Getty / Chip Somodevilla
The program had a rocky start in its first few years, according to the book "The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley's Pursuit of Power" by Max Chafkin.
Some fellows, who were as young as 16, had never been in charge of their own finances and felt they were left adrift by the program.
"It was college without the classes, a residential community, or studying — in short, most of what was enriching about college," wrote Chafkin.
The program attracted critics. In a 2013 piece, entrepreneur and academic Vivek Wadhwa wrote, "Sadly, for the vast majority of college dropouts, the opportunities are sparse. They won't earn nearly as much as their friends who had the perseverance to finish what they had started. And if they do become entrepreneurs, the companies they start will be far less successful than those started by degree holders."
Despite the program's controversy, it has produced multiple towering figures in Silicon Valley. See some of the fellowship's notable alumni: