Whether you’re a freshman filled with anxiety about spending the next four years with a bunch of strangers or a senior finishing up your last few credits before venturing into the real world, this semester’s just begun and it’s about time you kick it into full gear so you can make sure you go back home for winter break feeling accomplished. (Yes, we’re already looking forward to winter break, too, don’t worry.) While you can make sure to make the most of this semester by finally buying those textbooks you’ve been wondering if you “actually need,” entering through the doors of that daunting library for the first time or picking out some new study-chic outfits, more likely, you’ll chilling on the couch for as long as possible procrastinating that U.S. history essay assigned on the first day of class (*ugh*).
In anticipation of the mid-terms, roommate drama and fun frat parties to come, there’s plenty of college-themed TV for you to enjoy. Read on for the best TV shows about life on campus.
1. The Best Years
The Best Years follows Samantha Best (played by Charity Shea), a student starting her freshman year at Charles University in Boston. The series, which lasted for a 21 episode run over two seasons, explores intense themes like addiction, sexual assault, and suicide. We also learn about Samantha’s experiences growing up in foster care and see how that effects her now that she’s surrounded by affluent Ivy League students. It’s basically the college-version of Degrassi — especially because it was created by the same producer and writer! If you like a show that just keeps the twists coming, The Best Years is the show you need.
2. Dear White People
Lately, it feels like the news is filled with stories about injustice after injustice. If you’re a woke college student, you’ll love Dear White People. The show is based on a movie of the same name and follows a group of black students at a predominantly white school. They fight the school administration and sometimes even each other to get their voices heard. The show is a culturally relevant take on the college experience of today. Each episode follows one of the characters in the show and unpacks their experience with race relations on campus — making it one you don’t want to miss.
3. Veronica Mars
The show that put the beloved Kristen Bell on the map, Veronica Mars, stars off with the titular character in high school. She’s the daughter of the county sheriff and an amateur private investigator. After her best friend is murdered, Veronica makes it her responsibility to find out what really happens. Over the course of three seasons, she solves plenty of cases including a string of shocking sexual assaults taking place on her college campus. You’ll start watching for the witty comebacks but stay for the kick-ass girl power in each episode.
If you’re in the mood for a comedic and nontraditional take on the college experience, check out Community. This show is all about Jeff Winger, played by Joel McHale. He was a practicing attorney until his bosses realized he had a totally fake degree — thus leading him to head off to Glendale Community College in order to get a real one. Along the way, he meets a cast of hilarious characters including recent Emmy Award winner, Donald Glover. Community is available to stream on Hulu.
5. Gilmore Girls
There’s no way you haven’t seen Gilmore Girls by now (and if you haven’t, bookmark this for later and get to watching!). Though the show follows a mother and daughter pair, Lorelei (Lauren Graham) and Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel), living in a small town in Connecticut while Rory goes to prep school, Gilmore Girls follows her transition into college — at Yale nonetheless! You’ll watch her complicated relationships with friends, her parents, grandparents and romantic interests unfold into her college years — and see that completely unrealistic dorm room she shares with frenemy Paris Geller.
When you think of college, one of the first things that come to mind might be Greek life. Check out Greek for an in-depth look at what it’s actually like to be in sorority or fraternity. It’s not all parties and rules, but it’s not all fun sleepovers and sisterhood, either. The main characters are a pair of siblings, Casey (Spencer Grammer) and Rusty Cartwright (Jacob Zachar) and while Casey is poised to become the president of Zeta Beta Zeta, Rusty is trying to keep his head above water as an honors student studying engineering. You’ll learn a lot about the Greek system and that there’s a place for everyone in it — at least at the fictional Cyprus-Rhodes University. (TBH, you’ll probably want to transfer there after watching this series, too.)
7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season one through three of Buffy are perfect for describing high school angst, but once we get to season four — it’s all about the college years. Yes, we see the slayer fighting vampires and demons, but Buffy also tackles some real-life college issues like feeling displaced when you first arrive (been there), having a crush on your T.A. (done that) and struggling to balance classes with personal problems popping up every ten minutes. You’ll seriously relate.
8. A Different World
A Different World will give you a taste of the old school college experience. The show was filmed from 1987 until 1993 and is a spin-off of The Cosby Show. The show is centered around Denise Huxtable, played by Lisa Bonet, as she attends a historically black college in Virginia. The show was one of the first to tackle tough topics like HIV/AIDS, class, race and equal rights making it a must-watch.
This late ’90s drama is what put Keri Russell‘s career on the map. She starred in the series as Felicity, a recent high school graduate who makes a rash, last minute decision to follow a boy to college in New York City instead of going with her original college plan at Stanford. She quickly finds a new romantic interest in her RA and we get to watch as all the delicious love-triangle drama unfolds.
Another show that confronts real-life college issues, this show will give you your dose of ’90s nostalgia while subsequently forcing you to wonder why it’s been nearly twenty years and some of these serious problems aren’t any closer to being resolved.
10. Boy Meets World
The college seasons of Boy Meets World were the most memorable for me, but the show follows these characters from the time they were in middle school. It’s a true coming-of-age story for Cory Matthews, his best friend Shawn and his eventual girlfriend Topanga. You get to watch them grow up, fall in and out of love, all the while dealing family issues and all of the drama that comes along with long-term friendships on the way.
This short-lived CW show follows the lives of college cheerleaders. It’s based on a book titled Cheer: Inside the Secret World of College Cheerleaders , but what really sealed the deal to get our stamp of approval was that Disney stars Aly Michalka and Ashley Tisdale were front and center on the show. Aly plays Marti Perkins. a student who joins the Hellcats in order to get an athletic scholarship and stay in school. Marti and her team deal with injuries, relationship issues, financial problems and more in the 22 episode season. Don’t get too attached though — because 22 episodes are all we get!
12. How to Get Away With Murder
How to Get Away With Murder is one of those shows that you forget actually takes place in graduate school thanks to the absurdly dramatic situations that the characters find themselves in. The show follows the Keating Five, a group of five talented law students selected by professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) who eventually get wrapped up in a murder plot so complex that only Shonda Rhimes could be responsible.
Can you think of any shows that mix comedy, fantasy and the college experience? No worries. That’s why Carmilla made it on this list. The show is shot through the lens of one Laura Hollis’ (Elise Bauman) webcam. She decides to document her time at Silas University through a vlog but when her roommate goes missing, she decides to investigate. Soon after, Laura is assigned a new roommate name Carmilla (Natasha Negovanlis). The two fall in love, which is a little complicated since they’re roommates and — oh yeah — Carmilla’s a vampire. Literally, WHAT?!
You can binge the web series on YouTube now.
Undeclared was a follow-up series for lovers of Judd Apatow‘s Freak and Geeks. Although the show did not follow the same characters (which is sad because we would’ve loved to get more of James Franco), Seth Rogen starred, and Jason Segal and Busy Phillips did guest star on select episodes. Other familiar faces like Amy Poehler and Jenna Fischer made cameo appearances.
MTV’s Sweet/Vicious was an awesome show about badass college women taking control of campus. The main characters Jules and Ophelia were students by day, but vigilantes by night protecting women from sexual assailants. Despite the straight-up inspiring premise, the show was canceled after one season after not receiving enough viewership. A serious bummer.
16. Scream Queens
The comedy and horror anthology series Scream Queens was the brainchild of American Horror Story and Glee creator Ryan Murphy, so you know it had to be good (though albeit campy and over-the-top) while it lasted. Sadly the show was canceled this May, but not before we got two hilarious seasons. The first season follows a group of catty sorority girls trying to survive the semester while a string of gruesome murders has all of campus on high alert.