What we learned analyzing where the 51 “most powerful” women in the country went to college

When someone mentions the phrase “most powerful woman,” what comes to mind first?

Chances are there are a few characteristics that run through your head: She must be someone who takes charge in her life; someone who likely holds a position of authority; someone who has worked incredibly hard to get where she is today.

This year, in compiling their Most Powerful Women list, Fortune magazine drew from all corners of industry — from ladies in business, to women in tech, to the ones who work in Hollywood. There are a lot of familiar names on their list, such as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, and Yahoo! CEO and President Marissa Mayer. But what was the most important thing we learned from perusing this list? Contrary to what your college advisor might have told you, an Ivy League education is NOT a pre-requisite for mega success. In fact, only nine out of the 51 total women on the list actually received an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League school.

Where did the majority of the women on the list go to college? Well, a majority attended public and private colleges like Virginia Tech, Tufts University, Northwestern University, and Ball State University. (Only one lady on the list — the always-inspiring Taylor Swift — has not yet received her undergraduate degree.)

A strong majority of the Most Powerful Women ladies also hold graduate degrees — 59% — in fields that span from law to engineering. Seven of those women received multiple degrees, which is even more impressive when you think about how long it takes to earn just one! But again, that means 41% of the women on the list do NOT have graduate degrees. Meaning: Success is certainly not contingent on the status of your degree display-wall.

Looking over the list, it’s a strong reminder of the fact that present success can have relatively humble beginnings. You don’t necessarily need to have an Ivy League education to have an incredible impact on the world.

These ladies are living proof that working hard and killing it in a field you’re passionate about is the real definition of power. Through their perseverance and drive, they’re continuing to inspire the next generation of powerful women who are waiting for their time to shine — and it’s an inspiring reminder that a fancy pedigree is not a pre-requisite for professional success.

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[Image via Paramount]