Yale — the epitome of Ivy League prestige, draped in the allure of dark academia aesthetics, home to Handsome Dan, and, let’s not forget, the chosen college of our fictional favorite alum, Rory Gilmore.
Rory Gilmore grew up in a small, idyllic town, constantly surrounded by neighbors telling her she was special and bound for Harvard. She easily breezed through the classes at her local public high school and secured her spot at the incredibly prestigious private school Chilton. There, she received perfect grades (ultimately becoming valedictorian despite enrolling late as a sophomore) and balanced multiple extracurriculars, all while dating two guys who were head-over-heels in love with her and maintaining a tight-knit, practically best-friend-like relationship with her mom. She was accepted to all three colleges she applied to: her dream, Harvard, and her safeties, Yale and Princeton. Rory exemplified perfection in every aspect of her life — failure was foreign to her.
In Season 3, Episode 17, “A Tale of Poes and Fire,” Rory made a pros and cons list to weigh these three options and, to everyone’s surprise, chose Yale over her lifelong dream of Harvard. In some ways, her choice was understandable: going to Yale allowed her to maintain a special relationship with her grandfather Richard, and Yale’s location, only 22.8 miles away from Stars Hollow and 40 minutes away from her grandparents in Hartford, allowed her to visit home more often.
However, Rory’s close connection to her family and Stars Hollow was a double-edged sword. Rather than immersing herself in Yale’s community, making new friends, joining a variety of extracurriculars and truly living on her own, she constantly returned to Stars Hollow. By limiting her social circle and not embracing the traditional independent college student lifestyle, she deprived herself of all the ways Yale gives you a reality check.
Unlike Rory, we got that reality check. When we arrived at Yale in late August, we found ourselves surrounded by thousands of other intelligent, high-achieving Rory Gilmore duplicates. We no longer could rely on the validation of others to boost our egos. We were tens, hundreds, even thousands of miles away from home and suddenly completely and utterly ordinary.
But by truly immersing ourselves in the college experience, we grew up. After receiving countless rejections from miscellaneous consulting groups and Credit/D/Failing surprisingly difficult classes we realized that college, like life, is tough. But rather than dropping out after every failure, we pushed through and realized that perfectionism is an ideal, not a reality. Maybe we feel less perfect or special than we did in high school, but that’s okay. By accepting this, we develop immunity to criticism and failure.
At Harvard, Rory would have arrived at this same realization. The two-hour drive between Cambridge and Stars Hollow would serve as a barrier separating her college life from her previous high school experience. There, she would flourish as an independent person and build a new life without the pressures of the Yale Gilmore family legacy. In her first semester, she would not feel pressured to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and take the same heavy course load as he did. She would make friends other than her mother, Lane and Paris. She would form healthy relationships; at Harvard, she wouldn’t be able to wreck Dean’s marriage.
More importantly, Rory wouldn’t drop out after her boss at a local newspaper told her “She doesn’t have it.” At Harvard — without the crutch of her nearby home — Rory would have accumulated enough reality checks to know how to deal with rejection the way we all do: swallow that bitter pill and try harder next time. At Harvard, Rory would harness momentum to stay in school. She always wanted to go to Harvard; why would she throw it away after one bitter criticism?
Although I love claiming Rory Gilmore as Yale’s iconic fictional character, in the grand scheme of things, Rory probably would have thrived more at Harvard.
But hey, at least her downfall made for binge-worthy TV. So, for the sake of my own entertainment purposes, I’m grateful Rory opted for Yale.