considers his liberal arts education as giving him vital skills in the business world.
“One of the fundamental keys in life is communication,” he said, as reported by CNBC. “You can have the best ideas in the world, but if you can’t get somebody else to listen to you, you’re never going to get ahead.”
Creating his FUBU empire out of his home in Queens, NY, John began working odd jobs at the young age of 6. Later, when he couldn’t afford college tuition, the fashion mogul continued in the workforce and learned the ins and outs of business firsthand.
While John encourages those who have the funds for higher education to pursue it, he doesn’t see a college degree as a requirement to achieve your goals.
“Hunger is the key,” John told CNBC Make It. “I don’t believe [college is] necessary for success. … If you don’t have the resources go to college, well then you better be on the Internet. You better be at that library. You better be wherever you can acquire the knowledge.”
Mr. Wonderful originally hoped to have a career in film or photography. Earning undergraduate degrees in psychology and environmental studies from the University of Waterloo in Canada in 1977, O’Leary found the job market in those areas to be lacking. He went back to school for his MBA in order to learn more marketable business skills.
“It was the first time I realized making an investment in a college is not just about where you go,” Mr. Wonderful noted. “It’s what you take.”
Though he values education, O’Leary doesn’t think everyone is cut out for college, and encourages the lucrative careers you can embark on via trade school.
“I don’t recommend college for everybody,” O’Leary said. “The fact is, there’s a lot of trade schools that would help you make a lot more money. … Think about all the trades — roofers, construction, home building. There’s so much demand for this… You can get rich there a lot faster than getting a history major.”
The season 12 finale of Shark Tank airs on May 21 on ABC.
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