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I Went to Private School & It Was Nothing Like “Gossip Girl”

When most people think of private school, one of the immediate images that come to mind is Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf in her iconic preppy school uniform topped off with a headband and colorful tights. Well, sadly, not all private schools are as glamorous as social media platforms like TikTok and Gossip Girl make it out to be.

Personally, my 12-year private school experience looked quite different. Instead of eating yogurt on the steps of the Met, attending annual cotillions and riding to school in limos, I ate in a regular cafeteria, went to prom and drove to school myself.

From kindergarten to senior year, I attended the same private school in my Tennessee hometown, and needless to say, it was nothing like Gossip Girl. Although I cannot speak for every single private school student, I will be talking from my personal experience, and I in no way speak for every single current or former private school student. Now, let’s go and debunk some private school stereotypes.

Fact or fiction: Only spoiled, pretentious rich kids attend private schools

Fiction! Even though this is a common stereotype associated with private school students, it is not 100% true. On TikTok, we see private schools with acres of land in luxurious buildings, and Gossip Girl showed us “Manhattan’s elite.” No, it was not uncommon to see people flaunting “daddy’s money,” driving nice cars, wearing designer clothing and detailing their latest vacations. However, it was not to the extent of the grandeur as Constance Billard or its TikTok romanticization.

On the other hand, there were other students whose parents used a significant amount of their salary to provide their child with the best education they believed was available. Furthermore, many of my classmates had part-time jobs on the side because they wanted to be independent and not rely solely on their parents’ incomes.

Fact or fiction: Private schools lack diversity

Sadly, this one is true, but compared to my school’s past, it has improved. In the early 2000s, when my older sister attended the same school, her 75-person graduating class only had six students who were not Caucasian. However, by the time I reached my high school years, my class was more diverse. In my senior class of approximately 69 people, 13 people were not white.

Arguably, I attended a private school in Tennessee, where only 26.5% of the population identifies as non-white. As a result, that impacted the lack of racial diversity at my school. However, in my hometown, approximately 52.4% of its residents are not Caucasian.

Fact or fiction: Private school kids are very preppy

If I were to speak about the school’s general population as a whole, I would wholeheartedly agree. However, like every school, private or not, each student is not identical. But,  I would be lying if I said my classmates were not very preppy.

It was common to see guys dressed in pastel or light-colored khaki shorts and Ralph Lauren polo shirts and playing golf on the weekends. However, I will say I was guilty of this as well because I played golf competitively throughout middle school and high school, so I owned a plethora of collared polos and colorful shorts.

Needless to say, before collared shirts under sweatshirts paired with tennis skirts and white sneakers was a trend, it was our daily uniform.

Fact or fiction: Private schools are very religious

From my experience, this is true. The private school I attended was non-denominational. However, the rest of the private schools in my hometown were heavily Christian. Again, this might also be because of my school’s location in the Bible Belt, and religion holds a significant role in southern culture. 

Even though we did not consider ourselves a religious private school, religion still played a significant role. In middle school, I had a science teacher who refused to teach us about evolution. Every day during our 50-minute class periods, she also dedicated about 30 minutes to prayer or devotional before lessons.

However, as of 2015, 26% of private schools are unaffiliated religious schools, and 33% are nonsectarian.

Fact or fiction: Private school kids think they’re better than public school kids

Although social media and Hollywood often portray private school students with stereotypical elitist mentalities, they are not 100% accurate. Like many Hollywood dramatizations, such as Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl dissing public schools, real life is not like a TV show. Fortunately, many of the students I went to school with did not possess this mentality of a private school superiority complex.

In retrospect, I look back at my experience at this school with fond memories I will forever cherish. Do I regret going to private school? Yes and no. Attending this school helped shape my personality and character, and I would not be who I am today if I did not go there.

Maddy Gastador is a first-year chemistry major and Spanish minor at the University of Florida. Whenever she's not writing, you can catch her binge-watching Netflix, baking cookies, painting, attempting to be a plant mom, or obsessing over BTS. You can get to know her more through Instagram @mxdeleine.c
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