Fake Characters, Real Colleges: The Ultimate List of Fictional College Alumni!

Student, The High School of Performing and Visual Arts

Sep   2016



Image via The Odyssey

You know the colleges. You know the alumni. But do you know...the fictional alumni?!

This is a list of fictitious but ambitious characters and their alma maters. And although it’s not every fictional alumni ever—it’s a lot. Take a look for yourself! (And there’s fun college/pop culture trivia scattered throughout! Yay, trivia!)

Related: Find your (real) college match here

Boston College

  • Dr. Tobias Funke, Arrested Development. Dr. Funke, played by David Cross, graduated from Boston College with honors and was a postgraduate at MIT with an emphasis in psycho-linguistics.
  • Harvey Kinkle, Sabrina The Teenage Witch. Sabrina’s love interest, Harvey, played hockey for Boston College.
  • Jack Ryan, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (and a bunch of other movies). Portrayed by the likes of Harrison Ford and Chris Pine, CIA agent, book/movie hero Jack Ryan attended Boston College.

Brown University

  • Julianne Potter, My Best Friend’s Wedding. Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney play couple-quickly-turned-besties in My Best Friend’s Wedding. And where did this dynamic duo first meet? Brown University! Bonus: Dermot Mulroney’s characters cannot get enough of Brown! His character in The Wedding Date studied Comparative Literature there.
  • Dr. Eliot Reid, Scrubs. Sarah Chalke’s character attended Brown, but not before she was valedictorian of her high school class, she’ll have you know. While at Brown, she was an Omega Beta Gamma (not a real sorority, so you can’t rush OBG, unfortunately) and also played tambourine in a Christian rock band.
  • Summer Roberts, The O.C. Summer, portrayed by Rachel Bilson, attended Brown University, despite her boyfriend not getting in.
  • Brian Griffin, Family Guy. Genius MENSA member/dog Brian Griffin attended Brown University but ultimately dropped out. It would have been really cool to have a dog graduate, though. Opportunity missed, Brown.

Bryn Mawr College

  • Betty Draper, Mad Men. Betty, played by January Jones, attended Bryn Mawr, graduating with an Anthropology degree. Years later, she pursued a master’s in Psychology at Fairfield University. Fun fact: in season one, Betty talks to a psychiatrist and briefly mentions her sorority days at Bryn Mawr…which is kind of hard to do, considering Bryn Mawr has never had any sororities. Like, ever.

California Institute of Technology

  • Alex Dunphy, Modern Family. Alex Dunphy was always an intelligent, hardworking, and college-seeking high schooler. She even played the cello, because she thought it would give her an edge in applying to schools. And all that work pays off, because she ends up attending Caltech!

Columbia University

  • Marshall Erickson, How I Met Your Mother. Even though Marshall met Lily and Ted at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Marshall attended Columbia Law School. The Mother (yes, The Mother of How I Met Your Mother) also studied Economics at Columbia, and she first saw Ted when he accidentally gave an architecture lecture to her Econ 305 class.
  • Nate Archibald, Gossip Girl. Even though his father wanted him to go to Dartmouth—and even though it’s hard to imagine states other than New York existing in the Gossip Girl world—Nate ends up going to a different Ivy League school, Columbia. Looks like you can’t get a degree in being a socialite. XOXO, Gossip Girl
  • Will Truman and Grace Adler, Will and Grace. When Will and Grace first met at Columbia, they dated. But then Will came out and they became best friends instead. Will went on to be a lawyer, and Grace went on to be an interior designer.

Cornell University

  • Andy Bernard, The Office. Andy went to Cornell—ever heard of it? Well, if you haven't, you definitely will in the next episode you see of The Office. He bleeds Big Red! Oh, and did he mention he sang for Cornell’s a capella group, Here Comes Treble?!
  • Natalie Keener, Up In The Air. Anna Kendrick plays mega-ambitious Natalie who has a Cornell degree to prove it.
  • Thomas Bailey, Made of Honor. Patrick Dempsey and Michelle Monaghan play best friends-but-maybe-something-more. Of course, they met at Cornell. You have to wait and see if Patrick Dempsey’s character can put his Cornell education to good use and win Michelle over before her wedding to another man!
  • Mitchell Pritchett, Modern Family. Smart and meticulous Mitchell Pritchett attended Cornell as an undergrad and Columbia for law school.

Dartmouth College

  • Pete Campbell, Mad Men. Pete Campbell hails from “old money” and attended Deerfield Academy. Later, he went to Dartmouth College and pledged Delta Kappa Epsilon.
  • Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report. Stephen Colbert’s character on The Colbert Report—also known as Stephen Colbert—attended Dartmouth. At Dartmouth he graduated in the top 47% and majored in History. (FYI, the real Stephen Colbert went to Northwestern University.)
  • Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy. Meredith Grey moped around the dorms of Dartmouth (we’re guessing) before going across the country to be a surgeon at Seattle Grace Hospital.

Georgetown University

  • Alicia Florrick, The Good Wife. Alicia and Will first meet while studying at Georgetown’s venerable law school.
  • Spencer Hastings, Pretty Little Liars. After being unable to attend Penn, Spencer ended up doing all right by landing at Georgetown.
  • Melanie, College Road Trip. A post–That’s So Raven Raven Symone desperately wants to go to Georgetown University, but her dad wants her to stay close to home and attend Northwestern. (But—SPOILERS!—don’t worry, she goes to Georgetown anyway!)
  • Olivia Pope, Scandal. Olivia Pope is a graduate of Georgetown’s Law School. (She went to Princeton for undergrad.) Think she handed in her term papers with a crisp “It’s handled”?
  • Zoey Bartlet, West Wing. Even though Zoey was the president’s daughter, she paved her own way by graduating from Georgetown’s undergrad program—summa cum laude, no less.
  • Basically everyone, St. Elmo’s Fire. A movie all about the “post” part of postgraduate, it centers around the post-grad lives of several Georgetown students.

Harvard University

  • Josh Lyman, West Wing. Josh Lyman attended Harvard and graduated cum laude. (He is quick to boast his 760 score on the Verbal section of the SAT.) Lyman would also go on to attend Yale Law School.
  • Ally McBeal, Ally McBeal. Titular Ally attended Harvard Law School, along with a boyfriend…who ultimately left her and switched over to the University of Michigan Law School.
  • Frank Underwood, House of Cards. Kevin Spacey’s conniver-in-chief Frank Underwood attended Harvard Law School before plotting his way to the top of the political ladder.
  • Sarah Walker, Chuck. Before she became a CIA agent, Sarah Walker was a student at Harvard University.
  • Patrick Bateman, American Psycho. Christian Bale’s disturbed (ahem psycho) character, Patrick Bateman, attended the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy for high school. For college, Bateman graduated from Harvard for undergrad and then from Harvard Business School.
  • Frasier Crane, Cheers/Frasier. Brilliant Frasier Crane attended Harvard and then its medical school. Thankfully, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, school is pretty close to a certain bar in Boston where everybody knows your name…
  • Malcolm Wilkerson, Malcolm in The Middle. While Malcolm (portrayed by Frankie Muniz) was known to have a high IQ, he was always lacking in common sense. Then when he was offered a six-figure opportunity after high school, it was his mother, Lois, who told him to instead pursue a degree at Harvard. Malcolm went on to attend Harvard, despite the tempting job offer, and worked on the side as a janitor. Very Good Will Hunting–esque, huh?
  • Elle Woods, Legally Blonde. Can’t have a fictional alumni list without Elle! The quintessential sorority girl goes from studying Fashion Design at a fictional SoCal school to studying Law at Harvard in an effort to get her boyfriend back. What, like it’s hard? Fun fact: in the book Legally Blonde is based on, Elle goes to Stanford, but due to the school not allowing their name to be used in the movie, Harvard was chosen instead. (USC denied permission too!)

Indiana University Bloomington

  • Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation. With her boundless pride for her Indiana city of Pawnee, it’s no surprise that Leslie (portrayed by Amy Poehler) attended the Illinois state school—and graduated summa cum laude at that.

Johns Hopkins University

  • Dr. Gregory House, House. Dr. House, played by Hugh Laurie, attended John Hopkins University as an undergrad. He studied physics and had immense interest in dark matter. Then he was accepted to the John Hopkins medical school and was the top of his class—until he was caught cheating. He finished medical school at the University of Michigan.
  • Dr. Percival Ulysses "Perry" Cox, Scrubs. The intense Dr. Cox attended John Hopkins for med school, but also attended a fictional college, “Hale.” (Not Yale. See “Yale” below to find out which Scrubs character went there!)

The Juilliard School

  • Ryan and Kelsi, High School Musical 3. While one may think Troy and Gabriella would be shoo-ins for the Juilliard scholarship, dynamic duo Ryan and Kelsi actually won it to study dance and music, respectively.
  • Mia, If I Stay. Mia, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, auditions for Juilliard before a fateful accident.
  • Sara, Save the Last Dance. In between all the dancing and romance and drama, the whole movie builds toward Sara’s big audition for the famed Juilliard School. Spoiler: her ballet-meets-hip hop routine totally gets her in.


  • Tony Stark, Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr.’s character Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, attended MIT at 15 and graduated at 19. That must be an iron-solid brain, Tony.
  • Emma, No Strings Attached. Natalie Portman plays an LA doctor who graduated from MIT in this rom-com.
  • Matt Franklin, Take Me Home Tonight. Topher Grace plays a recent MIT graduate who defies what you’d expect from such a gent by taking a job at a video store.
  • Howard Wolowitz, The Big Bang Theory. Wolowitz graduated from MIT with (just) a master’s in Engineering. His mother was probably reasonably proud.

New York University

  • Dan Humphrey, Gossip Girl. Glamorous Blair Waldorf also attended NYU before transferring to Columbia.

Northwestern University

  • Andrea Sachs, The Devil Wears Prada. Andy, Anne Hathaway’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, is straight outta Northwestern, looking to be a journalist. When an assistant job with publishing ice queen Miranda Priestly, Meryl Streep’s character, emerges, she decides to go for it. Little does Andy know that she would get far more than she bargained for while working in the fashion industry.
  • Aaron Samuels, Mean Girls. Even though Aaron missed that math question Cady asked for help with (she knew the answer, but just wanted an excuse to talk to him), he still got into and attended Northwestern.
  • Jenna Maroney, 30 Rock. Early on in the series, Jenna says she studied voice at Northwestern. But in a later season she says she studied at the Royal Tampa Academy of Dramatic Tricks... Maybe she got a professional certificate?

Pepperdine University

  • Emily Fields, Pretty Little Liars. Emily started going to Pepperdine, but didn’t graduate. You know what will be graduating? Pretty Little Liars after six years of being on air. Good thing high school isn’t that long...

Princeton University

  • Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins. That’s right. Batman went to Princeton. Bruce Wayne tried that whole college thing. But as director Christopher Nolan told Princeton’s Class of 2015 in his commencement speech, he dropped out to pursue bigger and better things.
  • Joel Goodsen, Risky Business. Tom Cruise plays Joel, who deals in *ahem* “human fulfillment.” Despite getting lower-than-average SAT scores, Joel still impressed Princeton with his business skills and goes on to major in Business there... Of course, considering Princeton doesn’t offer a Business program, majoring in it is going to be a little hard, Joel.
  • Austin Ames and Samantha "Sam" Montgomery, A Cinderella Story. Ah, yes. It’s only fitting that the “Prince” (Chad Michael Murray) of A Cinderella Story wants to go to Princeton. Of course, so does the “Cinderella” (Hilary Duff). Instead of riding into the sunset, the two of them drive to Princeton together at the end of senior year.
  • Mia Thermopolis Renaldi, Princess Diaries 2. In the movie’s opening, Mia (Anne Hathaway) reveals she went to Princeton. Another princess pun, moviemakers! Fun fact: in the book series the Princess Diaries movies are based on, Mia actually goes to Sarah Lawrence College.
  • Doogie Howser, Doogie Howser, M.D. Child prodigy Doogie Howser graduated from Princeton as a 10 year old. What did you do at 10?
  • Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock. Alec Baldwin’s character, Jack Donaghy, worked like crazy to pay his way through Princeton and was very involved in student life. He was a football and baseball team member, but also dabbled in theater (playing the role of Maria in an all-male version of West Side Story). After Princeton, Jack would go to Harvard Business School (Are you taking notes, Risky Business Tom Cruise? There’s no business school at Princeton!!!)
  • Carlton Banks, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Carlton’s dream school eventually became his reality school. Time for a celebration dance! Although, he did attend the fictional University of Los Angeles with Will (Smith) for a while beforehand.
  • Mindy Lahiri, The Mindy Project. Mindy (played by Mindy Kaling) attended Princeton University and graduated in 2002. Afterwards, she attended medical school at Columbia.
  • Carrie Mathison, Homeland. Claire Danes’s character, Carrie, went to Princeton and ended up with a BA in Arabic Language and Literatures and a job with the CIA. Not too shabby.

Queens College, CUNY

  • Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza, Seinfeld. Jerry and George met while studying at Queens College, part of the City College of New York system. Fun fact: Jerry Seinfeld (the real Jerry Seinfeld, not the character Jerry Seinfeld…uhh…) also attended Queens College.
  • Betty Suarez, Ugly Betty. Betty attended Queens College before becoming an assistant at posh Mode magazine.

Sarah Lawrence College

  • Karen Walker, Will and Grace. Beloved sassypants Karen (Megan Mullally) attended Sarah Lawrence.
  • Kat Stratford, 10 Things I Hate About You. Julia Stiles’s character, Kat, leaves the high school halls of the movie for Sarah Lawrence. We like to think Heath Ledger’s character, Patrick Verona, would’ve serenaded her there too.
  • Allie Hamilton, The Notebook. Allie, portrayed by Rachel McAdams, leaves her wrong-side-of-the-tracks love Ryan Gosling (what?!) to go to Sarah Lawrence College.
  • Charles Boyle, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Bumbling but endearing Charles Boyle, played by Joe Lo Truglio, attended Sarah Lawrence College before joining the NYPD.

Savannah College of Art and Design

  • Aria Montgomery, Pretty Little Liars. Aria, always the most artistic of the pretty little liars, stays true to her creative ambitions and goes to SCAD.

Stanford University

  • Gabriella Montez, High School Musical 3. Science whiz Gabriella attends Stanford with hopes of studying Law. Law School Musical, anyone?
  • Miley Stewart/Hannah Montana and Lily Truscott, Hannah Montana. Both Lily and Miley are looking forward to attending Stanford, but Miley is offered a role in a movie that films in Paris for a year. Will she go to college with her best friend or take the job? (Spoiler: she chooses Stanford.)
  • Chuck Bartowski, Chuck. Stanford is where Chuck befriends Bryce...until Bryce frames him for cheating and gets Chuck expelled. Because of the expulsion, Chuck was unable to graduate with a Bachelor of Engineering degree. He makes up for it by being a geekily good secret agent, though.

University of California, Berkeley

  • Elaine Robinson, The Graduate. Mrs. Robinson’s daughter Elaine attends UC Berkeley. Fun fact, the exterior shots of the school are actually University of Southern California.
  • Troy Bolton, High School Musical 3. Troy, portrayed by Zac Efron, attends UC Berkeley to be closer to Gabriella, who attends Stanford. Troy planned on majoring in Theater and, of course, playing basketball.

University of California, Irvine

  • George Michael Bluth, Arrested Development. Michael Cera’s character, George Michael Bluth (that’s one name for one person, but the college didn’t realize that), attends UC Irvine. He also had to share a room with his Dad for a little while. Long story…

University of Illinois

  • Cam Tucker, Modern Family. Cam Tucker didn’t travel far from his Midwestern roots for college. He attended University of Illinois, playing for their football team as a starting center.

University of Maryland

  • Dana Scully, The X-Files. Before she went hunting after supernatural forces, Gillian Anderson’s character, Scully, attended the University of Maryland.
  • Liz Lemon, 30 Rock. Things were really lining up for old Liz Lemon when she attended the University of Maryland under a partial competitive jazz dance scholarship. She majored in Theater Tech and studied abroad in Germany.

University of Notre Dame

  • Josiah Bartlet, The West Wing. President Bartlet scored a 1590 on the SAT and was accepted into Harvard and Yale. However, he ultimately chose Notre Dame and graduated with a major in American studies and a minor in Theology.

University of Pennsylvania

  • Dennis Reynolds, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Egotistical Dennis flaunts his UPenn degree like you wouldn’t believe. While he minored in Psychology, Dennis always wanted to become a veterinarian. At Penn, Dennis participated in Greek life as a Delta Omega Lambda and thought of himself as a hero there, but when he returns to his frat house, he is disrespected, tazed, and mocked by the current frat members. Dennis’s twin sister, Dee, also attended Penn for a semester, wanting to major in Psychology, but flunked out before the end of the year.

University of Virginia

  • Clarice Starling, Silence of the Lambs. Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling attended UVA and graduated magna cum laude. She double-majored in Criminology and Psychology. But, fun fact, that’s another inaccuracy, because University of Virginia does not offer a Criminology major.

Williams College

  • Benjamin Braddock, The Graduate. Ben, played by Dustin Hoffman, has recently graduated from Williams College when the movie begins. While at Williams, Ben was editor of the paper, member of the track team, and a Frank Helpingham Scholar.

Yale University

  • Rory Gilmore, Gilmore Girls. Rory’s college application journey led to the arduous task of choosing between all the Ivy League schools that accepted her. Even though she spent her entire childhood honing her academic pursuits for Harvard, she chose her grandfather’s alma mater, Yale.
  • Nick Carraway and Tom Buchanan, The Great Gatsby. In F. Scott Fitagerald’s great American novel, Yale is the alma mater of both Nick Carraway and Tom Buchanan—two totally opposite ends of the spectrum of being a “Yalie.”
  • Walter Fielding, Jr., The Money Pit. Tom Hanks play a Yale grad who ends up pouring exorbitant amounts of money into a fixer-upper. Pro tip: if you check out CollegeXpress’ scholarships, you won’t have to worry about throwing exorbitant amounts of money into your college expenses.
  • Kat Arujo, Mystic Pizza. Shy Kat works at a pizza restaurant the summer before she goes off to Yale as an Astronomy major.
  • Amy Dunne, Gone Girl. Rosamund Pike as Amy in Gone Girl earned degrees from both Yale and Harvard. Hopefully the universities don’t take any responsibility for Amy’s brilliant deceptions.

This is definitely the biggest list of fictional alumni we’ve ever seen—but did we miss anyone?! One of your favorite characters? Let us know in the comments (or here).

Note: Did you know you could win a $10,000 scholarship for college or grad school just by registering on CollegeXpress? This is one of the quickest, easiest scholarships you’ll ever apply for. Register Now »

About Cathleen Freedman

Cathleen attends the High School of Performing and Visual Arts where she is preparing in the best possible way for college. She would also have to say writing in third person is as fun as you think.