By Bonnie K. Goodman
Princeton Review never lets students down releasing the rankings that irks administrators the most but gives students the best of life on campus. On Aug. 30, 2016, the Princeton Review released their 25th edition, “The Best 381 Colleges 2017 Edition” in book and digital formats. This year the University of Wisconsin at Madison took the top honors in the most notorious list of their 62 rankings lists the Best Party School. The Best Colleges lists are based on students opinions and mostly benefits the students and the lists are the most feared rankings by the university administrators as it ranks a college’s academic and social highlights and low-lights.
The top party school is the most anticipated of the 62 lists Princeton Review publishes each year and is the only list that headlines the news media. Being designated as a party school means there is a lot of alcohol and drug use, students do not spend many hours studying instead focusing on partying and social activities. The label also indicates the Greek system is prevalent on campus. The students, however, are proud of the designation.
The University of Wisconsin at Madison also tops “Best Health Services” and “Lots of Beer” lists and the school placed fourth in the “LGBTQ-friendly” campus list. Last year’s top party school, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign dropped to third. In second place was West Virginia University, in fourth, is Lehigh University and rounding out the top five is Bucknell University. The rest of the top 10 includes the University of Iowa at 6, the University of Mississippi at 7, Syracuse University at 8, Tulane University at 9, and Colgate University in 10th place.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Brigham Young University (UT) ranked for the 19th year as the top “Stone Cold Sober School.” Brigham Young also tops the “Most Conservative Students” list, while Sarah Lawrence College (NY) tops the “Most Liberal Students” list. As for some, the academically relevant categories Wellesley College (MA) is tops on the “Best Professors” list, Sarah Lawrence also tops “Best Classroom Experience” while the University of Chicago has the “Best College Library.” Vassar College (NY) tops “Great Financial Aid,” while Bentley University (MA) has the “Best Career Services.” The Ivy League universities that dominate most rankings usually do not top Princeton Review lists not in even the academic categories.
The 62 lists published in the guide does not represent Princeton Review’s opinion of the universities and colleges, but a student’s view made for students, which is why school officials fear it so much, more than any other ranking released each year. The rankings look at every aspect of life on campus the social not just the academic. University officials criticize the Princeton Review more than any other college rankings out there.
The results of the rankings are entirely concluded from surveys filled out by 143,000 students at the 381 colleges included in the lists average out to 375 students per school. The students respond to 84 questions that are divided into “four sections” “1) their school’s academics/administration, 2) life at their college, 3) their fellow students, and 4) themselves. Student’s answers are based on a “five-point Likert scale,” ranging from “Excellent” to “Awful” or “Extremely” to “Not at All”: or percentages “0-20%” to “81-100%.” Afterward each school is given a score derived from the student responses, which is used to compare and rank the colleges quantitatively.
In total, there are 62 lists, which each rank the top 20 colleges in that category. The Princeton Review determines the best colleges from their research of over 2,000 colleges and universities in the country. The 62 categories are further divided into eight topics. They are Academics/Administration (18 lists), Demographics (6 lists), Extracurriculars (9 lists), Politics (4 lists), Quality of Life (10 lists), Schools by Type (4 lists), Social Scene (7 lists), and Town Life (4 lists). The top 20 schools are listed for each category. Each section includes best lists and the worst lists looking a both sides of the coin. It is the worst lists and the social lists that make college administrators the most nervous and causes them to protest the most.
The Princeton Review’s Senior Vice President and Publisher, and the author of the ranking lists Robert Franek discussed the 25th edition and the ranking’s purpose all these years. Franek explained, “Since 1992 when we created this guide to the colleges we believe are the nation’s best, academically, our purpose has been twofold, One: we want to shine a light on these exceptional institutions which represent only 15% of the nation’s four-year colleges. Two: we work to give applicants considering them an incomparable amount of campus feedback to decide which college may be best for them. We base our 62 ranking lists entirely on what the colleges’ customers, their enrolled students, report to us on our surveys. As such, they provide unique insights into the campus cultures, aid offerings, services, and student body communities at these schools. In the end, it’s all about the fit.”
The Princeton Review is a private education services company that has been conducting their annual ranking of best colleges since 1992.
The following is some of Princeton Review’s “Best 381 Colleges” list toppers:
“Best Campus Food”- University of Massachusetts Amherst
“Best College Dorms”-Washington University in St. Louis
“Best Health Services”-University of Wisconsin-Madison
“LGBTQ-Friendly” – Sarah Lawrence College (NY)
“Students Pack the Stadiums” – Syracuse University (NY)
“Best Athletic Facilities” – Pennsylvania State University
“Party Schools” – University of Wisconsin-Madison
“Stone-Cold Sober Schools” – Brigham Young University (UT)
“Most Beautiful Campus”-Rhodes College (TN)
“Happiest Students”-Rice University (TX)
“Their Students Love These Colleges”-Virginia Tech