Small dorms, nonexistent closets, communal bathrooms, annoying roommates — these grievances compose the reality of college housing.
Sure, it’s entertaining to see how the other — fictional — half lives, but these details give younger viewers false expectations of their new home away from home. While college has many perks and exciting experiences, dorm life isn’t always one of them. Following is a list of the best and worst depictions of college living, as told by TV.
Most Unrealistic Dorm Representation: “Gilmore Girls”
Eager Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) arrives at Yale to a freshman suite fit for a queen — or at least, a senior with priority housing. “Just as I pictured it,” her mother Lorelai (Lauren Graham) said upon entering, and suddenly, I remember that Lorelai didn’t even go to college. The suite is Bouquet Gardens 2.0. It includes a spacious living room with large bay windows, a fireplace, two massive bedrooms and a bathroom. Later, Rory’s grandmother Emily redecorates the suite with high-end furniture. Who needs the “college experience” when you can have couture?
Most Accurate Dorm Representation: “Undeclared”
Judd Apatow’s 2001 cult classic has all the conventions of a typical freshman dorm: the cramped rooms, the blah color scheme, twin XL beds — the works. In the pilot episode, incoming freshman Steve Karp (Jay Baruchel) walks down a long, cramped hallway, passing parents who just won’t leave, students who need to turn their music down and of course, the eager-to-please RA. He stops for a chat in the lounge, taking in the mismatched furniture and subtle stoners, before reaching his destination. In his room he meets his lady-killer roommate, and takes the bed “by the cork board.”
If your move-in day didn’t look like this, did you truly live in a dorm?
Most Unrealistic Sorority Representation: “Sydney White”
At the fictional Southern Atlantic University, Greek row is a stretch of beautiful mansions with perfectly manicured lawns that double as sorority and fraternity houses. Most esteemed of them all is Kappa Phi Nu, where all the sisters are rich, blonde and a size two. While the mansions themselves are picturesque representations of southern-style fraternity architecture, Kappa president Rachel Witchburn’s (Sara Paxton) room — along with her walk-in closet, complete with a motion sensor that sprays perfume every time she enters — is bigger and pinker than most off-campus apartments. It’s fitting that this movie is a spinoff of Snow White, because a fairytale is the only place a room like this would actually exist.
Most Accurate Fraternity Representation: “Animal House”
The disgusting Delta Tau Chi fraternity house perfectly sums up what it means to live with your “bros” in college. Empty beer bottles litter the floor. Pictures of girls in bikinis spatter the walls. Director John Landis even thought to include plates of old sandwich crusts left sitting on the coffee table. Basically, the place is falling apart, but that’s OK — the allure of getting the security deposit back is long gone.
Most Unrealistic Trade School Representation: “Return to Halloweentown”
I don’t care if you’re a witch, or if you’re the granddaughter of Halloweentown’s former queen, there’s no way your freshman dorm room comes fully decorated and includes a king-sized bed. Your best friend lives in a genie bottle, and I’d buy that before I accept that a dorm room would come move-in-ready. It has giant stained-glass windows, quirky knick-knacks adorning the desk, and wallpaper — really? I was excited when my freshman dorm room had just a few feet of storage space.
Most Accurate Trade School Representation: “Legally Blonde”
While it’s true that most dorms aren’t big enough to fit an elliptical machine — or progressive enough to allow pets — Elle Woods’ (Reese Witherspoon) dorm room is almost an exact replica of some of the dorms available at Harvard Law School. Its above-average size for a one bedroom is commonplace, and underneath all that pink, its modest, earthy color scheme practically screams, “I live on campus.”
Most Inaccurate Off-Campus Representation: “Gilmore Girls”
The finale wasn’t the only thing the show got wrong when creator Amy Sherman-Palladino left before season six. A repeat offender, Rory’s college living experience — this time out of the dorms, as an upperclassman — is unlike anything most of us have ever experienced. Her off-campus apartment with her boyfriend Logan (Matt Czuchry) is all ritz and no reality. The place is massive, including, but certainly not limited to, a plasma TV, a kitchen island, and a suit of armor named Henry. What’s next, producers — a mansion on Rory’s reporter salary?
Most Accurate Off-Campus Representation: “Gossip Girl”
Bear with me. They are the children of millionaires, so really, anything would be accurate, yet every single one who goes to college that lives off-campus, stays with his or her parents and commutes — albeit, in a limousine. The rich don’t have to save money, but like us regular school kids, they opt out of crazy rents and kick it with the ‘rents.