Where Would the Stranger Things Characters Go to College?

By Lexie Brada

(!!!Spoilers for Season 4!!!)

Stranger Things. The pop-culture juggernaut. A revival of 80s nostalgia. This retro-inspired T.V. show has gripped the attention of audiences since its first episode aired in 2016 with its interlacing plot-lines, ensemble cast, and call-backs to beloved late 1980s tropes. When we first met the kids of this show, our heroes were aged between middle school and junior year of high school. As the series has continued and the time-jumps of the show have lengthened each time, eventually our characters will have to face their next great and slightly scary adventure: college. 

Some characters have already begun this conversation. Steve Harrington, the first of the ‘kids’ to graduate, doesn’t yet have any plans and talks about this lack of direction in Season 3, citing how he didn’t have the proper grades to go to college.  Nancy Wheeler is set to go to Emerson College at the completion of her senior year and hopes her long-distance boyfriend, Jonathan Byers, will attend with her. However, Jonathan is having doubts about leaving his family and thinks a local state school may be better…

While these characters are having their in-show worries and woes about a very difficult choice that many newly minted adults face, let’s imagine that our beloved cast are living in 2022 and making their college decisions. With that in mind, we’ve compiled some ideas on where our favorites may choose to go…

Nancy Wheeler 

Stranger Things Nancy GIF by NETFLIX

The eldest Wheeler sibling is very academically inclined. From her first appearance in Season 1, it’s clear she cares deeply about her grades and academic success. Since then, she’s made a lot of really smart choices to set herself up for a hopeful future, such as securing an internship in a previous summer in her hopeful future career (while helping to save the world, of course). By the time we meet back up with her in Season 4, she’s managed to become an Editor for the high school newspaper. 

So, we know that Nancy will likely have more than her pick of schools with the grades and extracurriculars to back up her applications. She is highly ambitious and has a future in journalism. 

If she is purely concerned with the ‘best of the best’ journalism or communication programs, Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois has been consistently ranked and applauded for such programs and could be a great fit!

However, if Nancy is looking for prestige and acknowledgement, I could see it in her to try to get accepted to an Ivy League. Out of eight institutions that make up this pantheon of elite colleges, I think she’d go for Columbia University in New York City, as it’s the college that gives out the Pulitzer Prize

Jonathan Byers

Since Season 1, we’ve seen time and time again that Jonathan Byers is a simple man of a few basic loves in life: his family, photography, and eventually Nancy. We know that Nancy wants Jonathan to go to college with her, but the two above choices may be a little out of reach for him.

While I am one of the biggest fans of Jonathan/Nancy out there, I also think college can be a great opportunity to find yourself separate from the people you knew from your hometown. I also believe that long-distance relationships can work if both people really want them to. So, with that in mind, let’s think of some other places that he might choose to attend. 

First, as of Season 4, he not only is choosing a community college to be closer to his family, but because this is what he reasonably expects he can get into, so let’s look at some schools with high acceptance rates. While it’s great to push yourself, it’s also good to know your limits and apply to a few schools so you do have the luxury of choice. 

He also would be looking for a school with a Fine Arts program to pursue photography. 

Finally, I do think Jonathan, perhaps in typical eldest-sibling fashion, would feel a need to stay close to his family, even if they told him it was okay to move far away. 

If his family elects to stay in California, California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA has an 85% acceptance rate! On the flipside, if his family moves back to the fictional town of Hawkins in Indiana, Indiana University of Bloomington has an acceptance rate of 78% and many programs to choose from. 

Steve Harrington

stranger things steve GIF

Now, out of all of the Stranger Things kids, Steve Harrington has given me, really, a run for my money. We know that he currently does not have plans for college and is just sort of bopping around from job to job until he figures out what he wants to do. He hasn’t given us a lot in terms of what he aspires to be one day. 

But we do know one thing about him: he’s a great babysitter.

Now, hear me out. I don’t mean he should go on and be a nanny.I think that Steve would make a fantastic middle-school teacher. As someone who previously has worked with middle-schoolers, his sarcastic attitude but caring and deeply protective nature is exactly what would make him the perfect candidate. And, only 35% of middle school teachers are men, meaning that a lot of kids could really benefit from his presence anywhere he’d be hired! 

Butler University in Indianapolis, IL is a nationally ranked school with a very high acceptance rate, 76%, meaning that even with some not-as-stellar grades, but perhaps a great entrance letter, could still end up going to a college and getting a degree and making a difference. I think this is something that Steve would really find meaning in. Butler is also ranked 1st for 2020 ‘Best Undergraduate Teaching Programs.’ 

Robin Buckley 

Stranger Things GIF

While Robin wasn’t part of the original ‘older kid’ gang, her appearance in Season 3 led to many shenanigans involving the Russians sub-plot, and coming out to Steve as a lesbian made her a well-loved character. Her blooming friendship with Nancy in Season 4 has only pulled her deeper into the show and many are excited (and perhaps even a bit nervous) to see where her storyline will go in the conclusion of this newest season.

If Robin were picking colleges in 2022, here are some things that I think would be important to her. 

At the moment, she is unable to live a fully realized life as part of the LBGTQ community, having to hide her feelings and only telling Steve, who she trusts implicitly. Therefore, I think a college that is very inclusive would be not only important, but very freeing to her. 

We also know that she is unsure of what she wants to do. She is, however, bright and very capable. We have seen her finagle her way in and out of sticky situations as well as learn Russian in a matter of days, adding to an impressive collection of foreign language skills. 

If we just consider the LBGTQ part of this equation, Campuspride.org collects and rates colleges based on their inclusivity. One of their highly rated 5-star campuses is Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. Robin’s a little quirky, so I could see her fitting right in with the ‘Keep Portland Weird’ attitude. 

But, we also have to remember that as of now, she’s not sure what she wants to do post-graduation. Many students like her also face this anxiety of going to college and hoping to figure out what they’re supposed to be doing. Luckly, many colleges are ready to take on this task of helping students figure their path out. University of Washington in Seattle, Washington has been ranked as a great college to go to as ‘undecided’ and let yourself have some breathing room to figure out what might interest you as a career. As a plus, Washington University is also ranked with 5 stars by Campus Pride’s Index

Eddie Munson 

Stranger Things Eddie GIF by NETFLIX

While Eddie has so far only existed for 7 episodes, he has already become an instant favorite. Fans are in love with this grumpy boy with a heart of gold archetype and want to see this character get all the good things in life, your own author included (If they kill him in 4B, you WILL see me rioting). 

While we may not know as much about Eddie as some of our other characters, I think we have enough to make an assessment of where he might want to attend. 

Eddie’s love is music. He treats his guitar very well and promotes his band to others. Whether or not his garage band is any good is anyone’s say (we only heard a snippet and Eddie wasn’t playing), but I like to think Eddie is musically gifted.

We also know he’s creative and a leader! He’s currently the Dungeon Master of his Dungeons and Dragons school club. Which, from a family of nerds, I can personally attest that it’s a labor of creative love to take on this role. As Mike and Dustin discuss in the first episode, he’s been working on their campaign all year long.

However, we also can’t ignore the fact he’s had to repeat his senior year…twice. While we’re not sure what class he continues to flunk, chances are slim he’s going to be getting into a school with low acceptance rates. 

With all this in mind, Ivy Tech Community College, with campuses in Indianapolis, IN and Bloomington, IN seems like just the right fit for our favorite misfit! He can get an Associate’s Degree in Fine Arts through this program. This community college option has lower tuition rates than private colleges and tech schools can have boundless opportunities. This college also allows you to transfer your credits to a state school later on; perhaps Eddie will find his right rhythm in college and be better prepared with a little bit of practice for a Bachelor’s Degree later, like many other students find themselves needing to do? 

Jane (Eleven) Hopper

Stranger Things St4 GIF by NETFLIX


Did anyone else’s heart just break watching El with those bullies in Season 4? We just want our favorite psychokinetic and Eggo-loving superhero to have the life she deserves! 

Eleven has grown exponentially from the mostly-silent and intensely-staring little girl in the first season, to a young teenager navigating something arguably more terrifying than the Mind-Flayer in season 4: high school. 

Even though El, along with the rest of her friends, has a long way to go before she has to ace SATs or ACTs and apply to colleges, I think we have a pretty good idea of what El might need and want in a college campus. 

The first thing I think is going to be really key is that she wants to be close to Mike, the argument currently occurring in season 4 notwithstanding. I also feel like, by the end of their senior year, they’ll be comfortable enough to go to their own colleges and have their own experiences while still end up strong and annoyingly in love (probably marrying after they graduate). Still, she’d want to be able to visit him frequently (see my prediction for Mike right below!)

Secondly, El has a very innate need to be around others and to ‘fit in’. We can see this in Season 3 when she becomes closer with Max, and develops as a character by having others to talk to besides Mike. In season 4, she’s chasing to be part of the ‘in’ crowd, albeit in the wrong way. I do think that Eleven thrives when socializing with positive female influences, so she could really benefit from going to a school with a Greek system! 

The last part of this is that Hopper is very protective of Eleven. He lost his first daughter in an incredibly agonizing fashion, and life with El has been less than safe since then. He would totally be the dad that would be worrying about El all the time, so I feel like he’d want her close. And, since El loves Hopper, she’d also want to be able to visit, so I looked up colleges within six hours from near Indianapolis (Hawkins may be fictional, but many people have theorized it’s in this area!). 

With all this in mind, my pick for Eleven is University of Wisconsin-Madison! Am I suggesting this because it’s my alma mater? Yes, but I also strongly believe it fits the bill. UW Madison has sixteen sororities to choose from and was ranked #12 for best Greek Life campuses, so no doubt Eleven would find a strong bond there. It’s about a five hour drive from Indianapolis, making trips home for holidays or just if she’s homesick totally doable. Finally, the mascot is a Badger. Badgers are feisty, stubborn little creatures, a mascot I think El would absolutely embrace! 

Mike Wheeler

Finn Wolfhard Mike GIF by Stranger Things

If we’ve decided where El is going to college, Mike is our next pick! As stated above, I think he and El would be okay separating but would need to be close enough to visit each other on weekends or carpool home for holidays. 

Mike Wheeler is a highly compassionate and emotion-driven boy who often takes on the leadership mantle when his friends get tangled in zany horror-story plots. While we don’t have much indication of what he’s good at in school, we know he was part of the A.V club in middle school.

I think that Mike would fit right in at Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois! This is a college that has lots of choices and paths and is only about two hours away from Eleven in Madison (or, nearly the length of a season 4 Stranger Things episode). I also like the idea that if Nancy did go to Northwestern, which is in the area, Mike wouldn’t be copying in her footsteps exactly, but it would be touching that they’d be in the same area, since they do have a pretty strong brother-sister bond. 

Max Mayfield 

Stranger Things strangerthings strangerthings3 GIF

While all the kids in Stranger Things have experienced far more stress and trauma than a regular pre-teen, Max has had it particularly hard. So hard, in fact, that it’s made her a prime target for Vecna (an ‘evil wizard’) this season. From moving to Hawkins, to her bully older brother, her bully older brother dying in front of her, her step-dad leaving, having to move to a trailer park…Max has a lot of reasons why college could be a great step for her. 

When we think about Max, out of all the kids, she would probably need to go to a school that offers financial aid. We know her mother works long jobs to make ends meet, and luckily there are plenty of packages and programs that can help Max go to a great school!

 

Like Eleven, I think that Max benefits the most from having a solid group of people that always have her back, as we saw when Vecna was going after her. I would hate for her to lose this in college, so I think that Max joining a women’s collegiate sport would be a great way for her to have a close-knit group, but also to help herself de-stress. There are plenty of sports that she could go for, but for the sake of this argument, I’m going with women’s rowing.

I also wonder if perhaps Max would like to return to California, where she and her mother moved from? 

With all this in mind, the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA is a fantastic choice! It is ranked #18 on the most generous financial aid list and has a great women’s rowing team

Will Buyers

Will Stranger Things GIF by NETFLIX

We haven’t seen much of Will this season, but I think we all have our fingers crossed for more features in part B of season 4! 

When it comes to Will, the biggest things I’m trying to keep in mind are his artistic abilities and his quiet nature. Many fans have theorized since season 1 that he may be gay or aesexual. In the original pilot episode of ‘Montauk’ that the Duffer Brothers pitched to Netflix, Will was struggling with his sexuality. Since many Montauk plot points have just been extended over multiple seasons compared to the single season that was intended, it would make sense that eventually our Will will face similar questions. 

So, Will should have a college that’s welcoming to any sort of questions and will help him explore what part of the spectrum he falls on. He also would likely be interested in a liberal arts college, and I imagine he would prefer a smaller setting over a big, metropolitan campus. 

Because of this, I think that he would fit right in at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, OR. It’s listed as a ‘Premiere Campus’ on the Campus Pride Index, and it’s a libral arts college, meaning that whatever he identifies with and whatever type of art he chooses to pursue, he’ll be well supported here. 

Dustin Henderson

Stranger Things Dart GIF by Fanmio

Out of the Party, Dustin is arguably the smartest. While his intelligence sometimes comes off a bit arrogant, and his common sense is sometimes overshadowed by his interest in knowledge (does anyone remember when he decided to keep a monster as a pet?), he’s always the one figuring it out and saving the day! He also has a good hand in electronics, which could help him toward a very lucrative future. 

We know that Dustin’s into science-related fields, as he went to a science themed summer camp and enjoyed it in a previous season. This also shows us he’s okay with traveling outside of his usual bounds. 

Because it’s unclear what field of study Dustin is most interested in, I think that Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston would give him the chance to explore a wide variety of scientific and technological fields. It’s a pretty difficult school to get into, but I imagine Dustin’s admissions essay would blow their minds. 

Lucas Sinclair

Netflix Lucas GIF by Stranger Things

When it comes to Lucas, we see him having a very realistic struggle in the beginning of season 4. Should he stay with his old friends or explore new horizons and try to be ‘cool’? While Lucas eventually figures out that being nerdy with his old friends isn’t a bad thing, perhaps his last-minute winning shot during the championship basketball game can help us figure out where he might want to go.

It’s completely plausible that if Lucas continues scoring hoops at this rate and winning big titles, he could be scouted for a D1 basketball school and play some college ball. 

But I don’t think we should only place our bets on basketball, because he still needs a career post-college. He hasn’t shown any obvious aptitudes toward any course in school yet, but out of all of his friends, Lucas is the most logically driven and often the ‘voice-of-reason’ among the group. I think that he might really find a safe place in mathematics and enjoy that every problem has an answer. 

I think that the best of both worlds would be Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. It is rated #8 for mathematics and #1 for basketball. Both of these numbers are fairly high up there, meaning that whatever path he ended up liking more, he’d have great prospects! 

Suzie Bingham

Stranger Things Netflix GIF by Nerdist.com

I have to admit; Suzie totally annoyed me when she was first introduced at the end of last season. I know that she didn’t know she was saving the world, but that was a tight finish with the whole ‘Neverending Story’ song bit. However, season 4 has made her one of my favorites! Not only is her hacking story legendary, but in a wild house like that, some weirdness is totally expected. 

It makes sense that if Suzie’s going to college, she’ll be going somewhere she can grow and let these skills flourish. While it would be the cutest thing to have her attend MIT with Dustin, we also have to remember that her family is very heavily Mormon. 

So, while this might not be that surprising of an answer, but one that I think still fits her needs, I think Suzie would end up attending Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, Utah! 

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