Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long) is taking headshot photos of a few students during a lunch break in an empty classroom. Bartleby is actually making fake ID's for these students, but is immediately interrupted when his best friend, Sherman Schrader (Jonah Hill) walks in and tells him to wrap it up because the teacher that teaches in the classroom they are in right now comes in at exactly a certain time and does his routine, which is eat his apple and read a workout/fitness magazine.
With all the equipment laying everywhere, and all the students in the classroom, Bartleby quickly gets everyone to pretend that they are rehearsing for a recital, just as the teacher walks in. The teacher is furious, and begins questioning their purpose in the classroom. Bartleby starts to use his "wisdom¨ to get them out of trouble; Bartleby points out the fitness magazine that the teacher holds in his hand is actually a great issue, and he goes on to to say that he tried to read a few pages of it yesterday but the pages were actually glued by some "natural adhesive.¨ That made the teacher extremely uncomfortable, knowing he is the one that got the pages stuck together. He quickly rushes the kids out the classroom without any further questions.
This is when we understand that Bartleby has been using his wits to get away with a lot of things, even to get what he wants. As he walks down the hallway with Sherman, he gives a few examples of what he has done in the past. One of the incidents is with a school bully, who always picked on Bartleby, but Bartleby got that bully suspended for two years on a sexual harassment charge (he said while he was slammed onto lockers by the bully, he told the dean he felt their genitals connected).
Sherman is bragging about getting into one of the finest school in their area, Harmon College, where he is actually going there only because his whole family went there, dating back a couple generations. Bartleby has already been rejected by eight schools, and he got another one that day, which meant he did not get into any schools he applied to.
At the same time, a cute girl comes up to Bartleby and Sherman and talks to them. Her name is Monica (Blake Lively), and we can kind of sense that she is the hot girl that every other high school guy wants to be with. She said she's having this party tonight, and just when it seems like she was going to invite Bartleby, she actually just needs him to come over in the afternoon to mown the lawn. Bartleby is embarrassed, but agrees, as Monica jumps into an SUV that her boyfriend Hoyt drives.
At home, Bartleby is having dinner with his parents and his younger sister. His parents are concerned that he did not get into any of the colleges. Bartleby even tries to use his wits to convince his parents that he could work instead of waste their money on tuition. But the dad is furious, and he insisted that Bartleby go to college.
So back in Bartleby's room, staring at his many rejection letters, he thinks of scanning the letter and using his talent in creating believable identification, he comes up with the South Harmon Institute of Technology (S.H.I.T. get it?), and typed up an acceptance letter. He showed this letter to Sherman and his close friend Hands (Columbus Short), and Sherman is not too pleased. Starting as a temporarily solution to his college rejection, he also asks Sherman to build a website of the school, knowing that Bartleby's dad is extremely thorough and will do his complete research of this school.
Next we see the parents hand over a mail to Bartleby, and even though they never heard of the school South Harmon, they bought it, and are relieved and proud to find out Bartleby got in. The dad immediately checks out the fake school website, and believes it. He also immediately gives Bartleby a check for ten thousand dollars for the first semester. Just when Bartleby is relieved, the dad tells him, "Your mom and I can't wait to drop you off."
Now Bartleby realizes that this tiny little lie is now needed on a much larger scale. He gathers a few of his friends, all of them who were rejected by their colleges except for Sherman, and they need a place that they can temporarily fool their parents. One of Bartleby's friends, Rory (Maria Thayer) knows an old psych ward that is now abandoned.
Upon arrival to the place, the building is fenced and looks more like a haunted house. But it is the perfect place in Bartleby's mind. There is a big entrance, a reception area, classrooms, rooms with beds to act as dormitories, and there is even a cafeteria and all the other school-related needs. All they need is to clean and remodel the place a bit, and they already have the ten thousand dollars Bartleby's dad gave him as tuition.
The place actually really looks like a school when they finished. Just when everything is going according to plan, Bartleby's dad asks to schedule an appointment with the dean. Now Bartleby is out to look for a person willing to act as their dean. He happens to know an ex-professor, Uncle Ben (Lewis Black) who quit teaching and now works at a shoe store and preaches about the conspiracy of the government and their tactics that are out to suck all the money and wisdom out of Americans. Uncle Ben is fired by the shoe store as Bartleby goes by to recruit him, and he agrees to pretend to act as the dean.
On the day of parents arrival, Rory gets some extras to fill in as students, only to fool the five parents that are dropping their kids off. Bartleby's parents come, speak with the hilarious yet crazy dean, and checked out the dorm rooms, which still have bars on their windows and restraints on their beds. Bartleby's sister is the only person not convinced, but the parents buy it, and all is good for Bartleby and his friends.
As the gang is sitting around the school, a person knocks on the door. One student with ADD keeps talking, saying that he is accepted to the S.H.I.T. and he is here for orientation. Behind this ADD kid, there are about 300 other kids in the back with their bags ready to move in, all claiming that they are accepted to this college, and all of them begin to pay Bartleby ten thousand each for tuitions. Confused, Bartleby checks out the website that Sherman created, on one page, it says, "Acceptance is only a click away¨ literally. That's why everyone is accepted.
After a brief emergency meeting with his friends, Bartleby is convinced by Sherman that the right thing to do is to send everyone home and tell them the truth. During his speech, he realizes that every one of the students has been rejected, and if he rejects them, he will be just like all the other colleges that rejected himself to begin with. So he gives a big speech about how they will stick it to the man together, and they are all accepted.
With all the money, now Bartleby starts to pay for a cleaner facility, better dorm rooms, and a lot of entertainment systems, such as the half pipe for skateboard and a big pool. The students are told to do whatever they feel like doing and actually create their own class subjects. All the class subjects are written on a white board by students, classes such as "Do Nothing 101¨ and "The Art of Sleeping¨ etc. The entire school just sits around and parties all day.
On a darker note, Sherman is being hazed during his pledging to be in this fraternity that his entire family went to. He is definitely not accepted by the frats, and he is constantly embarrassed and made fun of by the rest of the house. The leading brother of the house is actually Monica's boyfriend, Hoyt. He never clicked with Bartleby, and also because Bartleby seems to be close with his girlfriend Monica. Monica and Bartleby actually got kind of close after they chatted a few times about her dream of becoming a photographer and how the school restrains her from being one. She visites Bartleby quite often at South Harmon, and being rich now, Bartleby gets her a really nice camera to encourage her to follow her dream.
Hoyt is jealous, of course, and is out to get Bartleby. Harmon College is managed by a Dean Van Horne, who really wants to create a fantasy entrance to his school by taking out everything that is in his way, which includes the old psych ward that is currently South Harmon. Realizing that Sherman is Bartleby's friend, they hazed Sherman. Beating all the information out of Sherman to gain the knowledge of the fraud, and taking all the evidence with them. Hoyt manages to contact all the parents for a parents day, and also have Dean Van Horne called the board of education to exploit the fake school.
The parents show up, and Bartleby is forced to tell the truth about South Harmon and is charged with fraud and all the students are taken away by the parents. Disappointing his parents once again, Bartleby receives a letter one day from the board of education. Thinking he is wanted for a hearing, he opens it to find out that the letter is actually an application that someone applied for him to make South Harmon a real school. He found out it was Sherman, and the two of them made up and decided to go with this.
During the hearing, all the students that attended South Harmon are present and fully supporting Bartleby. On the other side is Dean Van Horne, Hoyt and the rest of Harmon College that are out to terminate South Harmon. The board requires being a school, one will need three criteria: a facility (which is a psych ward), faculty (which they only have one, and had not been a teacher in a long time) and a curriculum (which they bring out their white board to show the courses that they offered). All of the criteria is shaky and seem to throw the hopes away for Bartleby and South Harmon.
So Bartleby realizes this is the time he should use his wits to his advantage. Facing rejections once again from the board members of the committee, Bartleby makes a speech about following their own dreams, and not be restricted to what the school allows them to do. He claims schools like Harmon College are great but they limit the creativity of students and at South Harmon, they allow their kids to find their talents and set their own goals.
As the verdict is concluded, with most of the board members still shaking their heads, the South Harmon Institute of Technology is approved, and will grant a one year probation and supervision to further their way of teaching. Everyone cheers and Monica comes over to hug and kiss Bartleby.
The next scene we see South Harmon Institute of Technology as a real college and more students are walking around for orientation, with a banner that reads "Welcome to South Harmon, SHITheads!¨
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