Is Going to University in the US Like the Movies?

It’s easy to get caught up in movies about college, especially if you’re still in high school.

But how much of what you see on film is actually accurate?

Is Hollywood just playin’ you?

How are you supposed to know if you’ve never been to college, let alone to the US!

As far as you can tell, college is all about parties, epiphanies, love and heartbreak.


Who knows...

Luckily, your trusty US college grad is here to assess the accuracy of some of your favourite college films.

Spoiler alert: there’s a lot more to college than Hollywood talks about.

5. Legally Blonde (2001)


CULA sorority girl Elle Woods gets dumped by her east coast BF because he thinks she’s not old money enough (or smart enough). In an attempt to win him back, her sorority sisters help her study really hard (for a few weeks) for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and get into Harvard Law school.

Turns out, she’s smarter than her ex! Thanks to her love of fashion and her undergraduate degree in fashion merchandising, she ends up solving a murder case due to the accused's out-of-season shoes.

Take that, asshole!

Biggest Lie About College

Getting into Harvard Law is actually hard, regardless of what Elle says.

BS meter: 9/10

Let’s be honest, if you want to go to Harvard law just to seem smarter to impress your ex-boyfriend and somehow you nail the LSAT and actually get into Harvard Law, you're both:

a) much smarter than you think


b) a magician

Most people who go to Harvard Law plan on doing so for the majority of their life and study for the LSAT for at least a year before taking the exam.

Sorry Legally Blonde, your plot is a total farce.

What the Movie Gets Right

  1. Getting "cold called" in class is a very typical part of law school. You must read an unfathomable amount of material every night and come to class prepared to answer questions about the readings at a moment’s notice. Otherwise the class snob (cough, cough, Vivian Kensington) might throw you under the bus and get you kicked out.

  2. Themed college parties are real. P.S. if you show up in a bunny suit, you’re probably going to fit in just fine.

Where to go to College if You Want to be Like Elle Woods

College application timeline

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA): Los Angeles, California

Best Degree: Since UCLA doesn’t actually have a fashion merchandising major, your best bet is to major in marketing or communication

Acceptance Rate: 18%

Average SAT Score: 1370

Average ACT Score: 32

Undergraduate Population: 30,873

Percent of International Students: 11.8%

QS World University Rankings: #33

Harvard University Law School: Cambridge Massachusetts

Law school in the US is actually a graduate degree so in order to be like Elle, you’ll have to go to undergrad somewhere on the west coast like UCLA and then get into Harvard Law.

Best Degree: Law

Law Acceptance Rate: 15.6%

Average LSAT Score: 173 (Elle got a 179, which means her score is better than 99.98% of people who took the exam #goals)

Number of Students: 1,990

Percent of International Students: N/A

QS World University Rankings: #1

4. The Prince and Me (2004)


Ah, the classic love story. Boy meets girl. They fall in love. Stuff gets in the way. They make up and live happily ever after.

Except in this case, the boy, Eddie, is the prince of Denmark pretending to be a normal student at uni and the girl, Paige Morgan, is a commoner who dreams of going to medical school.

Sounds like there’s trouble in paradise!

Biggest Lie About College

Danish princes don’t usually go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

You’re more likely to find them at Oxbridge or an Ivy League.

No offense @UniversityofWisconsinMadision ;)

BS meter: 6/10

While the chances of you falling in love with an undercover prince as a pre-med student are low, it’s not a completely unrealistic scenario!

Every once in awhile a prince does marry a commoner he met in uni... Hello William and Kate (#truelove).

However, even if you don’t meet a prince, you may fall in love with an equally famous person at uni!

One of the biggest perks of going to a uni in the US is the calibre of people you’ll meet and the networks you’ll form.

You never know who you’ll be going to class with!

Who knows, even if you don’t end up dating the prince of Denmark, Joe Shmo may end of being the next Zac Efron or Bill Gates!

What the Movie Gets Right

  1. Pre-med students tend to be very serious about their studies and don’t have much of a social life.
  2. Meeting your date in between the library shelves is a real thing.

Where to go to College if You Want to be Like Paige Morgan

University of Wisconsin-Madison: Madison, Wisconsin

Although you’re less likely to meet your own Prince Edward at this uni, it’s the most accurate in the movie!

Best Degree: Pre-med (chemistry, biology, etc.).

Acceptance Rate: 52.6%

Average SAT Score: 1280

Average ACT Score: 29

Undergraduate Population: 29,536

Percent of International Students: 13.5%

QS World University Rankings: #55

Johns Hopkins University Medical School: Baltimore, Maryland

If you’re actually interested in becoming just like Paige, you have to go to medical school too!

Best Degree: Medicine

Acceptance Rate: 3.9%

Average SAT Score: 1280

Average Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) Score: 36

Number of Students: 1,200

Percent of International Students: N/A

QS World University Rankings: #4

3. Pitch Perfect (2012)


A somewhat anti-social freshman, Beca Mitchell, gets coerced into joining an a capella group on campus. Turns out, she’s a great singer and helps the group win a national championship!

Biggest Lie About College

If you’re in a club that requires you to do conditioning, such as a club sports team, horizontal running won’t cut it.


BS meter: 4/10

Although this movie isn’t based on a true story, its plot line is pretty spot on.

A big part of US college life are clubs (no, not night clubs, although those are prevalent too).

Not to mention that the people in most clubs are very into their group, especially the a cappella clubs.


What the Movie Gets Right

  1. Co-ed bathrooms and showers actually exist. Chances are, you’ll share a bathroom/shower with your floor during your first year of college, but I doubt anyone will hear you singing in the shower and try to recruit you to their club.

  2. Don’t expect to be best friends with your roommate. You may never even talk to each other and that’s okay!

  3. Club day is actually insane. You’ll be overwhelmed and people will be pushy but it’s a great chance to see what clubs are available and to get involved in things you are passionate about.

Where to go to College if You Want to be Like Beca Mitchell

University of Virginia (UVA): Charlottesville, Virginia

Best Degree: Music! If you really want to be like Beca, work at the college's radio station WXTJ and join the Virginia Sil'hooettes, one of the best college a cappella groups in the US.

Acceptance Rate: 27.4%

Average SAT Score: 1410

Average ACT Score: 33

Undergraduate Population: 15,891

Percent of International Students: N/A

QS World University Rankings: #173

2. Good Will Hunting (1997)


An MIT janitor from a rough neighborhood in Boston turns out to be insanely smart but very troubled.

Luckily, he gets by with a little help from his friends.

Biggest Lie About College

No flaws.

The only reason this movie isn’t number one on this list is because most of the characters aren’t college students.

BS meter: 2/10

While the movie’s portrayal of college is near perfect, the chances of a janitor secretly solving a ridiculously difficult maths equation and turning out to be a maths genius are pretty low.

Although, it could happen!

What the Movie Gets Right

  1. College students in Boston are wicked smaht!
  2. Commitment issues... ugh!
  3. Although Good Will Hunting’s portrayal of mental health problems isn’t directly linked to college students, it does highlight a big problem at US universities. Thankfully, there is an increasing amount of support available in colleges across the US so if you need help, please don’t be afraid to seek it out.

Where to Go to College if You Want to Be Like Will Hunting

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): Cambridge Massachusetts

Best Degree: Mathematics

Acceptance Rate: 7.2%

Average SAT Score: 1540

Average ACT Score: 34

Undergraduate Population: 4,524

Percent of International Students: 9.5%

QS World University Rankings: #1

1. The Social Network (2010)


Harvard freshman, Mark Zuckerberg, gets dumped by a Boston University (BU) girl, invents something crazy, gets sued and drops out, and ends up changing the world.

Biggest Lie About College

Boston University students do actually have to study, even if the movie version of Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t think so.

BS meter: 1/10

This movie is loosely based on a true story and even though the exact storyline isn’t all true, The Social Network’s portrayal of college life is pretty damn accurate.

What the Movie Gets Right

  1. Surprisingly, it’s not that rare to start a successful business from your dorm room in college!
  • The Onion (a satirical online newspaper) was started at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Snapchat and Google were started at Stanford
  • Dell was founded at the University of Texas-Austin
  • And, of course, Facebook was founded at Harvard

The list of young entrepreneurs at US colleges seems to never end!

2. It is actually easier to get into a party at the Phoenix club, one of Harvard’s elite social clubs, if you’re a pretty girl (even though the club won’t admit it).

Where to go to College if You Want to be Like Mark Zuckerberg

Forget getting a degree! Just teach yourself how to code.

Just kidding.

Harvard University: Cambridge Massachusetts

Best Degree: Computer Science

Acceptance Rate: 5.2%

Average SAT Score: 1540

Average ACT Score: 33

Undergraduate Population: 6,700

Percent of International Students: 11.2%

QS World University Rankings: #3

Final Thoughts

Although most college movies have at least a grain of truth to them, you have to remember that Hollywood's goal is to make money, so even if a movie is based on a true story, the writers and directors often make creative changes to make the movie more appealing.

I mean, who wants to watch a movie about a college student who has a hard time making friends, gains some weight because of the all-you-can-eat dining halls, studies often and occasionally goes to parties?

Sounds pretty boring, right?

Well, that’s the way most college students live!

When you’re sitting in your dorm room the first week of college wondering why you’ve yet to solve a murder case, fall in love with a prince (or princess), win a national a cappella championship, solve a ridiculously difficult maths problem or change the world, just remember, life is not like the movies!

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