Personal rankings beat Princeton Review

UVM has been officially pigeonholed.   Well, it depends on how official you believe The Princeton Review’s lists to be.  According to the rankings, we all party, smoke weed and wear Birkenstocks. Every year the group over at The Princeton Review compile their data, survey students, peer deep into their crystal balls and come out the other side with lists of schools that prospective college students pore over when deciding where to go.   On the list of party schools we took home the 19th spot. We cracked the top 10 of the “Reefer Madness” list, and top 20 of the incredibly scientific “Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove Smoking Vegetarians” list.   So how do they come up with such magical lists? They just ask college kids. The Princeton Review boasts on their website that they surveyed “over 122,000 students” when creating the 2012 edition of their book, and that the rankings are “based solely on what students told us about their own colleges on our 80-question student survey.” That is almost 330 students for each of the 376 schools that appear in their book. The numbers break down to around 3 percent of UVM’s undergraduate student body having been surveyed. Three percent student opinion hardly paints a full picture. Everyone wants to believe their school parties hard, is LGBT-friendly and graduates future geniuses. After all of UVM’s social justice training and diversity requirements, you would think that we would rank No. 1 on the LGBT-friendly list. But we don’t even make an appearance.   For one student, their UVM experience might top every list — but for another, the experience could be completely different. For this reason, the small sample size surveyed is extremely unreliable. To give high credence to these lists when picking a school does yourself, your school and your future an incredible disservice. But that is exactly what some incoming first years do. The only way to know which schools top your personal rankings is to do your own research and ask your own questions. Don’t rely on an online survey to determine what you value and what fits you best. By the way, half our staff has never worn Birkenstocks.