“How I Got Into College,” looks pretty dated from this point, just look at the sky high eighties’ perms and clothes, but it still has some eternal truths about applying to college. One, it feels like a life or death issue at the time. Two, it makes you doubt everything you thought you knew about yourself, so keeping a sense of humor about the whole thing is useful. And three, there is no greater relief at that age than receiving an acceptance letter (or its updated form).
Though we see the application process from multiple viewpoints (from the brain to the jock), our hero is Marlon Browne (Corey Parker), a terminally average high school senior who, when the movie opens, is being confounded by “Mr. A” and “Mr. B,” not your typical teen movie bullies, but two characters on his SATs, who interfere with his attempts to choose an answer by merciless razzing. “You should have been in Jessica Kailo’s (Lara Flynn Boyle) SATs; you’d be drinking Gatorade by now,” Corey remarks as he tries to figure out the answer. Corey is foggy about his college plans, until he discovers his dream girl, Lara, is applying to the (fictional) Ramsey College and decides to apply there, too. Early on, he attends a college fair and when informed that Jesus wants him to attend a Christian school, responds, “He might not if he knew my SAT scores.” The offer evaporates on the spot, but Ramsey is willing to take a chance on out of the box applicants, so there’s hope yet.
We then meet Anthony Edwards who plays Kip, a Ramsey admissions officer, who is not entirely sure he wants the added pressure of becoming dean despite the encouragement of his girlfriend.. He isn’t even the least ambivalent of his colleagues about what kind of student body to assemble. Roughly half are more interested in playing juvenile pranks involving barnyard animals or are pompous jerks. Fortunately, Anthony will, over the course of the movie, develop some maturity and wind up going to bat for Corey, who is the epitome of the late bloomer.
The Jessica Kailo character (who in hot girl movie tradition, is referred to by both her first and last names), has her own problems. Her family wants her to attend the alma mater where all her older sisters have gone. Though her interest in studying frescoes is pretty original, and she even demonstrate creativity by wearing Reeboks with her interview outfit, she becomes frazzled during the interview and comes to see herself as “boring and ordinary.” Luckily Corey convinces her to apply anyway, and they even use SAT logic to figure out exactly fast to go in order to get there (it’s the day before the deadline) on time.
Besides Corey and Lara, we meet an array of other characters who are also applying to Ramsey, including the football player whose coach and mom won’t let him get a word in edgewise and inquire during their campus visit about stock options; the bright minority girl who describes her afterschool job as a “spud technician;” and the twin girls who are such mirror images that even the admissions board winds up confusing them.
The movie presents many scenarios you may conjure up while applying to college. We briefly see the room where the applications are stacked in piles labeled “Not a Clue” and so forth. We hear the admissions officer who reads a recommendation out loud and cracks, “Who wrote this crap? Lionel Richie? But, as mentioned, Anthony’s character decides to take a stand, so there’s a happy ending. And Marlon’s friend also realizes his dream of traveling the world with renegade game show hostesses (hey, why not) and the football player decides in the end to concentrate on philosophy. So all’s well, that ends well. (William Shakespeare)