9 College Lessons We Learned From “90210”

Boy, do we love the ’90s. There’s really no better time on American television for considering the existential slings and arrows that plague even the best of us. And 90210 was at the top of that list. Even though the show starting sucking when everyone went to college (as most shows like that are wont to do — Gossip Girl and The O.C., anyone?), there are still many lessons that are applicable in college from the bleach blond, beautiful, beach bum bunch. We pulled up a stool at The Peach Pit (OK, more like “holed up and didn’t shower or leave the house for two weeks”) and marathoned 10 years’ worth of the teen drama, just to impart its wisdom directly to you. Here are the nine lessons we learned.

  1. You Can Lie About Your Age

    Are you the kid that’s 30 but wants everyone to think he’s 25? That’s fine. You can do that. Luke Perry played the dreamboat Dylan, a junior in high school, when he was 26. And, even worse, the minor character Andrea, who was supposed to be 16, was played by Gabrielle Carteris, who was 29 at the time of shooting. If you’re late to the game and just starting college, or you’re just taking your sweet, sweet time, 90210 has taught us that it’s truly the young at heart that thrive.

  2. You Can Get Into California University

    Everyone can. Everyone in 90210 and Saved by the Bell, anyway. If you didn’t make good grades, and you don’t have the academic cred to go to a real school, consider enrolling in your favorite fictional university, and join the ranks of the cast of the original 90210. Also, if you’re really out of ideas, you can always apply to Chico State.

  3. You Can Date Everyone In Your Social Group

    It’s been called the Love Dodecahedron, and it’s a real thing. If you’ve got a tight-knit college crew, don’t worry. You’ll have slept with everyone by the time it’s done. And that’s OK. Though the cast of 90210 changed partners as often as they did wardrobes, there’s nothing stopping you from dealing with this sticky social issue with both poise and grace. Friends dating friends dating friends dating friends is going to happen; just make sure you act like a grown-up and be polite and considerate of everyone’s feelings.

  4. Nice Guys Don’t Always Finish Last

    The usually mild-mannered David Silver (played by Brian Austin Green) wanted so badly to be one of the cool kids, and his determination paid off after his first year of school. Although his best friend (accidentally) committed suicide, and he’s known for random drug and booze-filled Vegas weekends, David did his best to stand out — as a DJ, boyfriend, and friend. If the quiet character with the sweet eyes and crooked grin has taught us anything, it’s that, be it a romance with Tori Spelling or a number of life goals, you can work your way to the top.

  5. All Of Your Hanging Out Will Be Done In One Place

    There’s a reason that you keep seeing the same people over and over again at the library or your favorite coffee shop. We humans are creatures of habit. And if we’re to learn anything from 90210, it’s that everything that’s anything happens at The Peach Pit. Great conversations in familiar surroundings foster solutions to all ills, academic, romantic, or otherwise. Just don’t slam the door on your way out.

  1. You Have A Lot To Learn About Sex

    “Those nice boys may be mild-mannered on the outside, but mostly all they think about is sex.” – Brenda Walsh
    Do your homework and study hard. That’s the college lesson we wanted you to learn, but when you’re watching the hormonal exploits of Beverly Hills’ best and brightest(?), you can learn a lot about the language of love, and often as the characters themselves do. A season one episode called “Isn’t It Romantic?” is an early indicator that the show supports sex, but wants it done safely. When a sexy speaker reveals to the school (and to a tongue-wagging Steve) that she has AIDS, everyone’s taken aback by her personal saga. Not to mention that this is the episode where Dylan and Brenda have their first date, first kiss, and one of them (not telling who!) has their first “get caught in the shower” scene. Frank discussions of sex practices will be the norm in college. Don’t shy away from them. Have fun, be educated, and don’t be stupid. Or, seriously, just stay home and watch 90210 in your off-time and forego your sex life entirely. That’s what we did do.

  2. Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover

    Although we wish we had some academic advice for you, here’s a bit more for your person: the prettiest ones often battle the worst issues, and it’s not worth it to judge a book by its cover. For example, if you’ve never seen 90210, you might think that Jennie Garth’s character, Kelly, was just another blond California girl from a rich zip code. But you’d be sorely wrong.Check out the character description from her Wikipedia: “Kelly endured several personal battles, including a drug-addicted mom, and an absent father who was later sent to jail for embezzlement. She lost her virginity upon being date raped. She was almost burned alive at a rave, and later developed a coke habit of her own which she went to rehab for, then was stalked and almost killed by her roommate. Kelly became unexpectedly pregnant before having a miscarriage and told she may never carry a child to term. She was shot during a drive-by shooting at LAX and suffered amnesia. She was raped in an alley and later shot the rapist, with the police clearing her on grounds of self-defense.”

    What?! Seriously?! And that’s not even the full story of her trials — she endured 10 full years of plot twists and personal turns. Which leads us to your bonus lesson: if you’re going through hell, keep on going.

  3. Zeitgeist is a Good Starting Place

    If you’re worried about making friends or just generally “how to be” in college, know that simply living in the present and planting your identity firmly can aid you during your glory years. Knowing what’s going on in the world and being abreast of current trends can serve you well, even if you’re not an early (or ever) adopter. Do your thing and live in the now, as we will forever remember Kelly, Donna, Dylan, Brenda, Brandon, Steve, Andrea, and Mike for exactly how they were — a caricature of a time that, unexpectedly, remains perennially relevant.

  4. If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again

    You’ll definitely have to deal with failure in college at some point, and probably sooner rather than later if you’re watching 90210 all the time. The last and final lesson to take from the seminal teen drama is the lesson of perseverance: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Not only can you learn this from the long-standing relationships and working through life issues of your favorite ’90s characters, but the structure of the show itself returned (with a new cast and an updated premise) to televisions in 2008, with 90210 (they dropped the Beverly Hills) claiming again its rightful spot on the airways.

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