Of course, if you’re spending hours and hours of screen time soaking up nothing but #RichKids of Beverly Hills or Jerry Springer, then you’re probably loosing brain cells instead of gaining them. But I’m a firm believer that if you watch wisely, then you can pick up a lot of useful lessons. No, your favorite primetime series definitely isn’t making any more sense of your Calc 2 homework or your Geology lab, but when have we ever really used the majority of the information from classes like those in the real world? The lessons you’ll get out of these shows are meant to help you survive the always crazy, rarely sensible, miniature version of the real world that is college.
The Bachelor/The Bachelorette/The Bachelor Pad: You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: college is all about the hookup culture. This series and its spinoffs put this lifestyle on full display. Episodes are delightfully dramatic and often hilarious. Watch and learn how to deal with aggressive suitors, even more aggressive competition, and how to (and how not to) conduct yourself throughout the playing field. As long as you now don’t expect your date to take you on a helicopter ride to a fancy rooftop dinner only to parachute off the building afterwards, then you ‘re bound to pick up a few tips on surviving the hookup culture and the drama that comes along with it from this guilty pleasure.
Most Valuable Lesson: Stand up for yourself. Most recent Bachelorette Andi shocked viewers when she abruptly left her season of The Bachelor. However, she left with upmost class and didn’t once waiver when Bachelor Juan Pablo defensively refuted her accusations of his awful behavior. She showed all of us that if you’re not being treated with respect, then any sort of relationship is not worth your time.
The Hills: Let us never forget the show that brought us the joy that is Speidi. The great thing about The Hills, although it’s a bit of a throwback, is that the characters were college-aged kids. Watching it today lets you see the show in a new light. Instead of getting caught up in the demise of the LC and Heidi’s friendship, you’ll be more amazed at their multitasking. The characters managed to juggle college courses and grown-up jobs while maintaining a killer social life. They show us how to go about entering in the real world, but—most importantly—how to have fun doing it.
Most Valuable Lesson: Head over heart. Lauren’s boss at Teen Vogue never let her live down the day she gave up an internship opportunity in Paris in order to live with her boyfriend on the beach for the summer—which, in case you couldn’t have guessed, ended horribly after only about a month. Don’t be the next “Girl Who Didn’t Go to Paris”: sometimes, it’s okay to be selfish and make the decision that’s best for your own life, even if you end up disappointing someone else in the process.
How I Met Your Mother: When it comes to different types of relationships, the MacLaren’s gang is a guide all. The HIMYM crew navigates the messy intersections between friendships, hookups, and relationships that happen all to often between circles of friends so that you don’t have to. Each episode adds another bit of insight on how to date your friends, how to be friends with your exes, how to win a fight and how to admit your mistakes.
Most Valuable Lesson: Wait for it... Good things do indeed come to those who wait. When something seems like the end of the world, take a step back from it all and remember to actually enjoy your life. If you’re meant to be with someone, then wait for it and don’t give up so easily. If you’re not meant to be with someone, then don’t be afraid to let him or her go and begin the process of waiting for the day when it no longer hurts. In the end, time really does always works things out.
House of Cards: College exposes you to a whole new world of people. Fortunately, some of these are the best people you will meet. Unfortunately, some of them are the worst. This Netflix series plays out the cutthroat environment of DC that we all know too well, and acts as a dramatized guide to navigating the sink-or-swim type of world that your time at school can turn into.
Most Valuable Lesson:Hunt or be hunted. But please, not in the push-someone-in-front-of-a-moving-train kind of way. Just remember that you’ve got to actually work for what you want, or someone else who actually does will snatch it right up. It’s easy to be overwhelmed in the feeling that everyone else knows how to college better than you do. Yeah, that guy who manages straight-As, an internship on the hill, holds a position in his fraternity, and is still a really pleasant person to be around is probably a bit superhuman, but he also works really hard to accomplish all that he does. You don’t have to conquer everything to be successful, but to conquer anything you must devote the deserved amount of effort. Don’t expect things to simply fall into your lap, because they won’t.
The News: Even if your definition of “news” is The Daily Show or SNL’s Weekend Update, find a way to stay in touch with current events (though I urge you to gravitate towards something a bit more serious). College is a miniature melting pot of thousands of different life experiences and perspectives. Apply this to GW, and you’ve now got thousands of strong political beliefs, religions, cultures, etc. Campus is a constant host to conversations about the world’s latest crises, so it’s best to be prepared to join it.
Most Valuable Lesson: Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. News outlets always claim they’re reporting nothing but the truth. Turns out there are many different version of the truth, then. Although it’s difficult not to develop an allegiance to a particular news outlet, if you are really set on being informed about a subject, then read up on it using a few different sources. There’s always more than one side to every story.
Sex and the City: I consider this show to be a general guide to life, but maybe that’s just because Carrie is living my dream (Upper East Side apartment & endless Manolos off of a weekly column about dating? Sign me up.) Regardless, I believe this show has something to offer everyone. It represents the girly girls and the tomboys, the boy crazy and the power hungry, the heartbroken and the crazy in love (and lust). And even though it’s probably the last show you’d catch a guy watching, each episode of SATC is basically a free guide into the minds of women. All in all, the series is a six-season long explanation of women to men, men to women, and women to other women. Most importantly, it’s a remarkably accurate explanation of life in general.
Most Valuable Lesson: Treat yoself. No one knows how to do this better than Carrie Bradshaw. She is totally comfortable with challenging “the rules” and doing whatever she pleases, because she knows she deserves a break every once in awhile. It’s important that we remember to give ourselves a little TLC, too, especially after a series of all-nighters or a long week at work. Work hard, play (or nap) harder, for sure. This recovery could materialize in the form of an entire box of Baked and Wired cupcakes, a day without leaving bed, or maybe a night without returning to bed until the sun’s peaking up. Just make time to do whatever you must to unwind and don’t let anyone judge you for it.
Now sit back, relax, and be assured in your choice to continue ignoring everyone who tells you that TV is bad for you.