Remember Gilmore Girls? You might not, though the frequent rerunning of the show on ABC Family should have tuned you in at least a few times. Gilmore Girls was focused around the women of the Gilmore family, particularly Rory Gilmore and her mother, Lorelai Gilmore. We followed the girls from Rory at 15 to Rory graduating from Yale. That’s right, Yale University.
But Rory, like any wise teenager, didn’t apply to only Harvard, but Yale and Princeton as well (Yale especially, due to her grandfather’s legacy). And guess what? She was accepted. But the question I am here to pose is, could Rory really have gotten into the Big Three? Let’s think about that. Rory was: (1.) A low-income student with a single mother (but not to worry, her well-off, sometimes estranged grandparents paid for private school and Yale), (2.) a white female (her “ancestors came over on the Mayflower!”) attending a private school–the valedictorian, receiving a 740 verbal and a 760 math on her PSAT scores (this was pre-pre-PSAT/SAT rewrite) at that, and (3.) intending on majoring in journalism and was apparently excellent at journalistic writing, per her high school paper experiences. As far as we know, she also did one day of community service with a Habitat for Humanity-esque group, and did one sport (as a requirement of her private school).
You see, television, while sometimes an excellent portrayal of the human-emotional existence, and sometimes the human-physical existence, too, still distills and obscures details of processes. This is to help speed the plot of a story along. So we aren’t always going to get the full details on how much work would actually have gone on behind the scenes.
So, to prevent you from maintaining doe-eyed concepts about college applications, let’s break it down:
1. A low-income student with a single mother.
According to the show: Wouldn’t have been a problem if it weren’t for the fact that her mother temporarily came into some money just as financial aid was magically reviewing her bank statements (or something, because FAFSA and CSS were not mentioned). Then, for the sake of drama, the rich grandparents took care of it.
According to real life: Well, I don’t know about you, but nearly all colleges require a FAFSA if you plan on receiving any financial aid, while the Ivy Leagues (and other schools) require the CSS Profile too. These must be submitted several months in advance (well, preferably) if you’re to receive a financial aid package. Having decided to ditch the CSS Profile at the last minute, I’ve only filled out the FAFSA, but the FAFSA requires several categories to get an idea of your financial status: Income and Expense Information and Asset Information.
The first would have told the schools about Lorelai’s income, as in, what she brought in from work and other endeavors (not that there were many). The second would have told them how much was in her bank account, and other accounts (if she had any). When she came into a magical $175,000 (yeah), Yale would not have known by acceptance time (as was proposed on the show). But, it doesn’t matter. Rich grandparents saved the day (again). Reality? Get your financial aid info in on time, and be prepared for what financial aid packages you get — bad, middling, or good!
2. A white female attending a private school and valedictorian receiving a 740 verbal and a 760 math on her PSAT scores.
According to the show: Neither her race nor her gender kicked into this situation, because Gilmore Girls lived in a post-racial, post-sexist society unless it was necessary for character plot, and, at worst, there was a classist issue. According to everyone, attending the private school, “Chilton,” would guarantee her a spot at her dream school, and being valedictorian didn’t hurt.
According to real life: Well, I’m not about to suggest that I know just how much race and gender influence the decisions of Ivy League schools. A fair point I could make is that there’s proof that affirmative action has helped white women the most over the years, but other than that, I’m out on the specificity of this case. The part about her attending a private school to help her get in is interesting though, because there’s debate that attending a private school will get you into the Ivies. Some suggest that since Ivies want a diverse pool, that they might set a cap or prefer some students from outside schools to those attending the preferred private schools. Assuming that Chilton fit the bill of “preferred,” Rory might have had a hard time getting in — if she weren’t valedictorian and had such great PSAT scores. Thus, a lot hinges on these last two…
3. Was on her high school paper, participated in a required sport (maybe golf), and did one day of community service.
According to the show: Rory was determined to be a journalist and thus pursued an extracurricular that matched her interests. Gold star! She supposedly participated in a school sport, but we’re not sure. In a fit of realization that she had no community service, she went to a session of something like Habitat for Humanity that lasted a day, and came home covered in sweat and dirt and the knowledge of what made the gazebo in her town structurally sound because she “built a house today.” While the argument could be made that living in her town is like community service/volunteerism, there’s no guarantee.
According to real life: Well, giving back never hurt anybody, and since Ivy League and all other schools alike would probably prefer to say that their student body is filled with caring, engaged in the community, build-a-better world types rather than the self-obsessed zombies they’ve been accused of having, Rory might have done well to have more community service under her belt. Hey, I’m not saying you have to have your volunteer work plotted out for every single holiday break (read: Paris at Christmas time and a soup kitchen), but a little free kindness goes a long way. That’s for both your soul and your college application.
So, there you have it folks. Rory Gilmore’s stats and her college experience should teach you this: do well to pursue what you’re interested in both inside and outside of school. Make the most of your high school experience, regardless of where you go. Lastly, take anything you see on television as an example of the college admissions process with a grain of salt.