With all the romantic college movie portrayals of bongs, beer, slutty sorority girls, and nerds avenging themselves against jocks, who wouldn’t want to go to college? But as any moviegoer knows, cinematic tales don’t always match up with reality. Take a look at some of the big college movie setups and learn whether or not you can expect them as part of your college experience.
Where the Boys Are
The setup: Four Midwestern college girls head to Fort Lauderdale for spring break in hope of finding boyfriends. Three girls stay chaste and come home with serious boyfriends/fiancées, while the fourth, Melanie, sleeps with one guy and is then raped by his roommate.
Reality check: This movie is about half realistic. Spring-break getaways—with all their drugs, alcohol and girls-gone-wild videographers—are rife with acquaintance rape. However, even in 1960 only the most naïve of coeds would travel to Cancun or Cabo San Lucas in order to find a husband.
The setup: Rudy is short, poor, and he doesn’t have very good grades. His dream is to play football for Notre Dame. Through hard work, persistence and a good attitude, he gets accepted into the school and makes it on to the football practice team. At the end of the final game of the season, fans and players convince the coach to put Rudy in the game, where he sacks the opposing team’s quarterback and is carried off the field by his teammates.
Reality check: Rudy is based on the true story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettinger, and most of the events did happen. However, the real Rudy attended Notre Dame in 1975. These days, between the money and prestige pumped into college football, the chances of seeing a Rudy get accepted by Notre Dame and then get on the football team likely are slim to none.
Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
The setup: After the school jocks burn down the freshman dorm, a group of nerds form their own fraternity. However, the Greeks are resistant to the nerds’ inclusion in their community, and the nerds must ultimately use their superior brainpower to win a series of contests allowing them to take over the Greek council.
Reality check: Remember the Duke lacrosse players? Our fascination with college sports is such that, one whiff of a scandal the size of the jocks burning down a dormitory, and Nancy Grace would have been all over it. Forget the rest of the movie; the initial setup is unbelievable.
Sorority Boys (2002)
The Setup: Three moderately well-muscled frat guys dress as women and join a sorority. There are reasons behind this decision, but they are completely stupid and unimportant.
Reality check: In a grand tradition going back to Shakespeare, straight men dressing as women results in wacky hijinks, emotional awakenings and girls falling in love with the guy they thought was a girl. The reality is that once word got out that a bunch of men had passed as women in order to live with them, these guys would have had outraged feminists, parents, school officials, even anti-gay activists (oh, you know they wouldn’t bother to check the facts) calling for their expulsion or worse.
Back to School (1986)
The setup: Rodney Dangerfield stars as a rich guy who goes back to college. He buys his way into the school by donating a business school and incurs the wrath of the dean, who, after catching Dangerfield cheating, forces him to sit through a grueling three-hour-long oral exam in order to avoid being expelled.
Reality check: Wealthy people buy degrees all the time, so that isn’t any stretch of the imagination. But given the underfunded, overworked state of American education, no dean is going to spend his or her time harassing a single student, especially when that student donated a building.
Dead Man on Campus (1998)
The setup: Two college students at a fictional university find themselves on the verge of being expelled. They find a loophole in the school charter that grants an automatic A to anyone whose roommate commits suicide. The boys then search for the most suicidal kid on campus to move in with them so they can push him over the edge.
Reality check: As far as Google searches can uncover, this kind of policy does not actually exist. Schools probably don’t want failing undergrads to encourage their roommates’ demise.
The Skulls (2000)
The setup: College freshman Luke goes to Yale where he is invited to join the secret society The Skulls. They do all sorts of secret, evil stuff, like killing Luke’s friend for snooping around and having Luke committed to a mental institution.
Reality check: The Skull and Bones society really exists (George W. Bush, John Kerry, and Simpsons’ semi-villain Mr. Burns are all members). Beyond that … I’m not allowed to talk about it.