Hyper-reality is terrible and it pervades almost every area of our lives. I’ll probably write about it in many forms but today I’m writing about the hyper-reality of college acceptance/enrollment in television and movies.
Did you ever notice that somehow almost everyone in television and movies gets into college either at the best possible place for their field of study or they are relegated to a made up school that is somehow on par with that top notch college. The latter is probably more common because that allows for a conglomerate of diverse interests among the cast to exist in the same place but the point is still the same: anyone worth a dime in television or movies goes to a ridiculously good school.
The reason I have a problem with this is because of the hyper-reality it creates. I seriously think people (including myself) grow up fully expecting that if they do alright in high school and have any interest in a particular subject they WILL get into the best university available. Add to that, if this doesn’t happen they must have done something terribly wrong and are therefore worthless.
Personally, I liked computers, and I did well in school. I also fully expected that solely due to those facts I would get accepted to MIT and anything less would be a travesty. I mean, come on… Zach Morris got crappy grades and just did good on his SAT to get into Yale. Of course I’ll get in wherever I want.
Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me until 9th or 10th grade that I would need to go WAY above and beyond that to really stand out enough to get accepted there and by then it was definitely too late to really change my trajectory.
I often wish I had a more realistic understanding during that time. I don’t consider it a problem to have high standards, goals, etc. and perhaps the fact that I thought I was doing what I needed to do to get into MIT was ultimately why I was able to end up and excel where I did (Virginia Tech)… a significantly less reputable but still pretty good engineering school.
In any case, would it have been so wrong to inform me as a kid that I was pretty smart and practical and I would make a good candidate for a decent engineering program… not the best, but pretty solid. How about for other folks less gifted than I was? Would it be the worst thing in the world to say, ‘Hey, you would be a great candidate for a trade school or community college. I think you might excel there and really be prepared for a job when you come out.’ Instead of ‘Work really hard and you’ll get whatever you desire’.
I remember seeing the devastation and absolute embarrassment from kids that had to ‘admit’ they were going to a community college or somewhere not very well respected. I’m not talking about the kids that didn’t do or want anything, but the kids that actually tried hard to do well. It was as though they were blindsided with a reality check that was too much to swallow. This just in, world: not everyone is the best… in fact, the vast majority of people aren’t the best and that is not a problem.
This point became particularly poignant to me as I discovered Christianity and an identity in the gospel. My value is not based in my performance or success… it is instead based in Christ redeeming me from my sin. Having experienced this, it now distresses me greatly to suppose my value were placed elsewhere (and it was for a long time).
Anyway, now for a list of examples from popular fiction. Knowing how hard it would be to actually get into the real colleges listed here makes it pretty funny. Please feel free to respond with some more good examples.
Saved By the Bell:
- Zach Morris - Yale
- A.C. Slater - Iowa for wrestling
- Lisa Turtle - FIT
- Jessie Spano - Columbia
- Kelly Kapowski - couldn’t afford college right away
- Screetch - Cal U (fake)
(somehow all the Saved By the Bell kids ended up Cal U though)
- Random migrant worker kid in The Shield got into Stanford
- Girl in Devil Wears Prada got into Stanford (but chose to be an intern)
- Gilmore Girl goes to Yale
- Most go to NYU, the others go to Columbia and Brown
- Nerd - Cypress Roads U (fake) and CalTech
- Sorority girl - Cypress Roads U (fake) and Yale
What a toss up! How can I possibly pick between a top 10 world university and CYPRESS ROADS!?
- Most go to Empire State University which is equivalent to Columbia and NYU. At least many of these characters are superheroes and remove some of the imperative that we all reach that level.
High School Musical:
- Ryan and Kelsi - Juilliard
- Taylor - Yale
- Gabriella - Stanford
- Troy - UC Berkeley