Students who want to know how life at the University stacks up against other higher educational institutions can forget about U.S. News and World Report’s list of America’s Best Colleges, which offers information on universities’ graduation and acceptance rates and the school’s student-faculty ratio.
The Princeton Review released its yearly rankings for 2003 last month, comparing colleges in categories ranging from how happy students are and how engaging professors are to which ones offer the most “bang for the buck” and which have the most alcohol and marijuana use on campus.
“Instead of just using one overall ultimate list, we decided to create a whole number of lists,” Princeton Review Editor Erica Magrey said. “We believe all the schools included in the book are outstanding institutions, but for their own reasons. They have their own personalities.”
According to the rankings, the University may not be as academically-focused as some would think.
Though it scored high in almost all social categories, including Party Schools (No. 13), Lots of Beer (No. 13), Reefer Madness (No. 15), Lots of Hard Liquor (No. 10) and Major Frat and Sorority Scene (No. 16), it did not make the Top 20 cut for many academic categories.
Those categories include Professors Get High Marks, Professors Make Themselves Accessible, Class Discussions Encouraged, Best Overall Academic Experience for Undergraduates and The Toughest to Get Into. The University ranked No. 15 when it came to average number of hours students spend studying and No. 16 in the Great College Libraries category.
Last year, the University was ranked the No. 8 college in the category “Professors Suck All Life out of Material.”
To compile the rankings, The Princeton Review collected surveys from 100,158 students from 345 colleges and asked them 70 questions about the institution they attend.
The rankings are based from student responses to questions like “How much of your overall course time is devoted to discussion (as opposed to lectures)?” and “overall, how happy are you?”
Magrey said the publication chose to survey students because “we feel they are the real college experts.
“We think that is most valuable perspective for students,” she added.
University Provost Paul Courant said while student opinion is very valuable, the survey’s results should not be taken too seriously and were not a cause for alarm.
“It’s a funny thing. When we look at (other) surveys, we find that our students find us to be very strong academically, they make wide use of the academic breadth of our University and find diversity to be a very important quality that contributes to our academic life,” he said.
“It’s interesting to me that this portrait of us is quite different than the U.S. News and World Report portrait.
“I would hate to be in a college where the students study just as much as I would hate to be in a college where the students just party. Neither of those would be a good thing for the University,” Courant added.
“I don’t believe that we are both. I don’t believe that we are either.”
Several students agreed with Courant’s statements, saying they do not believe the rankings accurately reflect life at the social level of the University.
“Comparing it to other universities, there is a bigger social life here. There are a lot of people who do a lot of stuff and there are a lot of parties, but I think that is healthy,” Engineering junior Maria Pobre said.
She said she believes most students give academics a higher priority than partying and that professors here are widely-respected and available to students.
“I think this is a great school,” Pobre said. “But it just shows that a successful student doesn’t have to be cooped up in a library all day. It shows you can be successful in both areas.”
The University ranked high in other areas, mostly dealing with the number of activities available on campus, including Most Politically Active (2), Great/Most Read College Newspaper (5), Everyone Plays Intramural Sports (9) and Great College Town (20).
It won the Jock School and Students Pack into Stadiums categories.
However, it did not make any of the lists in the Demographics or Quality of Life divisions, which include Students From Different Backgrounds Interact, Diverse Student Population, Students Pray on a Regular Basis, Gay Community Accepted, Happy Students, Great Food, Dorms Like Palaces, Beautiful Campus and The Best Quality of Life.
And although many students believe the University is a liberal campus, it did not make the Top 20 in the Students Most Nostalgic For Bill Clinton category.
Courant said although the rankings are fun, students and potential students should not use it or other publications to judge whether to enroll in a university.
“There is no right way to do this because students have their own interests, their own skills, their own needs. Those things vary widely,” he said.
“I think students should learn about the colleges of their interest from many sources. They should visit, they should talk, they should read and they should make their own decisions about what university meets their own needs.”
In a two-page profile, the Princeton Review highlights the University’s academic strengths.
While the rankings are compiled from student responses to the questions, there is also a section based on students’ individual comments, Magrey said.
The profile for the University published in the article states “the school’s a national powerhouse in nearly every aspect: academics (both undergrad and graduate), research, athletics, and student activism, not to mention its thriving social scene and excellent location in Ann Arbor, a town that’s ‘not too big, but has a lot going on.'”