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Fictional Characters That Would Never Actually Get Into the Colleges They Did

Television shows and movies make it seem so easy to get into Ivy League schools. However, after going through the college admissions process myself, I realized a lot of fictional characters would never actually have a shot at getting into some of these colleges. It seems that whenever a series or movie comes to an end, the default ending is having the characters go to a super prestigious university, usually the Big Three/ Holy Trinity (think Harvard, Yale, and Princeton). Growing up, it didn’t seem too hard to get an acceptance letter, but that is very far from the truth. A lot of these schools have below a 10% acceptance rate, yet a lot of characters seemed to get in with ease. On top of that, they would only apply to one university. For reference, I applied to 16 my senior year, and while that is a little excessive, the average number of applications is around 10. The characters were applying to one (1), and these were schools that are super hard to get into. Prestigious schools are such an aesthetic in the media world, but it is not that way in real life.

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Here are 10 characters who wouldn’t have gotten into the colleges they did if it were realistic!

Troy Bolton from High School Musical— Julliard

Did like one school play?? No training?? Not even that good?? Should’ve stuck to basketball smh. Seriously though, I understand him being scouted for the University of Albuquerque and Berkeley for basketball since he’s been playing his whole life. He’s also captain, has led his team to multiple championships, and his dad is his coach with many connections. He would’ve been looking for an athletic scholarship from them too, and while that isn’t easy to get, it seems plausible. However, Juilliard (aka one of the most prestigious schools in the country period) was actively looking at him for a scholarship for his singing and dancing skills. It is incredibly hard to get accepted into Julliard (8% acceptance rate!), let alone get a scholarship. This man has only been doing this for less than two years; there is no way he’d get into Juilliard. He also didn’t even apply himself! Sharpay and Ryan, who’ve given their life to the performing arts, would eat him alive. After all this, he declined their offer and instead went to Berkeley to be close to Gabriella at Stanford. Life comes easy to Troy Bolton, but we’re not all him. HSM does not at all accurately represent high school nor the college admissions process. 

Rory from Gilmore Girls— Yale/ Harvard

Rory not only gets into Yale but also Harvard and Princeton. There is literally nothing special about her. Sure she has good grades, but that’s not nearly enough. She had one extracurricular activity (school newspaper) and an obsession with Harvard. Anyone can buy Harvard merch and decorate their room with school spirit. This doesn’t mean they should get in. Homegirl really said I’m going to manifest this acceptance letter. Additionally, her best friend Paris is literally a competitive prodigy and gets rejected by Harvard. There is no way the admissions team would accept Rory over Paris. The only reason Rory got accepted into Yale anyway was that she is a legacy.

Miley Stewart from Hannah Montana— Stanford

Stanford was the only college she applied to and initially got rejected from. First off, bold of her to not have any backups. Apparently, the reason she didn’t get in was that even though she had the grades, she didn’t have enough extracurriculars. I don’t know how she possibly had the grades since she had to be Hannah Montana so much of the time. She later gets into the school after she reveals her alternative identity, and I understand the reasoning behind this a little more. She truly made an impact that most students her age wouldn’t have, so I can kinda see her getting accepted. However, Miley’s and her best friend Lily’s high school bullies, Amber and Ashley, get in too. These girls are portrayed as one-dimensional airheads with poor critical thinking skills. They perfectly fit the television stereotype of dimwitted popular girls. Miley might’ve actually made it into Stanford, but Amber and Ashley definitely would not have. Lily also gets in because of her extracurriculars (that we never see; she’s always with Miley/Hannah—when did she possibly have the time to do all this extra stuff?). This makes four girls from the same high school admitted into Stanford which has a 4.4% acceptance rate. Only Miley has a real shot of getting in; the rest of them would be lucky to get on the waitlist or even a rejection letter.

Cody Martin & Bailey Pickett from The Suite Life on Deck— Yale
Yale University
Ariel Liu

This one is more of a complaint. Cody actually didn’t get into Yale in spite of his 5.0 GPA, four novels, cookbook, and an opera. The Suite Life takes place in the same universe as Hannah Montana. You’re telling me the writers thought airheaded Amber and Ashley— who probably don’t even know how to tie their shoes— made it into Yale but Mr. Cody the Overachiever didn’t? Side note, even though he is an overachiever, he only applied to one school. That just doesn’t make sense to me. What happened to his character integrity? Additionally, his girlfriend Bailey committed to Yale. While she is a straight-A perfectionist and probably would’ve maybe realistically made it in, Cody was that and more.

Blair Waldorf  from Gossip Girl— NYU

Blair literally got expelled for academic dishonesty in high school. This would make it very hard for her to get into any sort of university, let alone NYU. She had her heart set on Yale, yet she “settled for” NYU after Yale rescinded their offer (she blackmailed them to get in in the first place). NYU has a 32% acceptance rate, and given her track record, she’s lucky to have gotten in anywhere. A school with that low of an acceptance rate isn’t exactly a safe school either. Later on, she transfers to Columbia University despite not even applying herself. Chuck apparently applied for her since he felt like she was too proud to admit NYU wasn’t good enough for her. It always blows my mind when people apply to colleges on someone else’s behalf. I don’t even think that’s legal.

Gonna be honest, even though the characters have some of the most intense college admissions plot lines in television, no one from this show would actually be accepted into the colleges they did (except maybe Dan). Blair and Dan were the only relatively smart ones, so Dan might’ve actually had a real shot at NYU (he was also accepted to Yale). Serena would not have gotten into Brown or Columbia; she only gets in for her socialite status. Nate committed to Columbia, but he could not have done that on merit alone. He had the lowest GPA and only got in because he had money and connections. He even told the admissions office he didn’t want to go and wanted to give it to Dan instead. Bold of him. This show clearly displays how easy it is for people to get into prestigious institutions if they have money.

Brittany Pierce from Glee— MIT
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Original photo by Ariel Liu

Even though she had a perfect SAT score, her GPA was literally a 0.0. How do you even get a GPA that low? She was set to repeat her senior year but left for an early admission offer from MIT. Yes, you read that right. This sentence doesn’t even remotely make sense. She fits that “dumb blonde cheerleader” stereotype to a T and wasn’t even set to graduate high school, yet she got into the same school Tony Stark went to? No way. She may have discovered a mathematical theorem, but her 0.0 GPA should’ve held her back. College admissions teams are also more likely to look at four years of hard work (aka your GPA) instead of a test score that made up maybe 3 hours of your life. Maybe she’s not always a “dumb blonde”, but sparks of geniusness aren’t enough to secure a spot in a prestigious STEM school.

Aaron Samuels from Mean Girls— Northwestern

Cady is really good at math, and she is a junior in a senior-level math class with Aaron (who is actually a senior). Aaron can’t even do math. Additionally, the math class they’re both in is probably not the hardest at the school. As a junior and a transfer student, it is very unlikely that Cady would already be placed in the hardest class in the whole school. As someone who plans to attend Northwestern, Aaron would have to be in said hardest class, and he’s not. Even though he may be in a standard/relatively elevated math class, Northwestern doesn’t accept anything less than that (they have an 8.5% acceptance rate!), and he’s not even doing a good job there. Other than being on the swim and soccer team, there’s nothing really special about Aaron Samuels from a college admissions team POV. He just simply doesn’t stand out.

Sam Montgomery/Austin from A Cinderella Story— Princeton

In the movie, there was nothing to imply her ability to get accepted into Princeton. She and Austin share a desire to attend Princeton, which they both achieve. However, I don’t understand how Austin got in; he had the deduction skills of a carrot. He couldn’t even figure out that Sam was Cinderella. Her masquerade mask only covered the top part of her face. There aren’t maybe blonde people at their school either. I have no idea how he didn’t connect the dots that Sam was Cinderella. Rip to him, but I’m different.

Andy Bernard from The Office— Cornell

In a deleted scene, Andy supposedly “sang” his way into the school after he was waitlisted (and later joins the “Here Comes Treble” acapella group). It is also mentioned that his father donated a building to the school, which is probably how he got onto the waitlist in the first place. Andy is one of the ditzier characters on the show, yet he’s the only one with an Ivy League background. Based solely on merit, Andy would not have gotten into Cornell. However, he has family history with the school and is a legacy. Regardless of his intelligence (or lack thereof), he might have made it in depending on if officials were in the mood to be bought.

Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs— UVA
University of Virginia Rotunda
Original photo by Ariel Liu

Of course, I had to include my own school. Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling is an alumnus of UVA and actually graduated magna cum laude. She double majored in criminology and psychology. In this case, it doesn’t matter if she’d actually get in or not. I just wanted to point out UVA doesn’t even offer a criminology major.  This (and the fact that I wanted to show off my photography skills) is the only reason I’ve included her in this list.

Lara Jean & Peter Kravinsky from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before— Stanford and NYU

Last but not least is our favorite 2018 movie couple, Lara Jean and Peter Kravinsky. For the third installment of the hit movie trilogy, LJ and Peter face college admission decisions. Peter is accepted into Stanford University for the lacrosse team, but I don’t think he was even that good. For academics, they definitely would’ve selected LJ over Peter, but even then, both wouldn’t have had a shot. She got rejected from Stanford which isn’t surprising since they have the lowest acceptance rate in the entire nation at 4%! That’s even lower than Harvard! She literally didn’t do anything except bake, write love letters, and have accidental s*x scandals. Also, if you look closely at her rejection letter, she applied to their graduate program as a senior in high school, so that’s on her for fudging that up so badly (see 18:42 in the movie). What an idiot. Her and Peter’s plan was for her to get into Stanford as a transfer, but that acceptance rate is even lower at 1%! Either way, she’s not getting in. But her other choices were so unrealistic— who has NYU and UC Berkeley as their safety schools?? Both have an acceptance rate of 16%, and homegirl didn’t even do anything that stood out! The movie producers did Jenny Han (the writer of the books) dirty by changing the school the series was supposed to center around from UVA (and other Virginia schools) to Stanford and all these other super competitive schools. The whole movie plot would’ve been a tad more realistic if they just stuck with UVA. @ movie producers: there are more schools that exist outside of NYU and Yale. Anyway, go Hoos!

Getting into college is a lot harder than fictional characters make it seem. If you ever feel bad, just remind yourself that you’re a whole lot smarter than these characters, and you will do great. Good luck to all my seniors who had to go through college applications szn during a pandemic!

Ariel is a second-year kinesiology and computer science double major. In her free time, she enjoys playing volleyball, creating Spotify playlists, and scrolling aimlessly thru TikTok. Keep up with her on Instagram @arielliuu!
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