Campus Life

We Are. Keg State!

I'm a Penn State graduate. My college career at University Park began during the earliest years of Joe Paterno's reign as the Nittany Lions' head football coach. Yeah, that's how old I am. But hey, the good news: Joe and I are still here!


Anyway, probably one of the worst nightmares for any college relations office is to be "honored" with the Princeton Review's annual Top Party School award. This is one #1 ranking that administrators hate. Here's the story with some humorous insights:

Photo: Alexander Sperl

What exactly constitutes a party school? Penn State took

top honors in the 2010 Princeton Review.

August, and back to school, is approaching more rapidly than most of us would like to admit. That means let the studying—uh, actually partying—begin, especially if you are a student at Penn State!

The Princeton Review was just released, announcing the top schools boasting superlative library facilities, Harvard (big shocker there!) or accessible teachers, United States Military Academy at Westpoint. But, of course the one list everyone gravitates to is the Top Party Schools (funny how even people who aren't even interested in that scene always like this list!) This year Penn State took top honors (wait can you really call this an honor?), a first for Penn State after being on the list for 7 years and finishing number 3 in 2008.

But, how do you define a party school? Surely, you can find the party scene at any school if you try hard enough. Apparently the 122,000 students polled were asked questions pertaining to use of alcohol and drugs, hours of study each day and the popularity of the Greek system. I'd love to see the questions on this survey. Perhaps they looked something like this:

  1. On your walk to campus how many sorority/frat houses do you pass?a. What's a sorority/frat house?b. 5-10c. 10-15d. Is there any other type of living arrangement at my school?
  2. On average, how many of the people you socialize with on a daily basis are part of a sorority/fraternity?a. What's a sorority/fraternity?b. A handful—maybe 3-5c. Most—5-7d. Is there anyone NOT part of the Greek system?
  3. On average, how many hours a day do you and your peers spend studying at the library?a. Every waking moment outside of class/work.b. 1-2 hoursc. 3-5 hoursd. What do you mean study? I'm not sure I'm familiar with the term.
  4. On average, how many days of class do you miss per semester because of a hangover?a. NEVER! I don't drink during the week.b. Just that ONE time (it was SO not my fault)c. 3-5 timesd. Might be easier if you ask the number of times I attended class without a hangover…

Whatever the questions, Penn State tops the list and Arizona State rounds out the top 20. Party-on, dude, (ok, that sounded ridiculous even to me) for the complete list of the 2010 Top Party Schools:

  1. Penn StateUniversity Park, PA
  2. University of FloridaGainesville, FL
  3. University of MississippiUniversity, MS
  4. University of GeorgiaAthens, GA
  5. Ohio UniversityAthens, OH
  6. West Virginia UniversityMorgantown, WV
  7. The University of Texas at Austin
  8. University of Wisconsin—Madison
  9. Florida State UniversityTallahassee, FL
  10. University of California—Santa Barbara
  11. University of ColoradoBoulder, CO
  12. University of IowaIowa City, IA
  13. Union CollegeSchenectady, NY
  14. Indiana UniversityBloomington, IN
  15. DePauw UniversityGreencastle, IN
  16. University of TenneseeKnoxville, TN
  17. Sewanee—The University of the SouthSewanee, TN
  18. University of North DakotaGrand Forks, ND
  19. Tulane University New Orleans, LA
  20. Arizona State UniversityTempe, AZ

For more info: Click here for the complete 2010 Princeton Review Results.


When I look at PR's Top-20 list, one thing jumps out at me. Union College stands alone as the only "college" among 19 "universities." What's up with that?

If you Google "top party schools," you'll get a ton of hits about this annual listing. You can also check out what students and parents think about it on the College Confidential discussion forum. Here's one thread.

Although, PR never makes a definitive claim about the scientific accuracy of their rankings (of any category), you can imagine how good for business these party school rankings are every year. They make the national wire and are the source of inebriated celebrations across the land.

Yes, I was a collegiate reveler in my relative youth, but I've come to see the wisdom in the old saw, "Why is youth wasted on the young?" Alcohol and substance abuse, in general, are two major issues working against young people today. So, you may ask, what positive purpose do these rankings serve? That's an easy question: publicity . . . for the Princeton Review.

If you want to see the effect this list has on schools across the nation, just check the administrative responses from the "honored" schools, the top three, in particular, especially now that these bastions of higher education are doing everything they can to woo tuition dollars from hard-pressed families.

The term "party" these days has an expanded implication. It doesn't mean merely hoisting a few cold ones. It also means sex and drugs. That's enough to give most parents sleepless nights. Thus, PR's party rankings are a two-edged sword: bragging rights for students and angst fodder for Moms and Dads.

Appropriately, then, here's to the Blue and White of PSU. Lift your glasses high . . . out of range of parental radar. But what do many heartier partyers at University Park do when confronted about their shenanigans by a parental unit? Easy: they become a Nittany Lyin'!

We are. Keg State!

Don't forget to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.