Unless you’ve been hiding under a social media rock for the last decade, you’ve probably heard about the much-beloved TV show “Gilmore Girls.” A 4-episode revival hit Netflix in November 2016.
We’re long-time superfans of this show. But as college admissions experts, the binge-watch we’re doing right now ahead of the November 25th premiere has us cringing at Lorelai — and her attitude surrounding Rory’s college search process. Don’t get us wrong: We love Lorelai! Coffee coffee coffee! But a lot of her choices during Rory’s final Chilton years and how she supports (or doesn’t support) Rory’s decision-making process is a parent’s college search nightmare.
Yes, we know it’s fiction, of course. But fiction does reflect real life, and some of these moments are good to consider.
How NOT to Be A ‘Gilmore Girl’ During the College Search Process
1. Be flexible when talking about college choices
“She’s going to Harvard!” is Lorelai’s set-in-stone rallying cry for the first three seasons of “Gilmore Girls.” Even when her father Richard forces Rory into checking out Yale (against her wishes), Lorelai doesn’t say “well, it’s worth a look, right?” because of her own issues with her parents.
Lorelai isn’t flexible at all with Rory’s search process, and importantly, doesn’t keep in mind that her daughter’s future isn’t about her or her missed opportunities.
Simply, don’t be short-sighted with your student. Their childhood dream (or yours) may not be their best fit at 18, or ever. Dreams change.
2. Keep in-the-know about your student’s application process
In “A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving,” during dinner at Emily and Richard’s house, a guest realizes that Rory is “going through this horrible period of applying to colleges.” Lorelai is shocked to learn that Rory hasn’t just applied to Harvard — she’s also submitted applications to Princeton, several “back-up” colleges, and the dastardly Gilmore-family-favorite Yale.
The drama of the moment is that the well-meaning guests, who are going through this process with their grandson, know that Rory can’t just apply to one place, yet Lorelai doesn’t, and Rory seems afraid to tell her the full list of her considered schools.
Don’t be the last to know about the schools your student is even pondering, and educate yourself about what is required and/or recommended by their school and counselor. Keep an open dialogue and offer help as your student needs. As far as we’re aware, Rory visited exactly two campuses: Harvard and Yale. We recommend visiting as many schools as you can, both similar to the dream schools and some outliers as well. You never know what’s going to feel like home and rank highly on the pro/con list (which Lorelai eventually helped out with in “A Tale of Poes and Fire,” once she got over the Yale shock).
3. Realize that sometimes the college career doesn’t go as planned
Towards the end of “Gilmore Girls,” Rory falls into some unfortunate situations and gets some bad advice, and loses her Type A student mojo. She decides to take time off from Yale… a decision Lorelai doesn’t support in the slightest, leading to a separation between them.
Was Rory’s decision a good one? Probably not. But it was her decision. Cutting herself off from Rory entirely during the time she needed her parent the most was perhaps the worst move Lorelai could make. Remember there are going to be bumps in your student’s college life. Do what you can to help them make what you feel is the best decision, but cutting your new adult son or daughter off won’t help anyone.
4. Not understanding how financial aid works
Rory finally graduates in Season 3, and prepares to head off to Yale. At the same time, Lorelai finds herself unable to buy the Dragonfly because she needs to use a recent windfall for Rory’s tuition bill, bemoaning the fact that Rory “didn’t get financial aid.” While we understand the need for more drama, and the continuation of the Friday Night Dinners for the series, that’s just not how this works.
We can’t help but think that Yale’s financial aid department cringed at being portrayed as cutting off a single mom and her valedictorian daughter from aid. Sure, Richard and Emily were more than willing to pay for school outright, but there was no need to jump right to loans, Rory. Let’s talk FAFSA, people! Prepare for the tuition bill in advance and get your own finances in order to report. You never know what’s out there!
What’s the good news though?
One Thing Lorelai Did Right
1. Continuing her own education
During running the Independence Inn and before she became owner of the Dragonfly, Lorelai did model something truly wonderful for her daughter: She got a degree at night school in business administration. Was it the education she wanted? Probably not, but she was working to advance herself and her career.
With all this in mind, if you’re going to be a Gilmore Girl, we beg you to stick to coffee addictions and witty banter and leave the college decision drama to the fun fictional residents of Stars Hollow. Oy with the poodles already, Lorelai!
Updated July 2019