Sobering thoughts on college

The party factor: Ratings of colleges suggest booze and selectivity don't mix.

September 04, 1999

AH YES, combine the U.S. News & World Report pecking order of universities and colleges with the Princeton Review's rating of "party" or "stone cold sober" schools. What do you get?

A certain correlation of parties with football prowess and the South. Otherwise, the prestige, selectivity, fun in intellectual and cultural dimensions, likely professional future and other criteria of excellence go mostly with sobriety. Of course, some places are virtually drunk with intellectual excitement, but that's not quantifiable.

The smarty-pants Princeton Review surveys students about alcohol and drug use, dominance of fraternities and sororities. It finds Florida State University to be the top party school in the country, followed by traditional rival University of Florida.

Breathe easier. Not one Maryland school is on the party-happy list.

Look at the same publication's stone-cold sober list. Brigham Young, the flagship Mormon university in Utah, is a not-surprising No. 1. But California Institute of Technology is No. 3, and the rival U.S. News & World Report calls it the best university in the country by measurable standards.

Three top women's liberal arts colleges -- Bryn Mawr, Wellesley and Mount Holyoke -- are ranked 6, 7 and 8 in that survey. Guess what coeducational school is just ahead, that teensiest bit more serious? The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, the one Maryland school on either list, is ranked No. 5 for sobriety.

Well, yes, both lists are silly, impressionistic and no substitute for a visit to the campus during term by the prospective student. But taking every kind of snobbery into consideration, they leave the impression that, in the deepest and broadest sense for the true student, sober is more fun.

Pub Date: 9/04/99

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