General Education

7 Movies That Teach Us About the College Application Process

7 Movies That Teach Us About the College Application Process
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Greig Roselli profile
Greig Roselli September 30, 2014

These seven films teach us that getting into college is more than just filling out the paperwork.

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Applying to college can be an incredibly stressful time, for parents and students alike.

It helps to know not only that you aren't alone in the feelings it brings up, but that there are lessons you can learn from the experience. Here's a look at some popular portrayals of the process that teach us what we can take away from applying to college.

1. "Monsters University" — Getting Hooked On The College Tour

Video courtesy of Pixar Animation

"Building Tomorrow's Scarers." Mike, the friendly, green, one-eyed monster, has always wanted to be a scarer.

Stop for a second. What? A monster has to get a college degree to scare? Isn't that an innate ability? Well, at Monsters University you learn all about the science of scaring.

After wading through a ton of brochures and videos and taking the campus tour, choosing your college of choice can be a daunting task. Visiting the school you want to spend a significant portion of your young adult life is an integral part of the search.

Maybe you'll be like Mike and get hooked on scare-ology.

What this movie teaches us about the application process: Make an appointment to tour the top choices on your college wish list. Or, if that's not possible, diligently research your schools before you apply.

2. "Rudy" — Getting In Despite The Odds

Video Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

"My whole life people have been telling me what I could and couldn't do. I've always listened to ‘em, believed in what they said. I don't want to do that anymore." Getting into the University of Notre Dame is Rudy Ruettiger's dream. After being told he is too small to play football, and lacking the grades he needs to get in, Rudy enrolls in the local Catholic community college to boost his grades.

A transfer study success story, Rudy works hard to get on the team. After sacking a player in the final play against Georgia Tech, Rudy becomes the only Fighting Irish to be carried off the field by his teammates.

What this movie teaches us about the application process: Didn't get the grades you needed to get into a competitive school? Apply to a nearby community college and work hard to get the grades you need to transfer.

3. "Superbad" — Getting In But Losing Your Best Friend

Video courtesy of MovieClips

"I love you, man!" Have you ever had a best friend that you knew you might have to say goodbye to once you went off to college? In Judd Apatow's teen comedy, Evan gets into Dartmouth, but realizes he will have to leave behind his best friend Seth, who is accepted into a different school.

Yes. Superbad is an irreverent senior-year-in-high-school movie, but amidst the adolescent humor is the anxiety many high school students feel when they realize that once high school is over, college looms large as a coming-of-age milestone yet to be crossed.

What this movie teaches us about the application process: Your friends may not apply to the same school as you. And filling out your college housing form may mean you have to move in with someone who's not your best friend.

4. "Real Women Have Curves" — Getting In as a First Generation College Student

Video courtesy of Olecia Christie

"Write about something you know." Struggling to write a personal statement portion of her college application, Ana's teacher Mr. Guzman urges her to tap into her personal experience to craft her essay. While giving practical advice to be genuine, the film chronicles Ana's struggle to find her own voice.

Ana gets accepted into Columbia University with a full scholarship. But as a first-generation Mexican American in East Los Angeles, Ana is expected to work in her family's textile factory. Conflicted by the obligation she feels she owes to her family, Ana uses the summer after her high school graduation to discover what she really wants to do.

What this movie teaches us about the application process: Many students struggle with the admission essay. It's meant to be a challenge. Do some soul searching and aim for authenticity.

5. "History Boys" — Getting In With Good Test Scores

Video courtesy of foxhomeent

"We won't be examined on that, will we sir?" To get into Oxford or Cambridge, eight bright but mischievous working class students work hard to study for the notorious exams that act as the gatekeepers to England's elite Ivy League.

The film is bawdy and irreverent, but it portrays the arduous amount of dedication it takes to study for college entrance examinations. Whether it's the ACT or the SAT or the infamous Oxbridge (a portmanteau of Oxford and Cambridge) examination, this movie will make you laugh and bolster your courage to study — and hope for eccentric teachers like Mrs. Lintott and Hector.

What this movie teaches us about the application process: Take a class to prepare for your college entrance examination. You'll learn how to ace the test as well as meet new people — both teachers and classmates. Check out Noodle's articles about test prep for additional help.

6. "Orange County" — On Not Getting In To Your First Choice

Video courtesy of MovieClips

"We regret to inform you that your application to Stanford University was not accepted." If the college application process redeems itself through you actually getting accepted into your first choice, Orange County is about the sting of rejection.

Shaun wants to be a writer. Shocked into finding a purpose for his life after his best friend Lonny is killed in a surfing accident, Shaun decides that Stanford is the best place to go to be a writer. When he discovers his guidance counselor sent the wrong transcripts, Shaun is determined to rectify the situation.

We won't spoil the ending, but the film asks us to think about the successes and failures in how we line up what we want to be with where we want to go to school.

What this movie teaches us about the application process: Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Apply to more than one school.

7. "The Spectacular Now" — Another Take On the Personal Statement

Video courtesy of Juliet Herondale

Editor's note: This clip contains some explicit language.

"My name is Sutter Keely …" Sutter is a troubled high school senior who cares more for partying than academics — he has his own demons to face that he tries to cover up with alcohol, and after a series of missteps, ends up confronting the blinking cursor on his computer screen.

Yes. The movie begins and ends with a personal statement. Sutter's girlfriend Aimee has decided to attend a college in Philadelphia. After she confides to her boyfriend Sutter her desire to go to college, he helps her confront her family and build up the strength to go through with her decision to apply. But in the end, he ends up changing himself in the process.

What this movie teaches us about the application process: College applications are really about figuring out what to do with your life.


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