As a college professor, actress Ally Sheedy has gotten used to occasionally being recognized by her students.
"Some of them Google me, or they have a great filmography in their head and they've seen what I've done," says Sheedy, 59, who rose to fame in the 1980s as part of Hollywood's so-called Brat Pack and now also teaches an acting class at the City College of New York. "I'm very open to talking about my experiences. And I have an affinity for them so much because they are the age I was when I was working," she says. "I'm telling them everything I wish I knew!"
Sheedy, who began acting nearly four decades ago, is currently starring in Freeform's Single Drunk Female as Carol, the single mother to a daughter, played by Sofia Black-D'Elia, who is navigating sobriety.
"Carol is such a complicated woman," says Sheedy, who in real life is mom to son Beckett, 27. "She's been through so much. She's trying to live an independent life and now this disaster of a kid comes in and it's all about her again. There's a push pull thing there!"
Sheedy herself, who was raised in New York before moving to Hollywood as a teen, was younger than her onscreen daughter — just 23 — when she landed starring roles in The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo's Fire and was launched into the stratosphere of fame and success.
"It was a different world in the 80s," says Sheedy. "But as far as learning how to handle a set, it hasn't changed that much."
Following her early hits, Sheedy found herself struggling to connect with the right roles.
"When I was in my 20s, roles were coming to me beautifully flowing but there was a period when I didn't know what I was doing," she says. "I wanted to be Debra Winger but I [was offered] one comedy thing after the next."
Sheedy eventually moved back to New York where she began working with an acting teacher, and in 1998 garnered an Independent Spirit Award for Best Actress for her part in High Art.
"It was the right thing at the right point," she says. "That's how I feel about my role as Carol. It fits really easily for me."
And no matter where the future takes her, Sheedy will look fondly on her past, including a certain classic.
"I'm always happy to talk about The Breakfast Club," she says with a smile. "I still really love it!"
For more about Sheedy, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE.