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Alexis Bledel and Lauren Graham in gilmore girls
Alexis Bledel and Lauren Graham in gilmore girls
Saeed Adyani/Netflix
Culture > Entertainment

Everything Gilmore Girls Gets Right and Wrong About College

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

Gilmore Girls was my first exposure to the world of college. I admired my screen every night as Rory Gilmore ate waffles for breakfast in the dining hall, wrote for her school newspaper, and sat under perfect fall trees to study her books. UCLA was even featured in Gilmore Girls as their set for Harvard University, so I guess you could say that me becoming a Bruin was a bit of an invisible string moment. However, being a fictional show, Gilmore Girls sometimes nails the college experience perfectly, and other times misses the mark. Here’s everything that Gilmore Girls gets right and wrong about college decisions and the college experience.

Right: college decisions are unpredictable

Rory and her half-best friend, half-academic rival, Paris have similar academic profiles, yet receive different admission decisions from Harvard; Rory is admitted, Paris is not. Paris has a full mental breakdown over her rejection — on live TV, no less — and wonders what she could have possibly done wrong. This unpredictability represents the experience of nearly every soon-to-be college student: you might think you’re the perfect candidate for a school, only to be told otherwise. However, a rejection isn’t the end of the world, as Paris later reveals she got accepted to several other great schools, like Yale and Columbia. On the flip side, Rory is totally shocked when she and Lorelai open their mailbox to a bunch of acceptance letters, showing how the unpredictability of college decisions goes both ways.

wrong: you should only apply to one college

Lorelai and Rory spend the show’s first three seasons obsessing over Rory’s dream school, Harvard. Lorelai is so set on the idea of Rory at Harvard that she thinks it should be the only school she applies to; however, Rory knows to play it safe and applies to more schools behind Lorelai’s back. When it comes to being prepared for college decisions, Rory knows best: to give yourself options and make room for potential rejection. Although Rory does end up getting admitted to Harvard, she commits to Yale — an even bigger dream school of hers, as it turns out — which she couldn’t have done if she listened to Lorelai.

right: you shouldn’t take more classes than you can handle

Rory earns a poor grade on an essay, which her professor says is the result of taking more classes than she can handle. She insists that taking five classes for her first semester is doable because that’s how many her grandfather, a Yale alum, took. Rory learns a valuable lesson here about finding your own limits and not comparing yourself to other students. It can be difficult not to hold yourself to high standards when in a high-achieving environment; however, Rory likely would’ve aced that essay if her time was divided between fewer classes. You perform your best when you do what’s right for you, not what’s right for other people.

Wrong: It’s easy to enroll in every class you want

During Rory’s first week at Yale, she says that she’s going to attend 50 different classes before deciding which ones to stick with for the semester. Maybe that’s how it goes at other schools, but UCLA students know all too well that signing up for the classes you want is a nightmare. It’s common to watch the seat numbers in a class slowly dwindle to 0 before your enrollment slot has even happened yet. Class “shopping week” as Rory calls it, is definitely something that would make Bruins want to transfer to the fictitious Yale of Gilmore Girls.

right: college might burn you out, and taking a break from it is okay

In the season five finale, Rory receives a poor review from her internship boss, which distresses her to the point of failing her final exams and taking a leave of absence from school. She spends season six unmotivated and detached from her goal of becoming a journalist — a wildly unpopular storyline among Gilmore Girls fans. Despite its unpopularity, this storyline holds a lot of truth: your continuous hard work may result in you feeling burnt out, especially when your hard work isn’t met with the results you wanted. Rory’s break from the pressure of school is exactly what she needs — and could be what you need — because she comes back stronger and more motivated than ever, and she even graduates on time with her peers.

Although college looks a little different in Gilmore Girls than it does in real life, this show continues to inspire so many young people to pursue higher education regardless. Besides, a romanticized portrayal of college on screen is sometimes just what we need to get us through a tough finals week — so, if you need me, I’ll be sitting under a perfect fall tree with a book and coffee, just like Rory.

Hanna is an English major at UCLA, from Los Angeles, California. She loves traveling, attending concerts, and writing about her favorite music.