Why College Isn’t Like the Movies (and Why it Kind of Is)

Amandina Altomare is a recent graduate of the University of Miami with a BFA in musical theatre and a minor in marketing. She is now a professional actress living and working in New York City, not far from where she grew up in Franklin Lakes, NJ. She loves tap dancing, hiking, good conversation, and success. She hates people who stop suddenly on the street, passive agressive-ness, and sad puppies. Puppies should never be sad.

Tips for Keeping your Life in Line with your Vision

Recently, my friend from Canada confessed to me that one of the reasons he decided to attend a university in the United States was because “they made it look so good in the movies.” My response : “That’s a long way to travel (we went to school in Miami) for some Girls Gone Wild and warm beer.” Him, dead pan: “I’d be lying to you if I told you I came for the small class sizes and the professors.”

And so it’s true! So many seeking a college education are hardly seeking just an education; rather, they’re looking for an experience. And not just any college experience, they want THE college experience. The one they’ve seen in American Pie and too many countless other idealized American cult classics to count. But while Legally Blonde does show Elle with her nose to the books, it takes up about one minute maximum of the film and is delivered as a romanticized montage of her writing determinedly with a fluffy pink pen as pump-up music plays in the background.

So how do you manage to capture that coveted, movie-perfect, best-four-years-of-your- life-experience? You don’t. Nothing’s like the movies. Come on, they make death look cool. But you can secure your own idealized version of what you want your college experience to be. It just has to be your own. Not what Van Wilder a la National Lampoon tells you it is.

I was excited for college because I thought I would find a bunch of really intelligent people who were pumped about their classes and eager to hash things out like ‘is there such a thing as true selflessness?’ or even ‘ should weed be legalized in the United States?’. Instead, in my first few weeks, I found mostly people who were hell bent on giving themselves alcohol poisoning and then complaining about the two classes they had to go to the next day but didn’t because they were too hung over. So I spent some time moping, writing in my journal, feeling sorry for myself..cue lonely montage.

It took me a while to snap myself out of it but I finally realized that I was completely in control of my own college experience. I had to search for those people who liked to debate about, I don’t know, cheese; but I found them. I had to decide what I wanted my four years to be like and make it happen. I had to direct my own movie, not fit myself into a character mold in someone else’s.

So if what you want is some crazy partying, go for it. Better now than having your boss ask you in a few years why you show up every other day stinking of Jim Beam. And if some intellectual stimulation is what your after but you seem to be coming up short, don’t give up the search. That person sitting next to you in the dining hall is probably thinking the same thing. Give them a chance. Oh and it’s probably a good idea to mention that a combination of both of these things is highly recommended by your primary care physician. You know, balance.

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