A lot of the characters we love from science fiction and fantasy learned how to harness their powers and intellect in school: skilled wizards, mad scientists with PhDs in horribleness, carefully trained military officers, mutant superheroes who studied T.H. White. But there are plenty of heroes and villains who started school only to leave partway through — either by their own choice or because they were forced out. But some of these characters would be competent autodidacts, others would find their best educational path lay outside the classroom, and still others would find success in subjects not taught in any school.
Wesley Crusher: Growing up on the Enterprise as Captain Picard's protégé, Wesley Crusher seemed destined to graduate from Starfleet Academy at the top of his class. But after he participated in a dangerous flying stunt that resulted in the death of a fellow cadet, Wesley lost much of his youthful enthusiasm for the elite officers' academy. It wasn't until he met the Traveler, though, that it occurred to Wesley that he could forge his own path. After all, while graduating from Starfleet Academy is a sure ticket to space exploration, the Traveler can really take you where no one has gone before. Perhaps he did ultimately return to the Academy, since he showed up to Riker and Troi's wedding in a lieutenant's uniform. Then again, perhaps Starfleet realized that his practical experience was far more valuable than a formal education.
Fred and George Weasley: Technically, their generation of Hogwarts sports a lot of dropouts — among them Fred and George's brother Ron and the famous Harry Potter himself. (Hermione, true to form, returned to Hogwarts to complete her wizarding education.) Fred and George, however, dropped out with the greatest flair, planting a portable swamp in front of Dolores Umbridge's office, summoning their brooms from captivity, and flying off for greener (and more lucrative pastures). Once they opened their joke shop, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, the two kids who failed most of their O.W.L. exams were peddling the most innovative magical products Britain had ever seen, from nosebleed nougats to trick wands to headless hats. Soon, they were pulling in enough money to convince even their parents — who would have been happy with a family full of Hogwarts prefects — that dropping out was the right decision.
Pretty much everyone on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy Summers spent the first few seasons of her TV show trying to balance her slaying duties with high school, but when she dropped out of college, it was for much more mundane reasons — to take care of her sister, Dawn, after their mother's death. But Buffy wasn't the only — or even the first — of the Scoobies to ditch college. Oz left during freshman year to get his lycanthropy under control, and Willow dropped out after Buffy to enter magical rehab. None of these characters pursued traditional career paths after college. Oz was probably the happiest of the three, choosing to withdraw from the world and pursue spiritual and family life in Tibet. Buffy held down various odd jobs — fast food clerk, high school guidance counselor, coffee shop waitress, bodyguard — but protecting the world is always job #1. And Willow…well, if the events of Fray are any indication, Willow may have turned out immensely powerful, but also evil and insane. Perhaps the most traditionally successful of the lot is Xander, who was never admitted to college (and therefore never dropped out), but proved quite adept at construction when not playing Watcher to the Slayerettes.
Rose Tyler: Before sitting for her A-levels, a 16-year-old Rose Tyler dropped out of school to run off with Jimmy Stone. Their relationship ended five months later, but Rose never returned to school. Later on, she'd make better decisions about the sort of person she'd run off with, escaping her shopgirl life for an intergalactic, intertemporal, and even interdimensional tour with the Doctor. Her ingenuity and heart made her a valuable ally for the Doctor — and she eventually transcends the constrains of time and space (and even mortality) by looking into the heart of the TARDIS and becoming the Bad Wolf. Eventually, she'd take on a more permanent job at her adopted dimension's version of Torchwood, but she'll long be remembered for doing one thing few humans dared to try: making the Doctor fall a little bit in love with her.
Clark Kent (The Smallville version): Ever the good son, Clark Kent turned down a football scholarship at Metropolis University in favor of the much more local Central Kansas A&M so he could continue to work on the family farm. CKU might not have the cache of Met U, but it did boast at least one supervillain on its faculty, history professor Milton Fine, a.k.a. Brainiac. When his father dies, though, Clark drops out of school to work on the farm full-time. His lack of a college diploma doesn't seem to hinder his scoring a job at the Daily Planet, although Lois Lane (who had already been kicked out of Metropolis University for drinking) was already employed there despite her lack of a bachelor's degree.
Bruce Wayne (The Christopher Nolan version): Although the comic book Batman has a law degree from Yale, Nolan's Bruce Wayne dropped out of Princeton during his freshman year. After he returns to the mafia-ruled Gotham City, he decides that the best way to avenge his parents deaths is to become an avatar of justice. Since no existing college has a major in "becoming Batman," Bruce decides to take a less traditional route with his education, traveling the world and studying the criminal element. When he takes up formal education again, it's with the League of Shadows, whose coursework involves martial arts, mastering fear, and breaking down decadent civilizations. Even here, Wayne drops out before graduation ("graduation" meaning "murdering a criminal in the name of the cause") and returns to Gotham as both the prodigal head of Wayne Enterprises and Batman.
Eli Wallace: Stargate: SGU's mathematical supergenius comes under the heading of "brilliant but lazy." After dropping out of MIT, Eli spent an inordinate amount of time on his couch playing video games while his poor HIV-infected mother worked as waitress to pay her medical bills. Fortunately, that video gaming paid off when Eli solved the Dakara Weapons puzzle placed in his favorite game, Prometheus, earning him a lucrative gig with the Stargate program. Unfortunately, he did end up stranded billion of light years from home aboard the Destiny, but that part wasn't his fault.
Doctor Doom: Despite the title, the Fantastic Four's nemesis Victor Von Doom isn't actually a doctor. Doom didn't voluntarily drop out of his PhD program, however; he was expelled following a teensy little lab accident. You don't need a doctorate to conquer small European nations, and Victor quickly ascended the Latverian throne and took on the title he always wanted: Doctor. If anyone doubts it, he can commission a university that will award him a doctorate. Just kidding. He'll probably just have them killed.
Victor Frankenstein: Perhaps Doom was just taking his cues from another Victor who never finished school, the famed Mr. Victor Frankenstein from Mary Shelley's famous novel. Frankenstein studies chemistry for a while at the University of Ingolstadt, but became so obsessed with the idea of creating life that he decided to drop out of school and embark on an independent study. The whole "creating life" thing might not have been as pretty and sweet-smelling as he would have preferred, but he did in fact make himself a walking, talking creature before dying in his attempt to murder it.
Brock Samson: State University, which is referred to by Hank Venture as "Super-Crazy No Way School," doesn't have a great track record of graduating students. Rusty Venture dropped out shortly after his father's death, and has spent his post-collegiate years running his father's company into the ground. Master Billy Quizboy left State following the accident that turned Professor Fantomos into the supervillain Phantom Limb (although they probably would have kicked him out when they realized Stephen Hawking was writing all of his physics papers), and his major claim to fame is that he is occasionally kidnapped to perform complicated surgeries (for which he has received a forged doctorate). By far the most successful State dropout is Brock Samson, who lost his football scholarship after he accidentally killed Tommy the Quarterback. College probably would have done little to change Brock's status as the ultimate man's man who would go on to become one of the top agents for the Office of Secret Intelligence. The death of Tommy would, however, haunt him for years to come.
John Connor: It's hard to get worked up about auto shop when you're trying to prevent the robot apocalypse. (Although, let's be honest, auto shop is going to be one of the things you'll actually use in the robot apocalypse.) John Connor and the Terminator Cameron spend a good amount of time at Campo de Cahuenga High School, but eventually, they're too busy taking down Skynet to bother with class. When your destiny is to protect the remnants of humanity from murderous AIs, it's probably best if you spend your teen years battling murderous robots anyway.
Agatha Heterodyne: The eponymous Girl Genius didn't realize she was a genius when she was attending Transylvania Polygnostic University, thanks to a locket that suppressed her innate intellectual "spark." Silas Merlot, a TPU professor, hated Agatha for her incompetence, and when Merlot succeeded Agatha's friend and protector Dr. Beetle as head of the school, his first act was to expel her. However, Agatha eventually came to realize that she was the latest in a long line of famous mad geniuses, and went from disastrous lab assistant to globe-trotting inventor, adventurer, and heroine. Merlot, meanwhile, failed in his sole quest: to kill Agatha Heterodyne.
The Runaways: When your parents turn out to be supervillains out to destroy the world, running away from home might be the only rational action. For the teen and pre-teen members of the Runaways, that means cutting themselves off from their parents' immense fortunes, living off the grid, and dropping out of school. Life is by no means easy for this crew of emancipated minors, but they function well enough as a super-team to defeat their parents' apocalyptic plans and (mostly) survive their encounters with a number of supervillains. Superstrong mutant Molly Hayes did a quick stint at the San Francisco campus of the Xavier School, but after being kidnapped alongside Wolverine, she happily returns to her fellow autodidacts. Henry Pym does offer the team a bit of formal homeschooling by building them a robot tutor.
Johnny Boyo: The protagonist of James Stokoe's Wonton Soup was a top culinary student before he dropped out in order to explore the universe tongue-first. To that end, he became a space trucker, touring the stars and tasting the most unusual and exotic dishes the galaxy has to offer. But driving and shipping have done nothing to dull his cooking skills. When he decides to visit his old training ground, he can still out-cook the school's top students, even when they resort to cheap (not to mention disgusting) tricks.
Philip J. Fry: It's a minor miracle that Futurama's cryogenically frozen delivery boy ever made it to college in the first place, and it's no surprise that he eventually dropped out. After being informed that a 21st-Century college dropout was equivalent to a 31st-Century high school drop out, he decides to enroll in Mars University so he can drop out again and regain his former level of education (though after he discovered his universal significance). By all appearances, Fry doesn't enjoy a particularly successful lifestyle in the 31st Century; he's still a delivery boy, has an on-again, off-again relationship with Leela, and his best friend is a robotic sociopath. But there are a few beings in the future who know the truth: Fry is the most important being in the universe, and without him, everyone would have been destroyed by the Brainspawn. Of course, this has less to do with any natural intellect Fry possesses than the fact that he managed to become his own grandfather.
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