From the very beginning of Gilmore Girls, it was made known that Rory Gilmore intended to attend Harvard University. Lorelai Gilmore insisted Rory had picked the school before she should have known what college was. When, during her senior year of high school, she picked Yale, fans were pretty shocked. While some feel like Rory was guilted into choosing a school that she didn’t really want to go to, there are some pretty valid reasons why Yale was a better choice than Harvard.
Did Rory pick Yale to make Richard happy?
One theory is that Rory decided to attend Yale to make Richard and Emily Gilmore happy. By attending Yale, Rory fulfilled her family legacy. Something Lorelai wasn’t capable of doing because of her pregnancy. It is assumed that if Lorelai hadn’t gotten pregnant, she too would have attended Yale.
Richard made it pretty clear that he wanted Rory to go to Yale, and while he later recanted that statement, Rory was no dummy and knew picking her grandfather’s alma mater would endear her to him. It worked, too. While Richard was hard on Lorelai, he certainly seemed to have a soft spot for Rory. Was she guilted into the choice? It’s hard to say.
Rory never actually did the research on which schools would work for her
Reportedly, Rory wanted to attend Harvard University from the time she was just 4-years-old. The sudden decision to not only apply but choose Yale threw a lot of fans for a loop. Rory may have known somethings about Harvard, but she didn’t seem to really know how it stacked up to other schools. Sure she received an updated Harvard catalog every year. She and Lorelai even visited the campus after she fled her wedding to Max Medina, but beyond that, no research about what college would work for her was mentioned.
Reddit users have surmised that Rory’s decision to attend Yale came down to pure research. Once she finally sat down and considered all of her options, she was confronted with a sobering fact; she didn’t actually know why she wanted to attend Harvard in the first place. When she factored everything into consideration, Yale was the clear winner, no matter how much she tried to make Harvard her top choice.
Writers had Rory attend Yale for logistical reasons
While it would be nice to assume Rory’s decision to attend the school was character-driven, it seems more likely that her decision had more to do with the logistics of the series. If Rory had attended Harvard University, she would have had a nearly two-hour drive every time she wanted to head home to Stars Hollow or visit Richard and Emily in Hartford, Connecticut. That would have severely limited her familial interactions after Season 3.
By having Rory attend Yale, writers had a lot more leeway with the storylines. Yale is roughly 35 minutes from Hartford, where Richard and Emily lived, and only 26.2 miles from Stars Hollow. At least, that’s what Jess Mariano found out when he looked it up. The proximity of Yale to the prominent locations in the Gilmore Girls universe made it easier for Rory to interact with Lorelai, her grandparents, and Stars Hollow as a whole. Love the outcome or hate it, it was a smart logistical decision.