Does Hollywood Give Us The Wrong Idea About the College Experience?

By: Dolores Dell

Since I have a bachelor’s degree in communications with a concentration in filmmaking/screenwriting, movies are obviously a huge interest to me. I’ve always been intrigued with the way a film can make you feel—from happy to sad to so scared, you are afraid to fall asleep at night. What about movies that reflect the college experience? Is the way Hollywood portrays college real — or a combination of fabrication and exaggeration?

The central themes in college movies such as “Animal House” are drinking and partying (and of course a horse in the Dean’s office). Come to think of it, many college movies are based on the ideals that college is a place for partying, pledging fraternities or sororities, partaking in illegal drugs and sometimes going to class if the mood strikes. But although these movies are fun to watch, do they send the wrong signal to students preparing for college?

When I began my search for a college, it became apparent that it was going to be a long but rewarding process of finding the right school for me. I did not come from a long line of family members who attended a top rated school which welcomed me with open arms, as in the Amanda Bynes movie “Sydney White,” or the lovable misfit whose father is willing to pay millions to have me continuously transfer schools when I get kicked out of the ones I’m in like Mark-Paul Gosselaar in “Dead Man on Campus.”

I selected a college and then had to fill out my financial aid forms. Then I had to sit down with my family and discuss my options for paying for school, including college financial aid, loans and personal savings. I had to maintain a job through college to help ease the financial burden on my family. These are the not-so-fun sides hardly shown on film, especially the point when you graduate and have to start paying back your school loans with your entry-level position. Most of us do not obtain a stellar six-figure paycheck right out of college from someone our parents know like Barry Watson in, “Sorority Boys.”

When I finally arrived at college, I did have a blast that was not exaggerated in the movies. I had a lot of fun with my friends, but it wasn’t the town-crushing time that is usually shown. I did have to go to class—all the time, actually—and had to do tons of homework to keep my grade point average up.

And although there were feel good stories at my college we didn’t even have a football team so there were no Sean Astin “Rudy” moments there either!

I had a great time on my terms but it took a lot of planning. Planning that never makes the cut on a college film. It takes financial planning, course selection planning and time management planning because without them you won’t succeed and for most of you, you won’t get a chance to transfer schools and start all over again on someone else’s dime like Ryan Reynolds in “Van Wilder.” You know I had to throw one more in!

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