As the self-appointed spokesman for all dads who recently sent their first born off to college, I have a message for whoever is in charge of university rankings:
Our kids are now firmly entrenched in their dorm rooms; classes at most universities are in full swing, football players are already being suspended for various criminal and academic offenses. and we parents have experienced the tears that flow simultaneously as we hug our children goodbye and write our first tuition checks. The latter will occur regularly until at least 2019.
That means we are no longer interested in these ridiculous polls, surveys and questionnaires that make us second guess our decisions or, worse, cause us to realize exactly where our money is being allocated. Yes, I'm talking to you, parents of students at Liberty University, which resides in Lynchburg, Va., and is ranked number one in the prestigious "Best Dining Halls" category, according to BestColleges.com. Feel at ease knowing that, if the Reber-Thomas Dining Hall and its NINE food stations aren't serving anything to please your child's picky palate, he or she can head to Doc's Diner, with its assortment of hearty breakfasts, juicy burgers and large screen TVs. I can't find a place like that within a 10-mile radius of my house!
My daughter attends the University of Iowa, a school that has achieved "Top 10" status on various lists, most notably The Princeton Review's coveted "Top Party Schools." It was also ranked third in "Most Amazing Campus Student Recreation Centers" at BestCollegeReviews.org and 10th in the recently created "Most Swiped-Right Girls," developed, naturally, by Tinder, the company that feels meeting your soulmate requires nothing more than a mobile device, a finger and the ability to move said finger in opposite directions.
I'm sure there are more lists I haven't discovered. Query any college campus feature on Google - desirable or not - and you're likely to find some organization that has already done the legwork, and neatly laid out its findings with numbers, bullet points and red stars. Who has the best dorms? Niche.com says it's Washington University in St. Louis. Ugliest campus? Drexel University or the University of Dallas, according to various outlets. Hottest guys? Miami University in Ohio. The University of Iowa didn't even crack the top 25 in that category, making me wonder why its party ranking was so high. Ladies, who wants to party with hideous looking males?
This desire to rank anything and everything college related is relatively new. I attended Northwestern University in the early 1980s and don't remember ever being approached by pollsters, other than those asking if I preferred Reagan or Carter. Then again, maybe the university did its best to squelch their presence. In the early '80s, Evanston, Ill., the town surrounding Northwestern, was "dry," meaning liquor was only available in high-end restaurants that didn't exactly cater to the college crowd. Had The Princeton Review developed a "Top Schools Void of Anything Resembling Fun," category, Northwestern could have easily taken the top five spots. In its defense, the school did have an active Greek life, meaning it could have competed in the "Schools With at Least SOMETHING To Do on Weekends Even If You're Ugly" category.
Now that I have a college age freshmen, I've found myself glancing at the "30 Colleges with the Most Impressive Job Placement Rates and Career Services" survey, compiled by stats from Online Education Database and the aptly named NerdWallet.com. But I question the results. Harvard and Stanford, schools synonymous with success, did not appear. Washington University in St. Louis made the list, most likely due to its students performing well on job interviews after a night of blissful sleep in the school's awesome dorms. The University of Iowa was nowhere to be found, but remember: Its job seekers spent the previous night partying and swiping, if one is to believe The Princeton Review and Tinder respectively.
Right now, I am only concerned that my daughter gets good grades and doesn't appear in any viral videos created on a Friday or Saturday night. Until she dons a cap and gown, I will forego even the most cursory glance at these polls, content that she, and her parents, have made the correct decision.
Then again, if anyone has seen a "Cheapest Iowa Motels During Parents Weekend" survey, please forward me the results.