TV & Movies

18 Years Later, Rory Gilmore Dropping Out Of Yale Still Doesn’t Make Sense

As Jess once put it: “WHY did you DROP out of YALE?”

For as laid-back as Gilmore Girls is, the show had some very dramatic season finales: from Rory and Dean’s affair in Season 4 (boo!) to Luke and Lorelai’s relationship-ending fight in Season 6. But perhaps the most shocking cliffhanger happened at the end of Season 5 when Rory decided to drop out of Yale.

The show started to hint at this big twist earlier in the season, when Rory interned at the Stamford Eagle Gazette, and got a crushing performance review from the paper’s owner (and her boyfriend’s father) Mitchum Huntzberger. “It’s a tough business, lots of stress,” he says. “And I have to tell you... you don’t got it.”

For the aspiring journalist, that’s a major blow. But instead of turning that criticism into something constructive, Rory starts making some very impulsive and out-of-character decisions — such as stealing a boat with Logan and, days later, informing her mom she’s not going back to Yale in the fall.

Lorelai is puzzled by the decision — and nearly two decades later, so am I.

Rory Loves School

As Rory explains to her mom, many students do take breaks from school. And sometimes, that’s exactly what they need. But Rory’s track record suggests it’s actually not what she needs in this situation.

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Think back to Season 3, for example, when her relationship with Jess was falling apart and she got through it by immersing herself in her studies and earning the coveted title of valedictorian.

Granted, she sometimes struggled when under pressure, such as in Season 4 when she was told to drop a class and called herself a “failure.” But by the end of Season 5, she seemed to be a more confident student and managing her academic responsibilities with ease.

There Were Other Options

Even if she thought Mitchum was right, why not pivot to a different discipline? Rory was studying English! (Yale doesn’t offer a journalism major, and she confirms she’s an English major in Season 7.) She wrote for the Yale Daily News, yes, but it’s not as if she was on an inflexible path for a specific vocation.

Throughout the series, Rory is always reading a good book — whether for class or fun. Why not consider creative writing? Editing? Teaching?! Rory’s passion for the material, plus her comfort with the structure of the classroom environment, would have made her an excellent educator. (I always wince when she brushes off Headmaster Charleston’s job offer in A Year in the Life.)

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Rory tells Lorelai that “all [she’s] been doing is working toward being a journalist,” but that’s objectively untrue. She was only halfway into her undergraduate career. Though she says she doesn’t want to “wander,” trying out new things is a big part of college.

She Never Had To Go *That* Far

The timing of Rory’s decision also didn’t make sense. She was just starting summer break and had the perfect opportunity to take some time and work through her disappointment without making any major decisions about the future.

Remember when she went to Europe after her affair with Dean the year before? Or fled to Washington, D.C., after she kissed Jess in Season 2? Both trips gave her some much-needed perspective — and a similar getaway would have worked here, too.

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With That Being Said...

To be fair, you don’t always make the best decisions at 20 years old. So, while Rory’s plan to leave Yale doesn’t make sense on paper, it’s easy to understand why she had the impulse.

And hey, the messy saga, which spanned 10 episodes, resulted in perhaps the show’s single greatest line delivery: an impassioned Jess asking Rory, “WHY did you DROP out of YALE?”

Fortunately, it was just what Rory needed to realize she’d strayed from her best self — and by the next episode, she was back in her journalist era, returning to Yale, and making up with her mom.