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Life > Academics

Should Rory Gilmore Be Your Midterms Motivation? A Psychologist Weighs In

There’s no doubt that Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Gilmore Girls is a classic TV show, known for its heartwarming mother-daughter relationship, witty humor, and depiction of small town quirks. With over millions of views since its release, it’s safe to say that Gilmore Girls is doing something right when it comes to their devoted and recurring audience. Not only does the show upsurge in views right around the beginning of fall, but also when the academic season starts up again — and Rory Gilmore becomes study motivation for many college students. 

The show’s main character Rory Gilmore can be considered your average overachiever, with the goal of getting into an Ivy League and establishing herself in a journalism career. In each episode, we get to see her clever banter with Lorelai or the other characters in the show, which encapsulates her knowledge of classic literature, movies, and culture. In the first few seasons, Rory attends the exclusive private school Chilton, where we see her devote the most time to her studies, reading, and extracurriculars. Even in her first relationship with Dean, she always prioritized school. With the iconic quote, “Who cares if I’m pretty if I fail my finals?”, it’s not hard for the audience to envy Rory’s romanticization of high education and good grades.

What is the “Rory Gilmore Effect”?

This is what I like to call “The Rory Gilmore Effect”: Rory’s romanticization of education and how it can motivate others to stay on that grind. There are many examples on TikTok and other social media platforms that show Rory’s study tactics are motivational to fans, from making edits of her studying to using a sound of her talking about how much she studies while showing off their own studying, to sharing her “tips” about not giving up despite an overwhelming amount of assignments. Many of these videos have gone viral, with commenters claiming that Rory has made them a better student, or that they wish they had her motivation and want to be just like her.

Rory chooses to prioritize her education over everything and everyone else, including her appearance and what other characters think of her.

But wait a second. Doesn’t this remind you of former gifted kid syndrome? Former gifted kid syndrome is essentially when a gifted child burns out in adulthood out from the intense academic pressures put on them at such a young age. This can lead to low self-esteem and anxiety in some people, and for Rory, it meant a change in character that some fans still dislike to this day. Many Gen Z Gilmore Girls fans have mixed opinions on Rory and her questionable downfall after graduating from Chilton — I mean, she’s a homewrecker in Lindsay and Dean’s relationship, drops out of Yale, and is a terrible friend to Lane, amongst many other things. 

So is being under “The Rory Gilmore Effect” actually going to motivate you to be an academic weapon, or will it make you fall victim to overwhelming stress? The last thing anyone wants is to lose their identity over their academics, which Rory is definitely guilty of. Being a goal-oriented person isn’t a bad thing, but we need to know our limits. I’ve reached out to Dr. David Tzall, a psychologist, to get his opinion on whether or not “The Rory Gilmore Effect” is harmful.

Be careful before modeling your midterms study motivation after Rory.

It’s essential for students to prioritize their well-being while striving for success in school. Understand the signs of burnout, such as physical and emotional exhaustion, reduced performance, and increased cynicism,” Tzall tells Her Campus. “Reach out to friends, family members, or a mental health professional to talk about your feelings and experiences. Sometimes, sharing your concerns can provide emotional relief.” In Rory’s case, she doesn’t make many friends during her years at Yale besides Marty and briefly Lucy and Olivia. In Season 4 Episode 14, Rory becomes so overwhelmed and consumed by her workload that she ends up failing a test and having a breakdown to her ex-boyfriend Dean — something all college students probably want to avoid. 

Tzall also recommends that you “set achievable academic goals that take into account your current capacity and energy levels. … Prioritize self-care activities like exercise, meditation, or hobbies that help you relax and recharge.” When it comes to Rory’s self-care, the list is limited — we almost never see her taking breaks, especially in college. She loves to read in the earlier seasons, but in college she loses that ability to use it as a form of relaxation as she’s always busy with school or her mom.

Tzall also speaks to facing anxiety about feeling like you aren’t doing “enough” in school, which Rory deals with at both Chilton and Yale. “Setting boundaries is essential and this includes saying no to additional commitments or responsibilities when you’re already feeling overwhelmed,” he says. “Understand that perfectionism can be a significant source of anxiety. Aim for excellence, but accept that nobody is perfect, and mistakes are part of the learning process.”

Rather than trying to do it all, Tzall advises learning how to prioritize and knowing what to give up. “Define your academic and personal goals. Having a clear sense of purpose can help you prioritize tasks and make better decisions about how to allocate your time,” he says. “Develop a weekly or monthly schedule that outlines your classes, study time, work commitments, and personal activities. Identify the most important tasks each day and prioritize them. Allocate specific time blocks for different activities.”

Rory struggles to manage her relationship with school throughout all seven seasons. She’s constantly stressed and it affects her so badly that she drops out of Yale when Mitchum tells her she doesn’t “have what it takes” to be a journalist. If one comment can make you drop out of college and join the D.A.R., you might need to reevaluate your relationship to your work.

As college students, Rory’s spark of curiosity can help us keep our motivation up while studying for midterms or finals. For this new school semester, it’s OK and possibly even helpful to channel your inner Rory. However, don’t let this lead to you suffering from burnout like she did. Know your limits, and don’t actually try to take on the load of this fictional character. Let her motivate you in essence — not in reality.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.

Sabrina Bernard

Queen's U '25

Sabrina Bernard is a writer Her Campus' National Program. She writes lifestyle content on the site, including entertainment, news, and experiences. Beyond Her Campus, Sabrina is heavily involved at her university, where she is an Orientation Coordinator for the largest not-for-profit orientation in Canada, she is the Co-President of the English Department Student Council, and models for her university's Sustainable Fashion club. She also volunteers at the local Animal Shelter when she goes home. Sabrina is currently a junior at Queen's University, majoring in English Literature with a certificate in French. She has also been a panelist at several literary conferences for her works. In her free time, Sabrina enjoys reading, playing with her cat Poppy, and petting every cat she can find on the streets. She's also a huge Modern Family fan and has rewatched the series multiple times.