The things TV shows get seriously wrong about student life
Which is just about everything
From The Young Ones, to Fresh Meat, to the mortifying Secret Life of Students, time and time again TV execs have tried and failed miserably at depicting real student life.
Some of TV’s student assumptions are true, such as the palpable awkwardness of first meeting the people you will now be living with (captured perfectly in that tea vs coffee conversation in the first episode of Fresh Meat), but others are far from the reality of university life.
Fed up with being told what uni is like by middle-aged script writers who indulge the stereotypes, I made a list of what they keep getting wrong.
Nobody is ever cold and everyone can afford heating
In pretty much every TV show or film about student life, no one is ever wearing layers in their houses.
A classic example is this scene in Fresh Meat, where JP is wearing a vest. That’s right, a vest.
Students are infamous for refusing to turn on the heating, meaning wearing any less than three jumpers and a blanket in your house is simply not an option.
Everyone has money to go out all the time, despite not having a shit job
None of the characters ever seem to have part time jobs, and yet they are all shown living decent social lives. Sadly, this does not match reality.
In this scene from Off the Hook, a hefty breakfast of OJ, muffins and croissants is just for two. If only…
When you get to uni and the initial excitement calms down, it doesn’t take long to realise everyone is tragically poor and either has a part time job (or three), or finds themselves sitting in their front room eating yoghurt (most likely with a fork) for the third night running.
Nobody ever freaks out about missing deadlines
Deadlines and exams always seem to pass without incident (OK, minus that episode of The Inbetweeners). Let’s be honest guys, everyone has had at least one work-related breakdown.
Everyone is dedicated and involved in uni societies
All the characters seem to be members of multiple societies, sports and chartable causes.
The reality? 90% of people miss the freshers fair because they were hungover, and the other 10% made it, signed up for everything, and ultimately only stuck with one – The Tab, obviously.
Everyone who goes to uni fits ‘A Type’
Most of the characters fall into stereotypes of extreme personalities: the ‘private school posh ’ one (JP), the ‘alternative’ one (Vod), the ‘nerdy’ one (Howard) and the ‘depressive’ one (Fred from Off the Hook – who hilariously writes a song entitled ‘What’s the Point’).
Perhaps in America, where unis go greek, these stereotypes are more common and noticeable.
Back in Britain though, you encounter so many Vods, JPs, Howards and Freds, that they no longer seem extreme, and no one really cares.
All students are lonely and awkward
All the characters are socially awkward and only ever hang out with the people they live with, like the introverts of The Young Ones.
The very idea that you could go to uni and only meet the few people you physically live in the same house or flat as, whilst living in a place with thousands of other students on your course, in societies and generally out and about, is ludicrous.
Nobody ever has to live on basic value ranges
These TV shows and films show their characters constantly out partying, and always drinking the big brands, rather than the cheap ‘is this even legal?’ rubbish we have all had to drink.
Every uni town or city has that bar where the vodka is subject to rumours it contains methanol, or has caused someone to go blind.
The amount of studying and number of hours you spend in the library is directly proportional to how well you do in your assessments
James McAvoy’s character in Starter for 10 is able to get onto his university challenge team by simply studying hard.
But anyone who has been to uni knows that no matter how much time you spend revising, you can still find yourself flummoxed in an exam when your lecturer decides to throw an insane curve ball at you.
As for cramming, that unfortunately never guarantees you a miraculous first.
Peer pressure is something that died out at school
For the student characters on TV, peer pressure is simply not a thing. Beyond your first few weeks at uni where everyone indulges in the madness of freshers, you come to realise that actually, people do not care if you choose to do your own thing instead of following the crowd.
An honourable mention must go to Fresh Meat here however, who managed to depict Howard’s immunity to peer pressure when he hosts a computer hacking party whilst a normal party ‘for his birthday’ rages next door.
Sorry to burst the bubble, but the time will come when someone yells ‘DOWN IT FRESHER!’ and will you find yourself comfortably thinking ‘Nah, I’m alright thanks.’