Terrence Malick was born in Ottawa, Illinois. His family subsequently lived in Oklahoma and he went to school in Austin, Texas. He did his undergraduate work at Harvard, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in philosophy in 1965.
A member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, he attended Magdalen College, Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship, but did not finish his thesis on Martin Heidegger, allegedly because of a disagreement with his advisor. Returning to the States, he taught philosophy at M.I.T. and published a translation of Heidegger's "Vom Wesen des Grundes" as "The Essence of Reasons". Malick did not get his PhD in philosophy: Instead, he attended the American Film Institute Conservatory in its inaugural year (1969), taking a Masters of Fine Arts degree in film-making. His masters thesis was the seventeen-minute comedy short Lanton Mills (1969), which starred Warren Oates and Harry Dean Stanton. Malick himself acted in the short.
At A.F.I., Malick made a lasting association wit