Aug 11, 2012

College Rankings gone Wild

Stanford University
It’s ranking season gone wild.  Building up to the climactic debut of the US News & World Report (USNWR) annual review of colleges, other players in the media industry are attempting to cut into the action by coming up with their own variations on the theme.

Last week, Forbes rolled out a huge national ranking of 650 colleges and universities largely based on nonsense data from, Who’s Who, and   

This week, Newsweek and the Daily Beast scooped the Princeton Review by digging into dirty laundry a little and coming up with lists of “Least Rigorous,” “Top Party,” and “Most Stressful” colleges using survey data gathered by College Prowler.

And the results were equally questionable with an interesting bias toward schools with relatively high profiles on the College Prowler site where protected by anonymity, respondents are free to say what they want about whatever college or university. 

College marketing offices that didn’t know to vote must be thrilled.

In fact, you can almost hear the groans across state lines from West Virginia University as their bad reputation puts them at the top of the party list. 

Then again, Colgate also appears on the “Top Party” list (8) as well as on the “Most Rigorous” (25), “Happiest” (16), and “Most Beautiful” (24) lists.  Go figure.

But Colgate isn’t alone.  Other schools show-up on mixed-message lists.  Columbia University is among the “Most Rigorous” (1), “Happiest” (14), and “Most Stressful” (3).  And the University of Southern California shows up on “Happiest” (15), “Most Stressful” (24), and “Most Beautiful” (12). 

Is there something about being happy and stressed at the same time?  If so, that should be good news for mental health professionals.

For the record, local colleges didn’t show up too much in the Newsweek/Daily Beast results.  Catholic (25), Liberty (21), and Washington and Lee (10) were “Most Conservative”; Goucher (15) and Liberty (21) were “Least Affordable”; University of Maryland—College Park was “Top Party” (22); and George Mason (25) and UMBC (20) were “Least Rigorous.”  

Washington and Lee was “Most Rigorous” (11); Georgetown (6) and the University of Richmond (7) were among the “Happiest”; and Richmond (23) and UVa (15) were most beautiful.

And according to Newsweek and the Daily Beast, the 15 “Happiest” colleges are:
  1.  Stanford
  2. Carleton
  3. Yale
  4. Brown
  5. University of Chicago
  6. Georgetown
  7. University of Richmond
  8. Swarthmore
  9. Skidmore
  10. Bowdoin
  11. Harvard
  12. Colorado College
  13. Carnegie Mellon University
  14. Columbia
  15. University of Southern California

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