The news that the Princeton Review has named the University of Delaware its top party school in its 2019 rankings might have some folks on campus feeling the same as parents who discovered their honor student has been slipping out of the house to attend weekend keggers—We’re glad your grades are stellar, but maybe your decision-making needs a little work.
Illustration by Tim Foley
That’s understandable. UD has successfully labored to improve its academic profile and establish itself as an institution with plenty to offer prospective students both in and out of the classroom. But this latest “honor,” however dubious it might seem, puts UD on a list that includes academic bastions like Lehigh, Bucknell, Tulane and Syracuse. So, someone’s obviously cracking the books in between all the cold ones.
But why would UD—fighting alongside so many other schools against the twin stigmas of binge drinking and its accompanying ugliness—be happy with its newfound No. 1 status? According to Princeton Review spokesman David Soto, the director of content development, the criteria for the rankings go beyond just which schools have the wildest nightlife, and only schools with “superlative academic profiles” are considered for any of the 62 different lists the Review publishes. The overall goal is to create profiles of schools that will allow high school students and their families to choose the best places for them, he says.
We want to help parents and students distill the process into a digestible form,” Soto says. “We try to give them as much information as possible.”
The Review based its party rankings on a variety of criteria, including student alcohol consumption, recreational drug use, Greek life (an average of 20.5 percent of students join fraternities and sororities) and study time. According to Soto, the 138,000 nationwide respondents included hundreds of UD students out of the more than 18,000 enrolled. “Students are the experts on their colleges,” Soto says. “They tend to be genuine with their answers.”
UD’s move to No. 1 for 2019 culminates a steady rise in the rankings, from 20th in 2015 to 12th in 2017 and sixth last year. And while the rankings are also a marker the school can use to measure alcohol and drug consumption on campus, Adam Cantley, associate dean of students, reports that UD’s “binge drinking rates are the lowest in 10 years,” thanks to student education and increased accountability for those found in violation of school policies.
“They use a relatively small sample of students. Their process is their process. We prefer to talk about how we have other rankings in the Princeton Review. We have high standing in academic rigor,” he says. “Even to get on the list, you have to be one of the 384 best colleges. To be considered, you need to be good.”
As the school works to improve its national status, it continues efforts to make the campus safer for students who do drink. There’s an amnesty policy for students who help peers and programs designed to build awareness about things like binge drinking.
“Generally speaking, university officials and faculty take [party rankings] with a grain of salt,” Soto says. “It just shows the school has a vibrant social scene.”
For better or worse.