Ashton Kutcher's brother suffering from cardiomyopathy caused his home life to become increasingly stressful. He has stated that "I didn't want to come home and find more bad news about my brother" and "kept myself so busy that I didn't allow myself to feel". Ashton Kutcher admitted that during adolescence, he contemplated committing suicide. At thirteen, he attempted to jump from a Cedar Rapids hospital balcony, with his father intervening in the incident. Ashton Kutcher's home life worsened as his parents divorced when he was sixteen. During his senior year, he broke into his high school at midnight with his cousin in an attempt to steal money; he was arrested leaving the scene. Ashton Kutcher was convicted of third-degree burglary and sentenced to three years' probation and 180 hours of community service. Ashton Kutcher stated that although the experience "straightened him out", he lost his girlfriend and anticipated college scholarships, and he was ostracized at school and in his community.
Ashton Kutcher enrolled at the University of Iowa in August 1996, where his planned major was biochemical engineering, motivated by the desire to find a cure for his brother's heart ailment. At college, Ashton Kutcher was kicked out of his apartment for being too "noisy" and "wild". Ashton Kutcher stated, "I thought I knew everything but I didn't have a clue. I was partying, and I woke up many mornings not knowing what I had done the night before. I played way too hard. I am amazed I am not dead." To earn money for his tuition, Ashton Kutcher worked as a college summer hire in the cereal department for the General Mills plant in Cedar Rapids, and sometimes donated blood for money. During his time at UI he was approached by a scout at a bar called "The Airliner" in Iowa City and was recruited to enter the "Fresh Faces of Iowa" modeling competition. After placing first, he dropped out of college and won a trip to New York City to the International Modeling and Talent Association (IMTA) Convention. Following his stay in New York City, Ashton Kutcher returned to Cedar Rapids before relocating to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting.