Gilmore Girls’ Secret Revealed The True Reason Behind Rory’s Decision to Attend Yale Over Harvard

As dedicated Gilmore Girls fans dive into their annual fall rewatch of the beloved WB series, one question has long lingered in the minds of viewers: why did Rory Gilmore, played by Alexis Bledel, choose Yale University over her dream of attending Harvard? For years, rumors swirled that filming restrictions influenced this pivotal storyline twist. However, Valerie Campbell, a key member of the Gilmore Girls production team, has stepped forward to clarify the real story behind Rory’s college choice.

The mystery surrounding Rory’s decision began to unravel in season three of the show, which aired in 2003. Rory, known for her academic prowess, opted for rival school Yale instead of Harvard. Show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino hinted at the time that Yale’s willingness to allow filming played a role in this decision, stating that Yale “let us film there, which makes it a lot easier.”

Nonetheless, Valerie Campbell, the show’s costumer, recently addressed these long-standing rumors and offered a fresh perspective. Responding to a TikTok user’s query about whether Yale’s willingness to film was the decisive factor, Valerie explained in a video posted on September 5 that the production team could have managed either Ivy League campus because they filmed at “fake” Harvard and “fake” Yale locations across multiple episodes.

She emphasized, “What they did not take into consideration was we didn’t shoot at Harvard, but we also didn’t shoot at Yale.” According to Valerie, the inability to film at the actual Harvard campus was not the reason for the storyline choice. She added, “If we wanted to build Harvard on a stage, we would have.”

In reality, scenes featuring Rory and her mother, Lorelai (played by Lauren Graham), visiting Harvard’s Massachusetts campus were shot at UCLA in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, her initial visit to Yale’s Connecticut campus was filmed at Pomona College in Claremont, California, as reported by Yale Alumni Magazine.

Valerie Campbell recalled that she did not recall any conversations regarding filming restrictions at the authentic Harvard grounds. Therefore, she reached out to an unnamed writer from the show a year ago to gain clarity on the issue. The scriptwriter, too, was uncertain about why the storyline switched but did not believe it was related to Harvard.

The decision to have Rory choose Yale over Harvard may have been driven by the complex dynamics within the Gilmore family, involving Rory’s grandparents, Emily (played by Kelly Bishop) and Richard (played by Edward Herrmann).

Valerie suggested, “My guess is that we thought it made for [an] interesting story. Rory and Lorelai had this plan for years, and then just when it’s about to become a reality, Rory essentially chooses Richard and Emily’s side by picking Yale.”

Ultimately, the Gilmore Girls production team constructed sets in Burbank, California, to resemble Yale’s campus. Valerie noted that this choice allowed for more onscreen interactions between Rory and her family, keeping her closer to her fictional home in Stars Hollow, Connecticut.

Production designer Lauren Crasco, in a 2003 interview with Yale Alumni Magazine, explained their choice of Rory’s specific dorm, stating, “Calhoun was easiest to replicate. Plus, it has these high wood panels and stone arches that play great on film.”

To recreate the Yale ambiance, the team used materials akin to bulletin boards and added crushed walnut shells for additional texture, as per the same interview.

While Rory’s crucial visit to Yale was actually filmed at Pomona College, the crew aimed to minimize shots with palm trees, given the classic Southern California architecture’s stark contrast to the New England setting. Nevertheless, the decision to build a more authentic slice of Yale’s campus was based on fiscal considerations, given Rory’s impending full-time student status.

In the end, the behind-the-scenes story adds a new layer of intrigue to Rory’s academic journey and the complexities of her relationships in the world of Gilmore Girls.