The other day, I realized that college is, for real, right around the corner. In just a few short weeks, I will be moving into my dorm, playing awkward orientation icebreakers, and huddling in the dining hall with other nervous freshman. And truth be told, I started to get a little freaked out. I turned to the place I often go to in times of trouble: Netflix. More specifically, I decided to take a look at how some of my favorite TV characters dealt with their transitions from high school to college. The results were… let’s say… mixed. Well, without further ado, let’s dive in and see what we can learn from our most beloved fictional teens!

Gossip Girl

Season 3 Episode 2 – “The Freshman”

After an unanticipated rejection from Yale University, everyone’s favorite New York socialite Blair Waldorf must condescend to enroll at New York University. This is a tough adjustment for Blair seeing as NYU is full of, like, middle-class people. Gross. Her hot boyfriend Chuck thinks she should live off-campus away from the under-humans, but Blair insists that she knows how to climb to the top of any social ladder. After all, she was the most popular girl in high school. 

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But much do Blair’s dismay, the lavish gifts for her floormates and catered sushi dinner parties do little to win the plebes over. It seems they’d rather just hang out and watch movies and stuff. Blair receives the harsh wake-up call that her money and elite social standing won’t win people over like in high school, and that *gasp*, nobody at college likes her headbands!

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What I learned: I should definitely bring my maid to college. I was a little shaky on the whole maid thing, but after seeing how much she came in hand to Blair, I feel confident that having a friendly woman to do my bidding will prove useful in my college career.


Season 4 Episode 1 – “The New Rachel”

We join Rachel Berry a few weeks after she’s moved into her dorm at the fictitious New York Academy for the Dramatic Arts (which I guess is basically supposed to be Juilliard). She’s having a hard time: her friends are back in Ohio, she hasn’t seen her boyfriend Finn for two months, and her roommate seems to be having sex literally 100% of the time. 


Luckily, thanks to the wonders of coed bathrooms, Rachel meets an absurdly attractive boy just as he is stepping out of the shower (hot boys seem to be a theme in this type of show). He shows her the ropes of the school and even helps her deal with her mean, mean dance teacher, who is maybe an alcoholic? I don’t know, they sort of glossed over that.

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Still, Rachel feels lost and alone at her big new school. She’s about to break down when she discovers that her best friend Kurt has flown to New York to join her. And then they sing a song about it. I guess this goes to show that even at a big scary new college, there is no problem that cannot be fixed with friendship and singing. And hot boys. 

Gilmore Girls

Season 4 Episode 2 – “The Lorelais’ First Day at Yale”

The eponymous Gilmore’s roll up to Yale for Rory’s move-in day (sorry, Blair, but I think valedictorian Rory deserved that spot just a little bit more than you). The mother-daughter duo start to unpack in her room.

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Holy spacious! She’s also got a huge living area that she shares with only a few suitemates. I somehow doubt that my living arrangements will be this roomy. 

After getting settled in, Rory and her mother part ways. But Lorelai only makes it a couple miles before she gets a frantic page from Yale (yep, a page. Shoutout to 2004). She rushes back and finds Rory freaking out, afraid that she’s not going to be able to make it without her mom. Lorelai calms her down and assures her that she can to it, but also lets her know that she’ll always be there for her. She winds up staying the night with Rory and throwing a bombass kickback in the dorm. When she leaves the next day, Rory feels ready to take on this new challenge. I’d forgotten how heartwarming this show is. It’s so adorable it makes me want to puke.

Degrassi: The Next Generation

Season 8 Episode 1 – “Uptown Girl”

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Emma Nelson is excited to be going to college with her best friends Manny and Liberty, until she learns that there’s been a mix-up and she’s living on a different floor than they are. Her friends adjust pretty easily, meeting new people throughout freshman week. Emma, however, is having none of this, and makes housing put her in a four-person suite with her two high school BFFs. But, wait, who’s the fourth roommate, then?

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You guessed it, it’s a hot boy! He says his name is Kelly and that’s why he’s in the girls’ dorm. I don’t know how we’re supposed to believe that the administration was unaware of the gender of this student, but whatever. Boys!!! Manny and Liberty are unhappy about Emma doing this behind their backs, and drama ensues. Emma has to figure out on her own how to leave her high school bubble behind and make new friends. She decides to go to some orientation events and actually has a lot of fun, while making up with her old friends, too. 

I appreciated that this show actually depicted some of the silly orientation events like a water gun fights, even showing our protagonists wearing dorky t-shirts brandishing the word “frosh”.

Now, none of these shows exactly have a repute as being the most realistic depictions of teenhood, Still, they seem to have a few themes in common that I think we can all relate to. They all depict their usually confident heroines losing their cool once they get to college. Though they were all big fish in their respective small ponds, they now have to contend with unforeseen circumstances, whole new social scenes, and drama galore. But while these ladies are forced to confront new challenges, they also find solace in old friends and family. Watching TV certainly didn’t ease all of my nerves, but it’s at least cool to see the characters I grew up with dealing with the same problems as me. And, of course, I have all those boys to look forward to. 

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the author

Celeste Barnaby is a senior at a tiny private school in Reno, Nevada, also known as the Neon Babylon. She has committed to attend Wesleyan University and plans to major in film studies (but she's keeping an open mind). When she’s not stressing out over her schoolwork or procrastinating said work, she enjoys horseback riding, writing macabre short stories, and shopping for flannels. You can observe her attempts at humor and various television-related obsessions on her Tumblr.

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