10 Child Stars Who Are Also Serious Students

Posted January 6, 2011

Staff Writer: Aniya Wells

After making millions of dollars as a TV star, movie actress or singer, it can be hard to make yourself study for a math test or even decide to go on to college, especially if you still have a bright career ahead of you. But for these young stars, school is still a priority. Through tutors, home schooling, online programs, or even breaks from working, high school and college are just as important as waking up for hair and makeup.

  1. Dakota Fanning: Dakota Fanning — with her big blue eyes — has been startling audiences with her intelligence and sensitivity since she was just a tiny thing, playing bit roles in popular TV shows like Ally McBeal and ER before making audiences sob as Sean Penn’s daughter in I Am Sam. Since then, Fanning has been one of Hollywood’s most consistent child stars, acting alongside serious movie stars like Denzel Washington, Robert DeNiro, Tom Cruise, Reese Witherspoon, Michael Meyers and Queen Latifah. Now, Fanning has a recurring role as a vampire in the immensely popular Twilight films, but she’s got an active, exciting life offscreen, too. She’s been named homecoming queen of her high school two years in a row, goes to prom, and even dropped out of a film to finish up — and thoroughly enjoy — her senior year. She’s decided not to take on any major roles until after graduation.
  2. Emma Watson: British actress Emma Watson has actually been in a few other movies besides Harry Potter, but most of the world knows her as wizardry class pet Hermione Granger. Watson virtually grew up on film, a fact that often left directors unsure of how to handle her adolescence. And for Watson, who’s said that she’s glad she saw Hermione and the film series "through to the end," it’s clear she wants to take a new direction with her life. She enrolled at Brown University on the U.S. East Coast in the fall of 2009, where she’s worked hard to disappear on campus behind a protective group of friends.
  3. Hailee Steinfeld: The young True Grit remake star is just fourteen years old, but she’s already garnering real praise from her Academy Award-winning costars like Jeff Bridges for her poise and professionalism. Steinfeld left Colina Middle School before finishing sixth grade to be homeschooled, but she’s still a serious student. An avid reader, she talked with Scholastic about how excited she is to dive in to her U.S. history books and curriculum: "Now I can come home, I can read twenty pages and take a test on it, and I learn so much more than sitting in a classroom just listening to a teacher talk," she said.
  4. Elle Fanning: No longer known as just "Dakota’s little sister," Elle Fanning is starring in one of this year’s more popular festival films, Sofia Coppola’s sweet Somewhere, with Stephen Dorff. She’s quickly becoming a favorite among the fashion crowd, too, and she’s only 12. Formerly home schooled, Fanning and her parents decided to enroll her in a private Episcopal school in Studio City, CA. Like her sister, Elle seems determined to have as normal a childhood as she possibly can: she plays volleyball and hopes to get into theater programs when she’s in middle school.
  5. Hayden Panettiere: At one time one of the most popular and in-demand teen actresses, the Heroes star is still poised for a successful, long-term career in Hollywood. Panettiere has been acting since she was a little girl, first appearing in commercials at just 11 months old, then in soap operas, and in memorable, spunky roles in movies like Remember the Titans. She attended a conventional middle school in New York but was homeschooled — involving online education — for high school.
  6. Zac Efron: When Zac Efron became a major sensation after the release of the High School Musical franchise, he wasn’t dismissed as a generic teeny bobber star. Instead, he caught the eye of directors and critics, and has since carved out a very respectable career for himself, which is only expected to grow. Besides acing roles in movies like Hairspray and Me and Orson Welles, Efron’s also interested in higher education. He’s been accepted to USC but has deferred a couple of times to finish up film projects.
  7. Nastia Liukin: Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin was known for her fierce concentration and ballerina-like grace during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and the gymnast hopes to be just as dedicated to her schoolwork. Even while training for the Olympics, Liukin couldn’t resist registering for one class at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, near her home. She deferred until after Beijing, but still had to drop out after the Olympics as she trained for other championships. But Liukin has said that college is still at the forefront of her mind.
  8. Karlie Kloss: She’s just now 18 years old, but Karlie Kloss is a veteran of the biggest runways in the world, and even debuted as an exclusive for Calvin Klein when she was only 15. Kloss has snagged lucrative campaign deals, editorial opportunities, and magazine covers, and was most recently featured as a star model in December’s British Vogue with Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. Beyond jetting around the world for shoots, awards galas and shows, the St. Louis native also goes to a normal high school. She attends classes when she’s at home in Missouri and takes online courses when she’s on the road. Kloss goes to school dances — she wore Oscar de la Renta to homecoming — and also plans to go to medical school.
  9. Nolan Gould: Modern Family‘s Nolan Gould is a member of one of the most celebrated TV casts in the industry. He plays the goofy, common sense-deprived son of Claire and Phil, but in real life, he’s a smart kid. Gould is seriously dedicated about his acting education, performing in improv shows each week, and working with actors and trainers to improve his craft.
  10. Miranda Cosgrove: Nickelodeon actress Miranda Cosgrove has created a successful career for herself as a popular singer among kids and teens, too. But she’s also a serious student. She’s finishing school via homeschooling and online classes and puts in serious time at the library, even on weekends. Cosgrove is said to want to attend college at NYU, but may be convinced by her father to stay close to home, going to USC instead.

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