Party Rankings Ignored by University Administrators

While the Princeton Review's annual list of the top 20 party schools may have some students bragging to their friends about their school's partying skills, school administrators and college counselors are singing another tune.

The rankings, college admission counselors say, are bogus.

"Among college professionals, these rankings are seen as a sideshow at best," said David Hawkins, director of public policy at the National Association for College Admission Counseling. "We tend to really dismiss these rankings in terms of the college search process. There's nothing scientific about them or methodical about them."

According to the Princeton Review, the rankings are based on 80-question surveys administered to students attending universities nationwide. The questions ask students to describe themselves, their school's academic and administrative environments, campus life, and their peers, and are available online to any student willing to participate.

This year, West Virginia University topped the list at No. 1, with the University of Mississippi at No. 2, the University of Texas - Austin at No. 3, the University of Florida at No. 4 and at No. 5, and the University of Georgia.

But whether administrators at schools branded with top party school status really cringe at the idea of being associated with keg parties and body-shots for the upcoming school year or if they embrace the title remains unclear.

Does the age-old mantra "any press is good press," hold true for colleges and universities, too?

School Administrators 'Don't Pay Much Attention' to Rankings

"We're not taking it seriously this year, and we didn't take it seriously last year," said Don Hale, the vice president of public affairs for the University of Texas – Austin, which was ranked No.1 party school last year but dropped to No. 3 this year.

School administrators, unlike the students, admit that being branded the nation's No. 1 party school isn't something they celebrate.

"On the surface the ranking is absurd," said Hale, who told ABC News that the university has always had strong alcohol abuse programs for students who party too much and never improved the programs in response to the party school rankings. "I don't want to be the No. 1 party school, but at the same time you can't take it seriously, and this year West Virginia was the one to draw the short straw."

Other school administrator's agree with Hale, saying that the while the rankings may change from year to year on paper, in reality the campus climates change very little.

"I think it's more of a laugh -- just that we've been saying for all these years how arbitrary [the rankings are] and how it's junk science," said John Lucas, the spokesman for the University of Wisconsin -- Madison, which until this year had been a regular on the top party school list. "To go from one year at No. 1 to off it completely this year when we know there hasn't been that kind of progress [curbing the drinking culture] just kind of illustrates what we've been saying all along."

While schools may worry the rankings could turn parents off to a particular school, Lucas said, they also realize that many students may be attracted to a university because of its party school reputation.

None of the schools reported a decline in admissions numbers as a direct result of the rankings.

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