TV's Portrayal of College

I understand that for television purposes, sometimes situations have to be tweaked for dramatic effect. And I am in no way discounting the shows that I mention, I have watched and enjoyed all of them. However, I am not naïve and after having completed (almost) one year of college, I feel like a pro in critiquing these shows’ portrayals of the college experience.


You can graduate and be successful after two years

Quirky teen witch Sabrina Spellman of Sabrina the Teenage Witch starts classes at Adams College in Boston, MA in the 5th season. By the start of the 7th season, typically representing 2 years later, Sabrina has graduated and is working as an editor at the fictional popular entertainment magazine Scorch. Now, I’m not saying that this is completely impossible, but in today’s job market, most employers would not give a decently high-level job to a student after completing only two years of an average education.


All of your best friends will go to the same college

Main characters Cory, Topanga, Shawn, and Angela from Boy Meets World struggle in the 5th season to decide where they will all go to college, or in Shawn’s case, if he will go to college at all. Miraculously, all four of the best friends end up at Pennbrook University in Philadelphia where Cory and Shawn’s older brothers both attend school. This is in no way an accurate depiction of how college works. Personally, I have friends in schools as close as 30 minutes and as far as a 10 hour car ride. It’s very rare for everyone to end up in the same place for a variety of reasons. College is a personal decision and your college choice should reflect your personal values, not your friends’.

You’ll have tons of free time

Serena van der Woodsen and Nate Archibald attend Columbia University in The CW’s Gossip Girl while Blair Waldorf and Dan Humphrey go to the equally impressive New York University (and Dan is in the Tisch school!!). Yet somehow, all of them seemingly have plenty of free time to keep up their socialite appearances. I cannot imagine living this way and taking a full schedule of classes. I’m not going to lie, I do have free time and sometimes class gets cancelled. But that free time is filled with the anxiety of knowing that I should be doing something because it’s college and there’s always something to do.


You can run a successful business without college

One Tree Hill’s portrayal of college was a bit unconventional and a bit… nonexistent. Instead of showing the four years of undergraduate school, the series creators decided to jump ahead. This jump didn’t affect the college years too much though, because only a few of them (if I’m remembering correctly) actually went to college. Although Brooke Davis and Peyton Sawyer didn’t pursue higher education, they both went on to run successful business only four years after graduating from high school. This would be a pretty rare feat nowadays because it’s getting harder to get ahead without a college degree or equivalent. There must be something in the water in Tree Hill, NC.


Your parent(s) can stay with you

After falling on hard times, Michael Bluth decides to move in with his son George Michael in Arrested Development. The only problem is- George Michael lives in a dormitory. While the situation is uncomfortable and stuffy, I can imagine that many first-year college students would want their parents to stay with them forever instead of facing the big bad world of college. This isn’t the case, of course. College is about independence and finding out who you are and that can’t be done if mom or dad are holding your hand the whole time. I love my parents and I’m sure that my mom wanted to set up camp when I moved in, but realistically there comes a time when you have to say goodbye, at least temporarily.