In To All the Boys: Always and Forever, we finally reach the conclusion of Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky's (Noah Centineo) teenage love story. True to the popular Jenny Han novels that inspired the high school romance, everything ends well for our optimistic lovebirds, but days after watching the final film, I have just one lingering question: how the hell did Peter get into Stanford University?
The premise of the third film in the To All the Boys franchise is peak high school problems — Lara Jean and Peter's relationship is facing yet another obstacle in the form of divergent post-grad plans. Despite both of them planning to attending prestigious Stanford, only Peter gets in; Lara Jean gets curved by
her Peter's dream school, leading her to grow anxious about the trajectory of her love life. However, an unplanned visit to New York University's citywide campus gives our protagonist a new vision for her freshman year and for her future, which unfortunately throws her relationship into further chaos.
As a fan of the franchise and the chemistry between Lara Jean and Peter, I was wholly invested in how this story would end. But as a former college admissions expert and career student, I was truly thrown off by the improbability of Peter's admission to Stanford.
The university application process is a lot of work, and it usually starts years before you even send any application materials out into the world. My post-high school preparation began the second year of high school after visiting my sister at The University of Texas; I was entranced by the sprawling 40 acres and infectious school spirit of everyone on campus. (It would only take one term at the university for me to realise that I'm truly not the school spirit sort, and I really hated walking miles each day just to get to class.). In addition to poring over various SAT prep books for months on end, I joined every honour society I could get into to spice up my resume, switched around my schedule to make sure the rigour of my courses matched my strengths — AP English and Spanish, yes. Honours algebra and physics? Anyways! — and padded my weekends with other extracurricular activities. And by the time that application season rolled around in the autumn term of my senior year, I was ready; I'd only been preparing for the past two years of my life. I can't say the same for Peter, who is somehow Stanford bound without ever picking up a single SAT prep book in any of the three films.
Unless you're a legacy applicant or part of Operation Varsity Blues, you actually have to study to get in. Guess who hasn't studied once since we met him? Peter Kavinsky.
Stay with me here. Despite not being an Ivy League institution, Stanford currently has an admissions rate of 4.3%, a percentage that is even lower than that of most of the big eight (which includes Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Columbia, and Yale). According to the school's website, the majority of their admitted class has over a 4.0 GPA and scored within the top three percent of SAT test takers. Guess what that means? Unless you're a legacy applicant or part of Operation Varsity Blues, you actually have to study to get in. Guess who hasn't studied once since we met him? Peter Kavinsky.
Always and Forever attempts to address this mystery when Lara Jean finally admits that she was rejected from Stanford, and Peter rightfully tells her that she's "way smarter" than him. That isn't to say that Peter isn't book smart — he loves to read and knows a lot of random factoids — but, even he knows that he isn't necessarily the typical Stanford student on paper; Peter was granted admission to the private research institution because he earned a lacrosse scholarship. Except, in real life, Stanford doesn't give full rides to male students for lacrosse. Their men's lacrosse team leans more on the club side, while the women's varsity recruits (who earn scholarships and admission) have secured the school the #23 in spot in the NCAA rankings for the sport. So what's the truth??
Peter isn't the first Netflix youth to get into a prestigious school without trying. Remember how resident bad boyfriend Noah Flynn (Jacob Elordi) somehow got into Harvard of all places? It speaks to a trend of young adult writers and the films that adapt their works setting their leads on an Ivy League path without giving them Ivy League study habits. No studying in the library, no honours classes, no prep courses, no talk of the top ten percent, no parental pressure — just vibes. But exclusive private schools aren't the only perfect setting for a sweeping young adult romance. Public universities do exist and are just as ripe ground for an epic love story.
Now, if your leads must be Stanford or Harvard bound for some reason, I feel like at least giving us a library montage here and there wouldn't hurt. Just to make it a touch more realistic, that's all.