For most of us muggles, going back to school means back to backpacks, calculators, classes which melt your brain, and the neverending onslaught of homework that won't back down till June. That would be unless you're one of the lucky few who were born with innate magical abilities find a certain letter delivered to their mailbox by an owl. But where do you go if you don’t get accepted into Hogwarts?
Turns out there are many more supernatural schools out there, and in many other universes, than the one with flying lessons and self-writing pens and phantoms haunting the bathrooms. Try an institution that teaches travel through all of time and space. Or one where you face things even more terrifying than Voldemort. Or one where you don't even have to have a body to attend.
If you didn't get that long-anticipated letter, these nine schools from different sci-fi and fantasy dimensions will make you forget chocolate frogs.
Night Vale High (Welcome to Night Vale)
For: Corporeal and non-corporeal entities who may or may not have witnessed an angel in their backseat or the lights above the Arby's.
The teachers: More corporeal and non-corporeal entities including a skeleton who teaches anatomy beyond the grave.
The curriculum: Anatomy lectures incorporate the skeleton of Mayer Tom Garmond, who like the five mayors before him, was executed "quite publicly and creatively" as officially stated by the government. The AP auto shop teacher may or may not be the reanimated corpse of Nikola Telsa, but you'll just have to see if you make it through the class without getting electrocuted first. Overdue library books can result in having a hand removed. Watch your government-issued weapons, because the school board has finally installed metal detectors. The emphasis on football is even more important than academics. This is why it is absolutely critical that no players are found to have two heads or to have never actually existed. It's already bad enough that one of the locker rooms is haunted, but if the Scorpions lose, especially to Desert Bluffs, a government-administered pestilence is imminent.
Will you graduate? Maybe, if you stay out of the dog park.
Starfleet Academy (Star Trek)
For: The next generation who wants to blast off into the final frontier at warp speed.
The teachers: Starfleet officers who outrank you so many times that they’re always right by default.
The curriculum: Hyperspace physics, fractal calculus, warp theory, quantum chemistry and other things that would probably give even the top brains of NASA headaches, but this is the future we’re talking about. Just getting accepted is an odyssey in itself. You have to boldly go into an entrance exam during which you could face a psych test that will have your greatest fear confronting you at any time, and your greatest fear doesn’t care if you're tackling advanced astrophysics. Survive that and you'll be a Starfleet cadet after making it through a trying summer prep program. Surprisingly, this is not an institution exclusively for hardcore left-brains (though being one probably helps). In addition to the expected physics and mechanics and engineering, you can also major in subjects like exoarchaeology and xenolinguistics. Meaning, you can be totally fluent in Klingon by the time you level up.
Will you graduate? Probably. It's purely logical that applying yourself to your space studies will eventually land you a diploma.
Unseen University (Discworld)
For: Would-be wizards who would rather not understand how magic works or where it comes from.
The teachers: Imbecile wizards who should be ancient enough to know better, except they not only don't, but don't want to.
The curriculum: Don't bother actually trying to understand magic, because your professors will want you to rely on lore to practice using your powers. You'll be chastised if you actually try to connect magical phenomena to something like physics, especially if your outlandish explanations of magic somehow manage to invoke visions of it. Even though the library with the most massive hoard of magical texts in the entire Disc, the books are chained not to protect them from the students, but vice versa. You don't want someone who doesn’t understand the origins of magic opening to a page that could suck you into some alternate dimension or literally eat you alive. Just imagine if you didn't know how to handle the one sentient book in that collection (there is a reason this thing is stored in a chamber beneath the library). How you get anywhere past level zero in this place is a mystery even magic can’t solve.
Will you graduate? In your sleep. This is probably the one school in any universe where you actually pass from the failure to understand anything having to do with math and science.
Spiritual Arts Academy (Bleach)
For: Souls in the Soul Society who want to save Earthbound ghosts by becoming Soul Reapers, or Shinigami, who combat spirit-sucking Hollows.
The teachers: Shinigami captains and ranked officers who have faced a myriad of horrors to have come this far.
The curriculum: Swordsmanship, hand-to-hand combat, lightning-fast movement, and spells. You need to have the spark of Reiatsu (spiritual pressure) to get in because everything depends on how you can manipulate it. After you pass the entrance exam, which you can take again if you fail, you will be subject to a grueling six years of combat and magical training that will determine which division you'll be placed in after you graduate. Expect to face real Hollows that will terrify you more than seeing a specter ever would have in life. Think things with tentacles, multiple heads and faces that look like warped Noh masks. You also can't possibly learn anything more awesome than being in sync with the spirit of your Zanpaku-to (which is way more than a sword) to combat creepy crawlies. Remember, slice the enemy you must defeat from behind.
Will you graduate? It's exponentially more difficult to die when you're already dead, so you have a much better chance of surviving tests that would kill a mortal in seconds.
For: Interstellar students of the Force, human or otherwise, who someday want to wield lightsabers like a boss (though most of them will never admit that).
The teachers: Yoda. Other Jedi Masters strong in the Force there are to teach you, yes, but none so strong as the Master.
The curriculum: Much have you to learn. There are Jedi Academies throughout that galaxy far, far away, so the nearest is unlikely to be light-years from your planet though most are around the Galactic Rim. Passing trials in martial arts and mind control are mandatory. It isn't as easy as putting on a white robe and pointing a glow stick at a Sith lord. Initiates have to study traditional Jedi doctrine. Whether or not that involves a library or absorbing as many words as you can from your Master's lecture is questionable. You will also probably have to stand on your head for long intervals and, at some point, have to levitate something ridiculously heavy using nothing but your brain, though not everyone will be unlucky enough to have to run through the tangles of the Dagobah swamp with Yoda riding your shoulders. And yes, you will constantly get to practice dueling with fake light sabers.
Will you graduate? If you manage not to burn yourself with a lightsaber and — of course — avoid the Dark Side.
The University (The Kingkiller Chronicle)
For: Anyone who thinks they can master the arcane arts without bursting into flames or going insane in the process.
The teachers: Nine Masters who may not be as old as history itself, but certainly give that impression.
The curriculum: Alchemy, Artificery, Sympathy and Naming. Get it through your head that Alchemy is nothing like chemistry no matter how many similarities you may observe. Artificery can create lamps that never go out or give you massive third-degree burns. Sympathy can forge links that literally let you get away with murder. Don't even ask about Naming if you want your sanity to stay intact. Your tuition depends on whether or not you can answer brain-twisting questions that the Masters throw at you every term, so if you can give them the answers they're looking for (which you have not a prayer of knowing unless you happen to be a telepath), you may not end up humiliated and broke. Whatever you do, just don't sneak through the forbidden shadows of the Archive with a lamp.
Will you graduate? Maybe. Being able to score a tuition that doesn't have you pawning most of your belongings is half the battle. The other half is staying in one piece long enough to earn the title of Arcanist.
Time Lord Academy (Doctor Who)
For: Future Time Lords starting their journey into the future (and the past, and alternate dimensions) at the age of eight.
The teachers: Doctors, but not the Ph.D. type. Going through the grueling trials that will make you a Time Lord makes even defending a dissertation look tame.
The curriculum: You will spend centuries here, so you'd better get used to the rigorous program of mind-expanding subjects such as cosmic science, cybernetics, thermodynamics and Gallifreyan flutterwings. Just be sure to survive the mandatory unblinking look into the Untempered Schism, which will either fill you with wonder, scare you or drive you insane, first. You will earn your symbiotic nuclei that lets you get mapped into the vortex as living math be allowed to transmigrate objects which when you rise to the rank of Junior Time Lord. Achieving the rank of Time Lord means you will have to pass a final exam that only half of students don't end up having to take again. If you're precocious enough to form a symbiotic bond before graduating, there's even a TARDIS cradle in the Academy. You must also swear to protect the ancient law of Gallifrey with all your might and brain. Bonus: you get to ride a Vortisaur.
Will you graduate? If you don't go mad from staring into the Untempered Schism.
The White Tower (The Wheel of Time)
For: Any girl (sorry, boys) who was born with innate powers and wants to be an Aes Sedai — a sorceress even more powerful than those in the Potterverse.
The teachers: Aes Sedai hundreds of years old who have seen things you could only imagine in your wildest nightmares.
The curriculum: Magic. This isn't the type that involves wands and invocations, but something mystical that comes from within, and if you don't have it or don't have enough of it, you'll vanish from the Tower as quickly as you came. One of the first things you will learn to do as a novice is to channel saidar, the female half of the One Power (the male half was tainted by the Dark One long ago and is considered dangerous, hence the no men rule). You will practice this with unusually frustrating mental exercises such was imagining a rose blooming petal by petal. When you can touch the Power at will you can really have fun pulling supernatural stunts like creating glowing balls of light out of nowhere. Just don't let the Mistress of Novices catch you at it after lights out.
Will you graduate? With trials meant to break you (think running around naked in a hostile altverse) before you can attain that coveted ring and shawl, don't count on it.
Miskatonic University (H.P. Lovecraft mythos)
For: Those brave enough to so much as open the Necronomicon.
The teachers: From obsessed reanimator Herbert West to the trio of professors who took down a half-human hybrid in the library, someone will understand exactly what is stalking you.
The curriculum: Cthulhu, the Great Old Ones, Yog-Sothoth, you get the idea. It looks like a perfectly normal university from the outside and bubbles and seethes with all manner of unspeakable things on the inside. You will not only study occult entities but actually commune with them, and your professors have already been there if they aren't already dead or undead. Expect lecture halls lined with things in jars and skeletons from creatures that emerged from space. Tentacles are something you will encounter at any given time. Depending on your area of study, you may or may not morph into a fish. Future mad doctors entering the medical school should prepare to literally get their hands dirty digging up corpses and running experiments that involve injecting them with things like ever-preserving embalming fluid and reanimation serum.
Will you graduate? The question is more like, Will you get out alive?