Collegiate ranking looks beyond books; survey measures quirky qualities
Ivy League? What Ivy League?
Thequalityofacampusisallinthe eyeofthebeholder,accordingtoasurveyof 22, which reveals that political leanings, food and mood sway collegians rather thanacademic prestige alone.
Rice University in Houston ranked the best “quality of life,” while the University of Chicagowas cited as “best overall academic experience,” according to students at 361 campuses polled by Princeton Review, aNew York-based research group and publisher.
The “toughest school to get into” was not Harvard University, but the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The hallowed halls of Harvard, in fact, only rated mention for its library.YaleUniversitymadethelistby virtue of its student newspaper; Princeton University for its financial aid.
Themostpoliticallyactivecampus was American University in Washington; the least politically active — “Election,what election?” thesurvey quipped — was Worcester Polytechnic Institute inWorcester, Mass. The most“Birkenstock-wearing,tree-hugging, clove-smoking vegetarians” were found at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson,N.Y.,whileReed College in Portland, Ore., was rated the least religious.
“College admission has gotten crazy. Valedictorians with perfect SATs may not get into the college of their dreams,” said Harriet Brand of thePrincetonReview.“Butwhatisthe college of their dreams? Prospective students need lots of information to find out.”
The survey posed 80 questions to students about life on their campus during the 2005-06 school year, including partying, study time, dorms, sports, cuisine — or lack of it — and prevailing attitudes.
“The real challenge for applicants and parents is finding the college that’s best for them,” said Robert Franke, who compiled the data.
For students who like to party, the University of Texas grabbed the top slot, besting Penn State University and last year’s biggest party school winner the University of Wisconsin.
But partying didn’t jibe with happiness, as Brown University in Providence, R.I., grabbed the “happiest” campus status.
The least happy campus was the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, whichalsogottheworstmarksfor its food and professors. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy was not shipshape, either. It was most cited for having “dorms like dungeons.”
On a happier note, the U.S. Air ForceAcademyrankedtopsfor“professors whomake themselves accessible.” Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt., had the best overall professors, while Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., wasaccused of havingthemost“longlinesandredtape.” Wheredo students waxmost nostalgic for former President Ronald Reagan? That would be Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Mich.
Alternatively, they pine most for formerPresidentBillClintonatWarren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C. — which, incidentally, ranked tops in “Reefer Madness” — marijuana use — in the poll.
Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, rated the best food; Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., the most beautiful campus, Drexel University in Philadelphia the least; the UniversityofWisconsinthemostbeer drinkers—andBrighamYoungUniversity “stone cold sober.”