Reagan attended Dixon High School, where he developed interests in acting, sports, and storytelling. His first job involved working as a lifeguard at the Rock River in Lowell Park in 1927. Over a six-year period, Reagan reportedly performed 77 rescues as a lifeguard. He attended Eureka College, a Disciples-oriented liberal arts school, where he became a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, a cheerleader, and studied economics and sociology.
While involved, the Miller Center of Public Affairs described him as an "indifferent student". He majored in economics and sociology and graduated with a C grade. He developed a reputation as a "jack of all trades", excelling in campus politics, sports, and theater. He was a member of the football team and captain of the swim team. He was elected student body president and led a student revolt against the college president after the president tried to cut back the faculty.