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The fictional university used by many shows to extend the life of a High School TV show into the College years. The name "California University" was used by both Saved by the Bell and Beverly Hills, 90210, but the term can be applied to any university that allows an ensemble High School show to retain the majority of its cast.

The university is often located within a reasonable distance to the original high school, to allow or imply limited interaction with the parents and old shopkeepers; Egregious cases will have the old faculty follow the students to the university—if they were sufficiently a part of the old cast—which makes no sense whatsoever. Despite the fact that the original high school show depicted the cast as a wide range of academic talent, ranging from slacker to valedictorian, all of the principal cast members of the show apply, are accepted, and elect to go to the same university—and often take the same courses.

Often a case of California Doubling, in which the UCLA campus, or less often, those of USC or Loyola Marymount University, serves as a convenient shooting location for Los Angeles-based productions. A case of Truth in Television, given that the Golden State has the largest and best-known public higher education system in the United States. (See Real Life below).

Examples of California University include:

Comic Books

  • Archie Comics has a California high school, as demonstrated with the Little Archie comics; almost all of the characters, including the entire faculty, moved from Riverdale Elementary to Riverdale High. Ms. Grundy also appears to be the only English teacher at both schools, because she's always seen as the cast's English teacher (with scenes referring to summer implying that they had her the previous year and will have her the next, as they eternally go through high school). Mrs. Beazly also appears to be the only member of the cafeteria staff.
    • It's plausible for all of the students to move on to the same high school. Not so much with the staff.
  • Everyone in the Marvel Universe seemingly goes to college in one of two places, the fictional Empire State University (ESU), or The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning (if you're a mutant). The latter offers junior high through post-graduate level courses.


  • Surprisingly averted by, of all things, High School Musical, which sends Ryan and Kelsi to Juilliard, Taylor to Yale, Chad and Sharpay to the University of Alberquerque, Gabriella to Stanford, and Troy to UC Berkeley. Not to say that their choice of schools for the characters isn't problematic in a different way.


  • The Sweet Valley University series employs this trope, being a sequel to the Sweet Valley High series.
  • In Sarah Dessen's novels, the university (it's just called The U) is almost always mentioned, at least as a choice for the main characters to go.

Live-Action TV

  • Beverly Hills, 90210.
  • Boy Meets World:
    • Pennbrook College. (High-school principal Mr. Feeney followed along.)
    • Also sort-of-parodied with the hilariously named East North Southwestern, where Eric wants to go.
      • That's "North Southwestern San Diego State University." As Mr. Feeny called it, good old NSWSDS... U.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has U.C. Sunnydale, which a disclaimer at the end of the credits points out isn't actually real.
    • However, since Sunnydale is said to be where Santa Barbara is, and there is an actual UC Santa Barbara...
    • Subverted in that only Buffy and Willow actually head for college; the rest of the cast all move on with their lives in various ways, with Angel and Cordelia leaving for LA (and Angel's new spinoff), Xander unable to get into any decent school and ending up becoming a carpenter, and Giles finding himself unemployed before eventually opening up a magic shop.
      • Oz was at college too, and knew where everything was because all his friends had been attending for a year (he got held back).
      • They also show that Willow could have gone to literally any college she desired, even getting an acceptance letter from Harvard. However, she didn't want Buffy to feel lonely, and so chose the local college of UC Sunnydale, which is implied to be at least somewhat subpar.
      • To be fair, Willow lives on a goddamn Hellmouth, which does requires regular patrol and evil killage, so it's not unreasonable that she'd stay behind to help out Buffy and the Scoobies.
      • Plus, Harvard doesn't have a witchcraft program - the Hellmouth was a much better choice for learning how to cast spells and fight demons, which Willow decided was her path in life.
  • Saved by the Bell
  • Veronica Mars (Hearst College)
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (ULA)
  • Parodied in a Saturday Night Live sketch, as the final episode of a high school drama is being shot. The students will all attend the same college so they can star in the Spin-Off sequel, which upsets the actor playing the principal once he realizes that he won't have a part in the new series. The actor attempts to ad-lib lines that would justify his inclusion (up to and including the claim that he never went to college and intends to join his students as classmates), until the director rewrites the scene and kills off the principal off-screen.
  • Averted in (of all places) Dawson's Creek: Joey ends up at the fictional Worthington College while Jack and Jen go to the equally fictional Boston Bay. Dawson ends up in LA (albeit briefly, before dropping out of college) and Pacey doesn't go to college at all. The series had them all meet up a fair bit, but also used several Two Lines, No Waiting story arcs.
  • The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (Possibly the Ur Example, with the kids and some of the teachers moving on to S. Peter Pryor Junior College.)
  • Degrassi the Next Generation both averts this and plays it straight. First done with Ellie and Marco attending the University of Toronto (Paige initially attends Banting, but drops out of school and moves in with her friends), then with Emma, Manny, and Liberty all attending Smithdale (which makes little sense in Liberty's case, as she had previously announced that she was going to attend Banting herself). Most characters, however, disappear after graduation, with the exception of a few cameo appearances.
  • Averted by One Tree Hill where the show skipped four years ahead in time after everyone graduated high school, and instead had them all returning home for various reasons post-college (or for other reasons as not all characters went to college).
  • Averted marvelously in Friday Night Lights, in which seasons three, four, and five are basically being written as one long epilogue to the first two seasons, giving each character a three or four episode long story arc that sends them off the show into post-high school life.
  • Most of the cast of Gossip Girl wind up attending NYU. There are some aversions, however, as Nate attends Columbia and Blair transfers there, Serena attends Brown before dropping out, and Chuck Bass is busy being Chuck Bass.
  • Smallville almost did this. Clark and Lana were supposed to be attending the fictional Central Kansas A&M, which was close to Smallville. But then Clark discovered that his professor was a super-powered alien robot from another galaxy bent on world domination, which derailed his studies. He dropped out, ostensibly temporarily, but then the whole college stoyline was just quietly forgotten, and Clark somehow managed to become a newspaper reporter with a half-semester of education under his belt. ...So really, this is a near-miss trope.

Newspaper Comics

  • In the comic strip Safe Havens, the cast initially plans to go to different colleges, but Samantha manages to manipulate them into going to Havens University one by one after all.

Western Animation

  • Totally Spies, it was a conscious decision on the girls' part to apply to the same college as they'd miss each other. They were followed there by the series Alpha Bitch, Mandy, too.

Real Life

  • California actually has two public university organizations: the "University of California" system, whose colleges are prefixed with "UC" (UCLA, UC San Diego; Berkeley is just about the only one famous enough to have a free-standing name), and the California State University system, which either gets "CSU" or "Cal State" on the front ("CSU Long Beach," "Cal State Fullerton") or "State" on the back ("Sacramento State," "San Jose State"). Between the two of them, they boast almost 40 full-size campuses, plus hundreds of smaller sites that house specific facilities. Therefore, for most urban or suburban-dwelling teenagers, there is indeed a "neighborhood" university of this type.
    • Also, they're impacted as heck right now, so good luck graduating in 5 years (from a 4 year University).
    • This doesn't stop the UC system from trying to enforce students taking a minimum number of units.
    • Despite the "University of (STATE)" moniker, the UC schools are relatively difficult to get into and will require a significant amount of effort from students who want to attend together. However, this is not as much the case for the California State systems.
    • And that's not even counting the 112 institutions of the "California Community Colleges" System.
  • There is also an actual "California University". It's not located in California.
  • The St. Louis and Kansas City branches of the University of Missouri system are widely considered to be commuter campuses and a lot of locals go to those schools. Hence, it's not uncommon for single high schools to be represented by several students.
  • And once you factor in tuition costs, the in-state option becomes very popular. As for quality of education: Many Universities have departments of varying quality. So it is not only plausible, but probable, for a relatively small group of individuals in the same high school to go to the same university, with the more academically inclined students majoring in something the state university is known for (and potentially getting a graduate degree elsewhere), and the slackers majoring in Cheese Appreciation (with shared courses being breadth requirements).