Going back to school as an adult can be daunting. One thing that can help is remembering that you aren’t the first adult to ever enter higher education. Shakira did it. James Franco did it. Tyra Banks did it. And Rodney Dangerfield did it. Well, at least he did in the movie Back to School. Famous or fictitious, it helps to have someone to relate to. Here are 10 movies that will remind you that you’re not alone.
1. Larry Crowne
Being downsized from a company can leave a person feeling adrift. You suddenly have all of this free time, which sounds good in theory, but you’re not sure what to do with it. This is the premise of the movie Larry Crowne. Tom Hanks loses his job, but gains an education at his local college. The moral of the story is, a job loss or another setback can be devastating, but it can also lend an opportunity to do something great, like earn a degree and change your life.
2. The Waterboy
Adam Sandler plays Bobby, a humble waterboy for a university football team until one day, the coach discovers he can tackle better than any of the players. Bobby signs up for classes and earns a spot on the team. Although he went about it in a backward way, attending college so he can play football, it helps to have a motivator in mind when you’re going back to school. What’s your motivator?
3. Educating Rita
In this British film, actress Julie Walters plays Rita, a 20-something hairdresser who dreams of improving her life and earning a degree. Michael Caine is her professor who constantly challenges her by digging at her underlying motivation behind going back to school, which is to overcome her status in society. She often doubts herself and her confidence, which is understandable in an intimidating university atmosphere. When it comes to returning to school, trust your own instincts and you’ll go farther than you thought possible.
4. The Internship
Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play two goofballs in the movie The Internship. As ex-salesmen turned “Googlers” (Google interns), they believe they can succeed at Google with very little computer knowledge. They enroll in the University of Phoenix so that they can be considered for the position in the first place. Although this is a bit, um, far-fetched, the lesson is that the far-fetched outer boundaries of your dreams might be where you can find inspiration to return to school and achieve your goals.
5. She’s Working Her Way Through College
Yup, this is another movie that is not really rooted in reality. A burlesque dancer named Hot Garters Gertie (because why wouldn’t it be?) catches up with an old teacher who’s now a professor at a university and is inspired to earn a degree. Adorable hijinks ensue and students randomly break into song. The takeaway here is that she was working her way through college—hence the title—which is not an easy feat for a burlesque dancer, a real estate agent, or anyone else with a full-time job. If Hot Garters can work it on stage and then study for an exam for the rest of the evening, you can find the energy and dedication, too.
6. Necessary Roughness
Football sure seems to be a popular fictitious reason to go back to school. In Necessary Roughness, a struggling football team gains victory after victory with the 34-year-old quarterback they bring back to school. Although attending classes again might seem like an impossible venture in your later years, there are several real-life situations (and in this case, a scripted situation) that prove that nothing is impossible when you put your mind to it.
7. 22 Jump Street
I’m guessing that most of you won’t be going back to school as undercover agents. But in 22 Jump Street (the sequel to 21 Jump Street, of course), Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum do just that. The parties, sports, and love interests included in college life end up luring them away from their mission, which is to catch a bad guy who happens to be a fellow student. Thankfully you won’t be living in the dorms, a detail you can add to the “positive” column on going back to school. The fewer the silly, youthful distractions, the better you can stick to your own mission.
8. Billy Madison
Another Adam Sandler flick about going back to school, although in this case, he’s aiming to go from elementary school to graduating high school with only a mere two weeks spent in each grade. They probably should’ve made a sequel about Billy going to college, because that would’ve been pretty funny. Even though most everyone, including his father, doubted that he could do it, Billy ends up passing with flying colors and proves that he can take over his father’s hotel company. If there are those doubters out there who think you can’t go back to school, ignore them and go after your dream.
9. High Time
Back in the day, it was less common for people to seek an education as adults. Which is why everybody seems so shocked to see 51-year-old Harvey Howard enrolling in school. He’s reached a point in his life when he feels that he has met his life’s goal of being happily married (but then is unfortunately widowed). He decides to seek out a new challenge at college, and he’s determined to adopt every facet of the college experience. If you have reached a level of contentment with your career, it might be time to take on a new test, like working toward earning a degree.
10. Back to School
This movie is pretty much the standard when it comes to adults going back to school. The storyline is simple—Thornton Melon, a millionaire, decides to go to college with his son, and inevitably, predicaments and shenanigans take place. Thornton initially feels overqualified and believes he could practically teach his class with his business background. But when it comes to his English class, he discovers he doesn’t know as much as he thought he did. Adult learners are often met with many challenges, such as juggling both a career and school, feeling older than fellow students, and dealing with potentially rusty learning abilities. But when you walk across that stage and hold your diploma, you’ll realize that it was all worth it.