When making the crucial decision of where to go for college, the party scene at the various possible schools is probably one factor that at least crosses the minds of most students. The purpose of the present sample essay provided by Ultius is to discuss party schools in the year 2016.
Top party schools is a fun topic but that doesn’t mean formatting and style guides are thrown out the window. Even essays with fun topics must be formulated in a succinct and readable manner which is a lot easier said than done. This particular essay will be organized into five parts.
The first part will begin with a description of what it means for a school to rank well as a party school. Then, the second, third, and fourth parts will discuss rankings of top party schools in the year 2016. Finally, the fifth part will consist of a reflection of caution regarding party schools in general, and the extent to which rankings in this regard should factor into a student’s choice of where to go for college.
Top party schools of 2016
To start with, then, the concept of the party school essentially refers to the extent to which alcohol, drugs, and large social events are present within a given college, and the extent to which such access constitutes an important part of the general culture of that college. The opposite of a party school would be a more studious college, where the environment and atmosphere are in general quieter and the members of the student body are primarily focused on their coursework and not on large social events.
A top party school, for example, would likely have a large number fraternities and sororities and thriving bar scene within the city. In the minds of most high-schoolers, a college that is ranked high as a party school also holds out the promise of providing almost infinite opportunity for meeting members of the opposite sex: after all, this is why most people are interested in parties in the first place, and why alcohol is such an important feature of most parties.
How to evaluate the merits of a party school
It is thus easy to understand what a party school is. What is somewhat more difficult, though, is actually establishing quantitative metrics for evaluating colleges against each other in terms of their party scenes. Students learning to budget expenses such as food costs so they can save money for partying is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to gathering data on college party life. The rankings conducted by Niche, for example, involved two main metrics:
- “Student opinions about the quality of the party scene at the college they currently or recently attend(ed),” weighted at 75 percent
- “A measure of both the proximity (per square mile) and the availability (per capita) of Bars and similar establishments,” weighted at 25 percent (paragraph 4)
The latter of these metrics is clearly objective and points toward the importance of alcohol availability in defining a top party school. The other metric, though, would seem to be more subjective in nature; and this is reflective of the fact that in order for a college to actually be a top party school, it must be actually perceived and experienced by the students there as being such.
Top party school rankings: Playboy
The adult magazine Playboy regularly publishes its rankings of top party schools: given the fact that top party schools also have reputations for having great opportunities for sexual encounters, it is perhaps easy to see why this would be the case. According to Waxman, these are Playboy’s top party schools for the year 2016, in descending order:
- Ohio University
- University of Iowa
- Tulane University
- University of Illinois
- University of Texas
- Syracuse University
- University of Wisconsin
- University of Mississippi
- University of Michigan
Clearly, several of these schools have huge student bodies, being the flagship public universities of their respective states. The magazine made its rankings on the basis of a few different factors, including access to nightlife and concerts, the magnitude of social events, and subjective feedback from readers of the magazine. Playboy is one of the more prestigious rankers of top party schools in the contemporary United States in contrast to schools considered to be highly studious or “nerdy”.
Playboy’s pick: Ohio University
Waxman has indicated that Ohio University, located in the city of Athens, Ohio, has been on Playboy’s top party schools list for several years now, but that it finally captured the number 1 spot this year, at least in part due to
“the block parties, which take place during the college music festival #Fest and Halloween (aka “HallOUween”) and throughout the spring semester. Some block parties have ended with burning couches. Revelers have also been known to hang out on a hilltop nicknamed “Bong Hill” and go bar-hopping in the Appalachian college town” (paragraph 2).
This gives some sense of what it takes to be ranked as the top party school in the nation. Moreover, the fact that Ohio University has been on the magazine’s list for several years also points toward the fact that the top party schools in the nation tend to remain the top party schools in the nation. This is because having a great party scene is generally not an ephemeral phenomenon but rather a feature of long-term entrenched culture.
Top party school rankings: Princeton Review
The Princeton Review is another publisher of top party school rankings; and according to this guide’s rankings for the year 2016, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the top party school in the nation. Westerholm has provided this further explanation:
“Likely due to last year’s distinction at the top of the list, Syracuse University dropped to fifth overall this year. UI was ranked third overall in 2013, but dropped to fifth last year, before rising to the top” (paragraph 2).
This seems to imply that publishers of top party schools try not to give the top ranking to the same college year after year, for the simple reason that this would likely get boring for the reader—which, of course, casts some doubt on the objectivity of the rankings in the first place. The varied rankings are evident if you look at top party schools of 2014 – most lists of the top party schools don’t coincide. In any event, it is worth noting here that just as Ohio University has hovered on Playboy’s list of top party schools for several years, the same is true of the University of Illinois on Princeton Review’s list.
PR pick: University of Illinois
Interestingly, administrators with the University of Illinois itself have not been too happy with having received this designation. The college’s chancellor Phyllis Wise (qtd. in Samuels), for example, released the following statement in response to the ranking:
This is not a scientifically based ranking. This is a promotion for The Princeton Review. Our student body is comprised of the brightest, most hard-working students anywhere. . . . It’s disappointing that, once again, Princeton Review is promoting this pseudo ranking as though it were meaningful. It’s insulting to all of our students, since they are here to prepare to become leaders of their generation. (paragraph 8)
In other words, according to Wise, to designate the University of Illinois as the top party school in the nation is tantamount to implying that the college is not a serious educational institution, which is an insult to the institution’s academic stature. The students of the University of Illinois itself, though, would seem to take a great deal of pride in the ranking and not to see matters in such a dichotomous way.
Top party school rankings: Shmacked Mag
Another list of top party schools for 2016 has been published by Shmacked Mag. There were three main variables that were considered by this source when formulating the rankings:
- Location of the college
- Sports scene at the college
- Greek life at the college
This last factor, of course, is a reference to the magnitude of the presence of fraternities and sororities on the college scene.
Shmacked Mag gave its number 1 spot on its list to the University of Mississippi, with the following justification:
Ole Miss is this year’s party powerhouse because of their overwhelming combination of their football, Greek life, and party scene. Ole Miss football is the centerpiece of the school, and as a result, Saturdays during the season are truly astounding. (4)
In short, this college scored highly on all of the three criteria evaluated by this magazine.
Overlap, bias or both?
At this point, it is worth noting that there is actually a great deal of overlap between the three different rankings of top party schools for 2016 that have been discussed in this essay. Much like other “top” lists like The Best College Movies of All Time, each list has a different winner; but at the same time, many of the same schools appear on the top 10 of each list. For example, the University of Mississippi won the top spot of Shmacked Mag’s list, but it also shows up on Playboy’s top 10; and likewise, while the University of Illinois did not win the top spot on Playboy’s list as it did on the Princeton Review’s list, it is nevertheless also present in the top 10. This could mean one of two things.
- Overlap is a kind of external verification that shows that the rankings are in fact getting at a real objective phenomenon
- There is simply a kind of systematic bias present, as is the case when different people report gossip heard from one and the same source
Giving value to party schools
So, now the reader should know what a party school is, and what the top party schools for the year 2016 are. But this still leaves the question: should one actually go to a party school? Fern has argued yes, on the grounds that the social life of party schools can in fact prepare one to function effectively within the context of the real adult world and can be crucial for the adapting to college life, particularly in the first few weeks:
The environment and people you are exposed to during this time are unlike anything you will ever encounter. The situations you are thrust into require quick thinking and quick wit. This is the place where your street smarts were developed and everyone knows those are what really get you ahead in the real world. (paragraphs 2-3)
In other words, Fern’s argument is that top party schools do in fact provide students with their own invaluable form of education that transcends the formal education of the classroom: they teach students how to interact with other people and navigate complex social situations – something students attending college from home certainly don’t experience. Insofar as these are skills that one finds valuable, there could be strictly pragmatic reasons in favor of attending a party school.
The inherent dangers of the party school
On the other hand, the concept of the party school is clearly tied closely to the concept of irresponsibility (which is why many administrators of colleges recent having their colleges designated as top party schools). Moreover, top party schools also likely have strong fraternity and sorority scenes; and as Flanagan has made very clear, such scenes can be quite dangerous, insofar as they promote a culture of:
Depending on what one wants out of one’s college experience, then, rankings of top party schools may just as well tell students what places to avoid as what places to attend. If one is committed and serious about one’s actual academic education and career, then there is probably not much value to be found in going to a top party school. On the other hand, though, top party schools tend to be huge and thus able to accommodate a wide range of niches and preferences.
Just because one is at a top party school does not mean that one will in some way be compelled to party all the time and at the expense of one’s education. One should not be surprised, though, if this is the reaction that one gets from others if one does in fact attend college at a widely recognized top party school.
In summary, the present essay has consisted of a discussion of top party schools for the year 2016. After describing what a party school is, the essay proceeded to discuss three different rankings of top party schools, and then to reflect on the value or lack thereof of actually deciding to attend a top party school.
One point that has been made here is that given that the same colleges tend to show up on the top lists of several different published rankings, the rankings are probably getting at something objectively real, unless there is some form of systematic bias present in the methodology. It has also been suggested that attending a top party school can be good for developing one’s social skills, which can be utilized when figuring out how to get a job after college, although one must take care to not go over the top.
Fern, Ashley. “17 Reasons Why Going to a Party School Prepares You for the Real World.” Elite Daily. 24 Jul. 2014. Web. 9 Jun. 2016. https://www.elitedaily.com/life/culture/going-party-school-prepared-life-college/679891.
Flanagan, Caitlin. “The Dark Power of Fraternities.” The Atlantic. Mar. 2014. Web. 9 Jun. 2016. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/03/the-dark-power-of-fraternities/357580/.
Niche. “Top Party Schools Ranking Methodology.” 2016. Web. 9 Jun. 2016. https://www.niche.com/about/methodology/top-party-schools/.
Samuels, Alexandra. “Illinois Named Top Party School in the U.S.” USA Today. 3 Aug. 2016. Web. 9 Jun. 2016. https://www.usatoday.com/story/college/2015/08/03/illinois-named-top-party-school-in-the-us/37405153/.
Waxman, Olivia B. “These Are Playboy’s Top 10 Party Schools.” Time. 14 Sep. 2015. Web. 9 Jun. 2016. http://time.com/4033407/playboy-party-schools-2015/.
Westerholm, Russell. “Princeton Review College Rankings 2016: Top Party School Is University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.” University Herald. 4 Aug. 2015. Web. 9 Jun. 2016. https://www.freshu.io/elizabeth-paul/the-princeton-review-releases-2016-college-rankings