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Gilmore Girls: Rory’s College Years Weren’t So Bad

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

I have seen Gilmore Girls a dozen times now and my opinions on every character continue to change with every watch-through. Most of the time, I felt as though Rory deserved the scrutiny that was given to her by audiences saying that she deserved everything that we end up seeing in the revival; that she simply started to falter as a character, and that her college years were the worst to watch as a viewer. However, I feel as though from seasons 4 through 7 as she goes to Yale University and has incredible ups and downs, this was the most densely packed arc for Rory, and it needs to be appreciated and understood just as much as her high school years. 

It’s almost like people forget that character development can be negative as well.

Not everyone has an easy and stress-free experience at college; I for one had a fairly miserable time my freshman year, and heavily relate to Rory taking a tumble in her academic career. Many college students find themselves in a slump as they’re having to go through so many new experiences, and might not have the skill set to properly handle things yet. Rory is just like every other student, and she still has her rough patches. Everything that happened to Rory in these years was brought on by having immense external and internal pressure about having to always be top of her class, instantly excelling at anything she did, having picture-perfect relationships, maintaining her prim and tidy social standing with Richard and Emily’s world that only bled into her’s the more she continued on with her college career; all the while having to keep up with a rigorous Ivy League workload and contributing to the Yale Daily News. It’s no wonder that she ended up falling through the cracks– Rory is the textbook example of Gifted Kid Burnout!

In my opinion, things started to go South for Rory when she met Mitchum Huntzberger. Even though she was given an amazing internship with Mitchum’s journalism company and was literally dating his son, he still felt comfortable tearing her down and telling her that she doesn’t have what it takes to be a journalist. Perhaps he only said this to test if she had enough confidence so far in her career decisions, and I honestly don’t blame him for wanting to push her. Her confidence was so heavily built up from the people around her entire life continuously telling her that she is special, which never prepared her for anyone to come in and criticize her so greatly before. It really isn’t her fault for growing up in an environment that coddled her so much. When being in a new environment like college and being thrown into your first internship, there are going to be people who will question your intelligence and try to push you away from your dreams sometimes. Rory didn’t have the heart to tell any of her family or friends that she wasn’t excelling at every single thing she did, and felt as though by admitting this that she would be letting everyone down. 

From this experience with Mitchum, she lost her way. Many viewers don’t take into account how devastating it was to hear that she wasn’t good enough for her self-esteem. At the end of the day, Rory was still just a 20-year-old college student trying to find her way independently for the first time in her life at her first-ever professional internship. Yes, she did end up making some pretty dumb decisions after this like stealing a boat with Logan and sleeping with Dean, and taking a break from Yale but, I believe that these “out of character” decisions are rationalized when taking into account the stage of her life that she was in. She was told she wasn’t good enough for her dream job by the top executive in the field, she’s overloaded with work, and she’s still trying to navigate her independence; what she did is not justified but it can definitely be understood.

Despite all of the trials and tribulations she experienced, she still bounced back. After Jess shook some sense into her with his infamous line in season 6 episode 8 that I believe helped guide her:

 “What the hell is going on… with you? What’s going on with you? I know you, I know you better than anyone, this isn’t you. What are you doing? Living at your grandparents’ place, being in the D.A.R., no Yale- Why did you drop out of Yale?! … This isn’t you, you know this isn’t you, Rory.”

Rory eventually returned to Yale where she made up for her missing semester and even graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She repaired her relationship with Lorelai, Richard, Emily, and even with Paris, and regained confidence in her journalism pursuits as she even became the Editor in Chief of the Yale Daily News. But most importantly, she learned that she shouldn’t let Mitchum’s opinions have such an impact on her. 

Rory Gilmore is a character that many people either love to hate or have always rooted for. I for one will always be a Rory stan, and will never stop debating the animosity felt for her by viewers who don’t take a moment to sympathize with her and her development. As a college student, she experienced the tumbles of life throughout her early twenties to figure out her true self while finally stepping foot into the career of her dreams. I think that a lot of us Gilmore Girls lovers should take into consideration everything she went through and realize that Rory’s college years weren’t so bad.

Mel Wohl

TCNJ '25

Mel is a sophomore Marketing major with an interest in pursuing a career in fashion and beauty. She loves studying runway, eating copious amounts of sugar, and can always be seen rewatching Gilmore Girls for the upteenth time. She is currently HCTCNJ's Editor in Chief <3