College Goes to the Movies

Yeah but Becky, I can't stay here. I aced my SATs which means that if I graduate, I can go to whatever college I want. Brittany S. Pierce, Glee

I'm applying to Oxford and the Sorbonne, but Harvard is my safety school. Max Fischer, Rushmore

I can't write and I can't spell.That's the privilege of 
a first-class education. Dickie, The Talented 
Mr. Ripley, (Dickie is a Princeton grad)

By the way, you know I ultimately do all these things for the good of mankind, right? Sometimes I don’t think I come off that way. Paris Geller, Gilmore Girls, (who desperately needs some volunteer work for her college application)


Applying to college has become a plot point, punch line and continuing part of the narrative in television series and movies. Recently, Diane Connolly, college counselor at St. Cecilia Academy in Nashville, sent out a call for films to feature at her summer College Boot Camp and she was kind enough to share the results with us. We've tacked on a few of our own, as well. So if you're looking for some entertainment for a class, a senior farewell, a slumber party or a Saturday night, here are some options for you. Enjoy!

How I Got Into College (1989) Top choice by a landslide was this golden oldie. Here's a nice synopsis: "I would suggest the very funny film "How I Got Into College" starring Anthony Edwards and Lara Flynn Boyle. The film deals with all the trials and tribulations of the admissions process from both the student side and the college side. One of the students has recurring nightmares about the SAT and the actors who play Answer A and Answer B are a riot as are the two people who run a college test prep class.  Finally the scene at the College Fair will send everybody over the top. It is a funny film with a bit of a message and some heart."

College Road Trip follows a father and daughter (Martin Lawrence and Raven-Symone) traveling across country in search of the perfect college via that venerable institution -- the college road trip. Hilarity ensues. Hopefully, more than you will experience on your own road trip. (There were quite a few recommendations for this, especially for an all-girls school).

Billy Crystal's Saturday Night Live skit where he plays an admissions representative for fictitious Winston University, a school with a very different approach to education, available here on YouTube. It's hysterical and might work especially well with seniors as a de-stressor midway through the process.

Gilmore Girls Lots of funny episodes when the characters are applying to college and in their freshman year at Yale. Rory's application process is hijacked by her grandfather and Paris shines as a college freshman with her big tally board to already track everything for her resume is an uptight hoot who learns to lighten up.

Orange County and Accepted are a little silly, but I think put the right comedic spin on the whole process. The kids all know it's not a real rendition of the college experience." (NOTE: These films should be pre-screened and may not be appropriate for your audience -- drugs (OC) and unrealistic (Accepted))

Rushmore A coming-of-age gem from director Wes Anderson that follows Max Fischer, the king of Rushmore pPrep, who is editor of the school newspaper and yearbook, president of the chess, astronomy, French, and German clubs, captain of the fencing team, and director of the school play. It's more about high school than college, but still not to be missed.

Rudy A classic about reaching for your dreams and one of the all-time great sports movies, the true story of Daniel Ruettiger, who would not let anything dissuade him from being admitted to Notre Dame and making the football team. Spoiler alert: he played the last 27 seconds of the last game of the season in 1975, against Georgia Tech, as thousands, including teammate Joe Montana, cheered him on.

The Perfect Score Six high school seniors decide to break into the Princeton Testing Center to steal the answers to their upcoming SAT tests and get perfect scores. Don't worry… Spoiler alert: Conscience prevails.

School Daze For a take on the historically black college experience, check out Spike Lee’s musical drama based in part on his experiences at Atlanta's Morehouse College, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University.

Animal House This comedy about a misfit group of frat brothers at fictional Faber College and their run-ins with the Dean, Vernon Wormer, is a classic. The screenplay was adapted from stories originally published in the National Lampoon, which were reportedly based on author Chris Miller's experiences at Dartmouth. We give this A for entertainment value, but a D for the lessons students might learn. So be forewarned if by some chance you have never seen this.

Pitch Perfect If you are REALLY looking to de-stress....  The only thing that even makes it remotely fit is that it is set on a college campus BUT it is totally fun and silly. And everyone who sees it will want to join their college Glee Club.

Some Kind of Wonderful for the brief scene where the father meets with the son's counselor. It's a wonderful object lesson and the rest of the film is a commentary on social relationships and social class in American society.  The film is both entertaining and thought-provoking. 


We'd love it if you'd share your own suggestions, as well, either in the comment box below or by emailing us at

See you at the movies…



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