Friday, August 17, 2007

It's the (43rd) Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This is one of my favorite times every year, when a set of rankings comes out that are so thoroughly dissected by people all over the country, and so severely scrutinized by people whose schools are not on “the list”, that you wonder why we even bother. It isn’t the writers’ top 25 of college football, no. It is the US News and World Report top US Colleges. There is not a single set of rankings I take more seriously in the month of August than these bad boys. That isn’t saying much, but still, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be left out of this one. Let’s break out our evaluation hats shall we?

Numero uno and nombre deux are, shockingly, Princeton and Harvard. This has been the case as long as I’ve been following these rankings, although they’ll occasionally flip positions or even be tied in some years. They’re always at the top for two reasons: they are incredibly competitive and they have loads of money. That’s right, the wealth of the school is taken into account (UMass is already screwed… we have one three-hundredth as much money as Harvard. That ain’t an exaggeration; it’s about $20 billion for the rich kids, $60 million for us). So we’ll consent to those schools being one and two, but how about the rest of the top ten? Well, first off, here’s the list:
1: Princeton
2: Harvard
3: Yale
4: Stanford
T-5: Penn
T-5: Cal Tech
7: MIT
8: Dook
T-9: Columbia
T-9: U Chicago
That’s right; I cut the Blue Devils no slack on any rankings page. They don’t deserve it. Other than my obvious gripe with their presence at number eight, I can’t really argue with any of these. Stanford should always be in the top five by default just based on how unbelievably spectacular Palo Alto is, and I’m always happy to see the locals (Harvard, MIT) get their due. After the top ten, here are the rankings relevant to yours truly, either because I have friends at the schools, or the school interests me, or because I just feel like rambling about nothing in particular:

11: Dartmouth
My friend Kevin is entering his senior year here, and every year I could depend on the Big Green making the Top-10. It would be nice to vicariously find myself among the elite of the country in something. I’m disappointed in you, Kevin. Your boys (and girls) are slipping.
T-14: Northwestern
Another school attended by a friend of mine. Dan “Dayne Train” Lawner (he used the nickname well before Dane Cook) is here. It appears as though the University of Chicago is establishing some distance as the premier school in the Windy City. This is unfortunate, because frankly no one cares about U Chicago.
T-14: John’s Hopkins
My sister is a 1997 graduate of JHU and my dad went to grad school here. That’s pretty much all I can say about the school. Go Jays.
21: California (Bizzerkley)
The first public school on the list. Does anyone else find it completely ludicrous that they found twenty schools better than this one? When I’m czar of the world, Cal will be top 5 every year, no questions asked. Sorry, Stanford – these cats (er… Bears?) are the real McCoy in the Bay Area.
T-23: Virginia
The second highest rated public school, and definitely one of my favorite schools in the country. I went down to UVA to visit my buddy Ross during spring break of 2006, and the place is unbelievable. Beautiful girls, beautiful campus, fun school.
T-25: UCLA
If I could go to any grad school in the country, this would be in my top ten. A public university in Westwood, California, and a good school at that? Sounds a little too good to be true.
T-25: Michigan
The Wolverines are slipping here, and not surprising. When you employ someone as deficient as Lloyd Carr as long as UM has, bad things are bound to happen.
27: Southern California
I feel like USC students have the same condescending opinions towards UCLA that Stanford kids have towards Berkeley. Well, guess what SC, you’ve been Punk’d (sorry, I didn’t need to go there).
34: NYU
Another personal favorite, and they seem to be around here in the list every year. My friend Pete essentially runs the school and I’m sure he’s pleased with where they are: Not so high that they start becoming flooded with bookworms, but not so low that coke-toting celebrities switch to USC.
T-35: Boston College
My archenemy, and the school that I wanted to go to from age 10 to 16 (before I got real and figured out that it wouldn’t happen).
T-38: Illinois
Another public that I’m a big fan of. Actually, my old man considered taking over the Aeronautical Engineering Department here. Not sure why anyone cares about that, but I just thought I’d throw it in.
T-50: Syracuse
I visited SU three times my freshman year, and I’ll say this: They have a great combination working for them much like UVA. A nice campus with pretty ladies, and going to sporting events is unbelievably fun. The only setback is… well… you’re in Syracuse, New York.
T-54: George Washington
The highest ranking school that rejected me. Wait a second, you mean I don’t get to pay $46,090 a year (that was actually what it was going to cost – and they advertised it) to go to school with a bunch of clove smoking hippies? I’m so sad. Not. I would have been much better off at a place like…
T-54: Maryland
Also a school that rejected me (so I guess it’s the co-first). UMD was actually my first choice, and I have to say, they let me down easy. A professor (Dr. Sylvester James Gates, a somewhat renowned string theorist) whom I mentioned in my application actually called my house to tell me he’d put in a word for me. I’ll always appreciate you, College Park.
T-57: Boston University
The third school of which I am a rejectee. These guys, unlike Maryland, were a bunch of pricks. They sent me a letter basically saying “just because you have ties to our school doesn’t mean you can waste our time”. Well, BU, go f*** yourselves. My SATs are actually higher than the school average, so eat me.
T-64: UConn
The fourth and final rejecter on the list (technically URI should be here too, but I didn’t apply there. They just sent me a rejection letter anyway because it was the chic thing to do at the time). They actually are now public enemy #2 after BC.
T-96: UMass
Up two spots from last year, the second straight year we’ve gone in the right direction. As long as we’re steering away from triple digits, I’m happy. Plus, hey, we should be in the top five in Party Schools when the new Princeton Review ratings come out (currently #7).

What needs to be kept in mind is that for every school that moves up, another moves down. In fact, if you look up the rankings on Google News, there are local papers from all over, griping about how Local State U has fallen two spots from last year. It’s fairly amusing, and might explain why US News does the rankings in August instead of September, when every college newspaper would piss and moan on their front page about how absurd it is that “Central Tech Valley Community College” is #395 and their school is #486.

Also worthy of note on the UMass front is that this year will be the school’s first without Chancellor John Lombardi, who has taken over the Louisiana State system. Lombardi was known for being a funding maniac who wanted to increase the school’s competitiveness, both of which might help explain the school’s improvement from the 2006 rankings (#105) to 2007 (#98) to now (#96). President Jack Wilson has now hired some cat named Thomas Cole, who is going to be Wilson’s puppet for a year. Fortunately, I’ll be gone before any real damage can be done.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this later.

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