Model Students: 6 Women Who Have Balanced Studies and the Fashion Industry

By: Beverly Abellanosa

Photo: Vogue Italia
As students everywhere prepare to resume a seemingly never-ending cycle of lecture-filled days and caffeine-fueled all-nighters, we're taking a look at some of the many models who continued to pursue their studies while balancing the tumultuous world of fashion.

1. Sara Ziff

Photo: Marilyn Agency
American model, Sara Ziff, pursued a degree in political science from Columbia University in New York City where she graduated magna cum laude. She later went on to receive her M.P.A from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Diff decided to continue her studies after a stellar career in which she walked for brands such as Prada, Chanel, Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen, and Dries Van Noten. 

Though Ziff is well-known for her achievements as a model, her biggest achievement is arguably the creation of the Model Alliance. The Model Alliance is a non-profit organization that aims to address labor issues in the fashion industry through research, policy, and advocacy. Ziff first brought public attention to abuses in the modeling industry in her 2009 documentary "Picture Me: A Model's Diary." 

2. Lyndsey Scott

Photo: Vogue (left) Huffington Post (right)
Lyndsey Scott is an actress, model, and app developer. The New Jersey native first discovered her love for computer science through her father who as a programmer for the National Security Agency. She began programming at the age of 12 by writing her own games on her TI-89 graphing calculator. She later further pursued her interest in computer science at Amherst College where she graduated with a dual major in theatre and computer science. It was not until after college that she began her career as a model after being discovered through by Click Model Management.

Scott's modeling career would skyrocket during New York Fashion Week 2009 when she became the first black model to sign an exclusive runway contract with Calvin Klein which would serve as the catalyst for her takeover of the fashion world. She would later go on to walk for the 2009 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, Vera Wang, Baby Phat, Fendi, and Gucci and become the only black model walking runways for Prada during the 2010 fall NYFW season. Now Scott is focused on her career as a programmer and is the author of a multitude of iOS programming tutorials on She also maintains an account on Stack Overflow, a computer programming help website. In 2014, she was one of the top 2% of users with more than 2,000 reputation points and 38,000p profile views.

3. Karlie Kloss

Photo: Diversity In Steam Magazine
Karlie Kloss, is well known for her classic look and signature walk which has made her a staple in magazines and runway shows since her debut for Calvin Klein's 2008 Spring Summer collection. In 2014, the self-proclaimed science and math nerd took her first coding class in an effort to learn more about the tech world. Since then her interest in coding has grown tenfold, and she has joined Lyndsey Scott in becoming an advocate for increasing opportunities for young girls in the male-dominated technology industry. A year later, Kloss partnered with the Flatiron school and to create a scholarship called Kode With Klossy with the aim to help young girls learn how to code. This would all come together to fuel her decision to resume her studies in September 2015 when she enrolled at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study of New York University.

4. Christy Turlington Burns

Photo: (left) Calvin Klein (right) Vogue Italia
Christy Turlington is often credited with being one of the original supermodels. Turlington has graced the runways of Versace, Chanel, Prada, Azzedine Alaia, and countless others, as well as appeared on the cover of countless American and International Vogue issues. She first began modeling at the age of 14 and later moved to New York City when she turned 18 to fully commit to the industry. Turlington resumed her studies in 1994 when she enrolled at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study of New York University where she would graduate magna cum laude with a Bachelors of Arts Degree concentrated in Comparative Religion and Eastern Philosophy in 1999.

Turlington was later inspired to pursue her Master's Degree at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health after suffering her own complications in childbirth and becoming aware of the fact that over 500,000 women die each year during childbirth, of which 90% are preventable. This would serve as the impetus for the founding of her non profit organization, Every Mother Counts, which aims to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother. The organization currently supports programs in Uganda, Haiti, Malawi, Indonesia, and the United States. Furthermore, Turlington currently serves as a member of the Harvard Medical School Global Health Council and as an advisor to the Harvard School of Public Health Board of Dean's Advisors.

5. Cindy Crawford
Photo: (left) Elle (right) Arthur Elgort
Arguably the most recognized American model, Cindy Crawford first entered the world of high fashion when she became the runner-up of Elite Model Management's Look of The Year contest at the age of 17, resulting in the agency representing her. A year later she would graduate from DeKalb High School in Illinois as valedictorian and receive an academic scholarship to study chemical engineering at the prestigious Northwestern University, where she only stayed for a semester before dropping out to fully commit to her modeling career.

Crawford has had one of the most lucrative modeling careers in history, walking for brands such as Chanel, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Christian Dior, Ralph Lauren, and many more. In recent years, she has partially stepped out of the modeling spotlight to focus on philanthropic efforts such as championing efforts to treat childhood leukemia (her younger brother died at the age of three from the disease) by donating proceeds of her calendars to medical research and supporting the pediatric oncology program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is also an honorary board member of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

6. Joan Smalls

Photo: Harper's Bazaar Spain
Puerto Rican model, Joan Smalls, is often hailed as one of the greatest supermodels of the new generation. She was ranked #8 on the Forbes list of "World's Highest Paid Models" in 2013 and was dubbed the #1 model in the world by in 2012. However, she did not fully pursue a career in modeling until after she graduated magna cum laude from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology. After graduating, Smalls moved to New York City and signed with IMG Models Worldwide in 2009 after leaving Elite Model Management and switching the focus of her career to runway work. Smalls' career took a meteoric rise after she signed as an exclusive for Ricardo Tisci's Givenchy Spring/Summer 2010 collection. Since then, she has walked the runway for Chanel, Gucci, Prada, Tom Ford, Balmain, and countless others. Smalls has also walked in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show from 2011 through 2016.