StudyAdvantage Magazine

The Education of Elon Musk: Real World Superman

Published: January 12, 2017

In our “Where did they study?” article series we examine the educational resumes of timely & relevant figures in business, politics, technology, science, sports, arts and media.        The education of Elon Musk.

Let’s begin by considering Iron Man, the caricature (?) of an optimised human being, extending raw and unparalleled intelligence with technology to enhance both body and mind:


Iron Man is a superhero. The person he is said to have been inspired by, and modelled on, is Elon Musk. Elon may only be a super entrepreneur, but at this rate some are starting to question whether he is a superhero too? For those unfamiliar with the Ironman inspirer, Elon Musk is a technologist and serial entrepreneur who has built several multi-billion dollar companies. But they’re not just any companies, they are the types of companies which have revolutionised industries and given lots of people serious hope of a materially better world.

Education of Elon Musk


Musk famously sets seriously long-term and bold ambitions, and this started while he was in college. At age 20 or so, he defined the 5 areas he thought would impact humanity the most over the period of his own lifetime. In this podcast, he recalls what he set out as a college student:

When you are starting out in college, in your freshman and sophomore year, you have these sort of sophomoric philosophical wanderings. And I tried to think of ok, what are the things, that seem to me that would most affect the future of humanity?

There were really five things, three of which that I thought would be interesting to be involved in. And the three that I thought would definitely be positive: the internetsustainable energy — both production and consumption, and space exploration, more specifically the extension of life beyond Earth.

Though I never thought I would actually be involved in that, it was something I’d thought would be important in the abstract. But not something I would ever have an option to be involved in.

The fourth one was artificial intelligence and the fifth one was rewriting human genetics.

These are just the five things I thought would most affect the future of humanity.


Since then, he has been involved – in some form – across all of these fields. But most visibly of course, has been his involvement in the internet (he co-founded what became PayPal), sustainable energy (he founded the world leading electric car company Tesla, and was instrumental in the build-up of solar panel company SolarCity), and space exploration (he founded SpaceX, which is making space travel affordable).

Elon Musk next to the electric Tesla Model S, built by the company he founded

Elon Musk next to the electric Tesla Model S, built by the company he founded


So, where did this long-termist, multibillionaire, scientist, humanitarian superman go to school? This is the education of Elon Musk.

Elon is South African, and was born in Pretoria where he lived until the age of 18, upon which he moved to Canada. Soon upon arrival in Canada, he enrolled to study at Queen’s University, a highly reputable university in Ontario, roughly 3 hours away from Toronto. But half-way through his undergraduate degree, he decided to transfer to the University of Pennsylvania, in the US. The exact motivation for this transfer is unknown, but while Queen’s is a great institution, it’s perhaps fair to assume UPenn’s scale and depth of resource appealed ever-so-slightly more to Musk.

Musk graduated from UPenn in 1994, with double bachelor degrees in Physics (from the College of Arts and Sciences) and Economics (from the Wharton School). A solid academic foundation for a industrialist-to-be. Upon graduation, he enrolled at the institution in the heart of California’s booming technology scene (at the time and still today), Stanford University. It only took him 2 days, however, to drop out of this course to pursue the business which ultimately joined forces with PayPal. And that was the end to Musk’s formal academic educational journey. The rest, as they say, is history.

UPenn Slide 1
From the University of Pennsylvania campus, where Musk spent some of his student years

The education of Elon Musk.

Don’t miss out on Musk’s mind-boggling explanation of the so called “Simulation Argument”:


Continue reading…


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