It’s not often that child stars pursue formal education. Many stick to homeschooling and tutoring, then forgo college for their entertainment careers. But Emma Watson is an exception to the rule. For five years, the Harry Potter star juggled a serious acting career with an education at the prestigious Brown University. It wasn’t easy, and the pursuit involved fending off some cruel rumors, but if anyone could pull off such a magical feat, it’s the young woman who played Hermione Granger.
Emma Watson Attended Brown University
From 2009 to 2014, Emma Watson was an undergraduate student at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Brown, one of nine prestigious schools in the Ivy League, is highly selective and has an acceptance rate of 7.7 percent.
Watson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. Although Brown is known for its challenging curriculum, the actress told Rookie magazine in 2013 that she also liked its flexibility.
“Really, I’ve kind of been in charge of my own education since I started out on Potter when I was 9 or 10,” said Watson. “And I liked that I could design my own major if I wanted to, and I could take independent studies if I wanted to on subjects that weren’t necessarily in the curriculum. I did an independent study on the psychology and philosophy of how and why we fall in love, which was awesome.”
Watson also used her enrollment to spend a year as a visiting student at Oxford University’s Worcester College in England. (She returned to the school in 2016 as a visiting fellow.)
When she wasn’t seated in a lecture hall or writing term papers, Watson kept busy with her career. Over the five years it took to earn her degree, she also filmed Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part I and Part II, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, and The Bling Ring. Watson did take a year off from school in 2011 to make her acting commitments a priority, but who could blame her for not wanting to burn the candle at both ends?
Why Emma Watson Chose To Go To College Instead Of Acting Full-Time
More than anything, Watson wanted an upbringing that was as close to a “normal” experience as possible.
“People can’t understand why I don’t want to be a full-time actress,” Watson told Access Hollywood in 2007. “But school life keeps me in touch with my friends. It keeps me in touch with reality. It makes me feel normal. Let’s be honest: I have enough money never to have to work again, but I would never want that. Learning keeps me motivated.”
A year later at the age of 18, she even considered quitting acting altogether. “Just because [acting] has happened to me doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right thing, she told The Daily Mail. “I’ve come from a background of lawyers and academics. We didn’t watch films in our household … Why would someone my age need this much money? Let’s face it, I don’t really have any use for it. It may sound weird, but I just want to be like my friends and they don’t have that kind of money.”
Watson did her best to be an everyday college student at Brown, but she was quickly made aware of her limitations. Students couldn’t help themselves, shouting “Ten points for Gryffindor” in the middle of class or saying “Wingardium leviosa” while passing her in the halls. The unwanted recognition played a part in her brief hiatus from school.
“I wanted to pretend I wasn’t as famous as I was,” Watson told The Sunday Times Style Magazine in 2011. “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.”
But Watson didn’t let peers stop her from achieving her goals. She returned to school the following year and by May 2014, she was posting a selfie in a cap and gown. Ultimately, she told The Daily Mail, “I believe school and my family have kept me very grounded.”
What Emma Watson Is Up To Now
Even though she’s now armed with a college degree, Watson hasn’t completely walked away from acting. If anything, her English lit background made her a perfect pick for the role of Meg March in the Oscar-nominated film adaptation of Little Women (2019).
The actress has an estimated net worth of $85 million—and she wasn’t kidding when she said she’d prefer a sense of normalcy over wealth. Not one to rest on her laurels, Watson has used her position of wealth and privilege to serve society as an activist.
In 2014, she was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill ambassador, giving speeches around the globe about gender equality. And in 2019, she helped launch a sexual harassment advice hotline in England and Wales. Legal advice is provided by Rights of Women, a charity that helps females “understand and use the law and their legal rights … and increase women’s access to justice.”
Despite the pressures of juggling a career and school, the decision to pursue higher education is probably one that Watson doesn’t regret. One had helped raise her profile while the other had made her a more critical thinker—combined, they help advance the causes she cares about most.