On Monday, Princeton Review published the only thing that reminds us of their cultural relevance year after year – a series of lists that detail the rankings for colleges and universities in the United States. Each year, these lists purportedly proffer insight into the wide world of higher education institutions, and while doing so, set the media ablaze with changes in rankings and titles.
This year was no exception.
Syracuse University, the institution I’ve called home for the past year, was ranked as the nation’s foremost “party school.” My alma mater, The University of Delaware, rounded out the bottom of the list at #20.
I’m not going to lie, my first impulse was to be oddly proud of this ranking. I posted a status on Facebook that linked to Drake’s “Started From the Bottom,” and let the “likes” roll in. However, after it was pointed out to me that this ranking could potentially have severe reputational consequences, I took a step back and reconsidered whether or not I was still happy to have two prominent party schools on my resume.
After mulling it over for a day, I’ve decided that I’m proud to be attending law school and getting my master’s at the the best party school in America, and I’m ecstatic to have graduated from the 20th best place to rage.
Rather than curse the merry-makers and throw scornful glances upon the undergraduates who were surveyed in 2012 that created this newly minted rank of party-readiness, I’d like to consider that these institutions go by the motto of “work hard, play hard.” From my own personal experience, many individuals I met in college, including some of the smartest people I’ve ever encountered, were known to put on their party hats and let loose several days a week. For them, partying was a reward – their unwavering hard work and consequent academic success meant that they could take time for themselves by going out to the bar on a Wednesday, especially when they knew that they didn’t have to be in class until 2 p.m. the following day.
These individuals are, to this day, some of the most successful people I know. My friend who wouldn’t miss Tuesday night karaoke is in a prestigious rotation program at a financial institution. A former sorority president is working in D.C., and will probably end up being president of the country one day. One of my closest friends could give any party promoter a run for his money, and he just got a job in his dream field and is moving into NYC.
Just because you know how to have a good time does not mean that you don’t know how to hit the books. One’s ability to be a fun person is not in the least bit correlated with one’s ability to be an intellectual, educated, high-achieving member of society.
Furthermore, being a party school and being a highly-ranked academic institution are not mutually exclusive.
Syracuse University is widely regarded in the public opinion as a top school, and also snagged Princeton Review rankings this year for #4 best entrepreneurial program nationally and #2 best college newspaper. The University of Delaware was considered by Princeton Review as one of the best public value universities, one of the best schools in the Northeast, and as having the 12th most popular study abroad program in the nation.
Do those numbers sound like a bunch of slackers to you? Didn’t think so.
Additionally, let’s look at the (incredibly flawed) terminology and methods used in Princeton Review’s methods of social categorization.
Princeton Review labels schools as “jock schools” and “party schools,” a dichotomy with which I have a fundamental issue. Breaking that down further, Princeton Review uses the following categories:
- Party Schools
- Stone-Cold-Sober Schools
- Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians
- Future Rotarians and Daughters of the American Revolution
- Jock Schools
These categorizations are marginalizing, stereotyped, and most importantly, not accurate. When you have a school with a population of more than 15,000 multifaceted and diverse individuals, not everyone is going to raise their “party school” flag as high as they can. Not everyone will aspire to be a “future Rotarian.” Not everyone is going to be all-in when it comes to sports.
There’s really no true, accurate way to get a feel for a university through a ranking, especially when that ranking is based on the opinion of less than 150 students.
So, at the end of the day, I’ll proudly wear my Delaware blue and gold while holding onto my bundle of honors certificates. I’ll cheer for the Orange during basketball games with a beer in one hand and my legal practice manual in the other.
My schools are more than what we do on the weekends, and because of that, I’m not sorry for partying. Given that the rankings are the epitome of arbitrary and sensationalized nonsense, nobody should be sorry, either.