Category Archives: Silly

“We do not aspire to be a party school.”

Congratulations to Syracuse. Apparently thy did not even try, and yet they are the number 1 party school in America. Then again, the guys in this photo hardly look like undergrads. Perhaps these are the professors. This marks a dramatic rise for the Orangemen, who two years ago were 10. They hope to match this improvement on other rankings such as USNEWS which apparently punishes them for taking poor kids who do not score so well on the SAT. 

Other party places in the top 5:

  • The University of Iowa (last year’s winner),
  • the University of California-Santa Barbara,
  • West Virginia University and
  • the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

For some reason, Syracuse does not like to be known as a party school:

“We are disappointed with the Princeton Review ranking, which is based on a two-year-old survey of a very small portion of our student body. Syracuse University has a long-established reputation for academic excellence with programs that are recognized nationally and internationally as the best in their fields. We do not aspire to be a party school. With new leadership, we are very focused on enhancing the student experience, both academically and socially. Students, parents, faculty and the full Syracuse University community should expect to see important and positive changes in the year ahead that will improve and enhance the student environment in every aspect.”

Sure Syrcuse would rather be known for it’s groundbreaking initiatives and approaches to teaching. Their alumni include Lou Reed, Aaron Sorkin, Carol Oats, Joe Bidden, Dick Clark and even the president of another praty school, Donna Shalala. Those are rather serious parties, if you ask me. Of course, Syrcuse did kinda bring this attention to themselves when they pulled out of the rather serious sounding Association of American Universities (before they got kicked out). Yet, they still do a tonne of research and make beautiful things

I say embrace your joyous students. Play hard, work hard. 

With all that talk of the NEW SAT people forget that there is another college entrance exam that actually has three times the number of people taking it. No, not you ACT, but rather the GAOKAO. Below is video of a rally to motivate the senior students and show support by the under classmen. They  spelled it out clearly: ““Fight on, Year Threes”

Apparently this is an annual tradition. Perhaps intead of changing the SAT, we should have rallies. 

Ouch: Does the Oinion have it right

Continuing with the inside the admission process, The Onion has scooped everyone with this one line:

At press time, administrators confirmed that they had also just admitted a social activist whose contributions to the community would offset the reputations of three football recruits.”

Huffington Post list of interesting colleges really is not that interesting

I am always pleased to see list of colleges, be it traditional rankings ala USNEWS and Forbes, or Happiest colleges or Return on Investment. So when a friend posted Huffington Post’s article “The MOst Interesting Places to go to Colleges” on Facebook I immediately clicked only to be disappointed. The list lacks actual interesting elements. 

University of Wisoncsin. They love sports. They Party. They have snow ball fights. It could be Iowa. It could be Illinois. Only it is not any of those places. It is the home of the Badgers: 135 majors, 4000 course, 29,000 undergraduates. They spend a billion dollars on research. Back in the 70′s this same research lead to massive student protests and even bombing campaigns. With 100 research centers, they explore engines to stem cells to food to deadly viruses. And you can to through their very active Undergraduate Research Program. Students adore the 10,000 acre campus and Arboretum. Wander around and you may stumble on one of the Effigy Mounds when you are jogging or hiking the 150 miles of trails. With 800 clubs, there is a lot to do beyond partying and snowball fights. You could attend 1500 performances every year which culminates in the annual student symposium shocasing 550 students “undergraduate research, achievements, creativity, service-learning and other scholarly activities from all areas of study at UW–Madison including the humanities, fine arts, biological sciences, physical sciences, and social sciences.”

You can start your college career by living and learning in a special interest learning community called a fig. You and 19 other students take three classes and live together. Perhaps you love Biology so you jump into the “The Human Microbiome: The Bugs in Our Bodies” With all the focus on positive psychology perhaps you might want to join Contemplative Neuroscience: The Psychology of Well-Being. Perhaps you fancy yourself a future business tycoon, so check out the Leadership in the Global Economy

It is one of 33 Sea Grant Colleges working to understand and protect the coasts. It bosts the oldest continuing operating radio station (“The Snake on the Lake”) on a college campus–you could join 150 volunteers working it. It has not one, but two student newspapers. This is also where the Onion started. 

And the list goes on, but the huffington post did not actually do any research. Frankly, I am bored. Minnesota has record stores and a hockey team? Berkeley has protests? Iowa has fun by drinking vodka and listening to presidential candidates? Cooper union is free, but not for long and students protest. Go figure. Boulder student smoke pot while dodging bears and cougars to get to class (seriously? How often does that happen?) Pixar recruits at Brown (well that is actually interesting, but the source is a blog with no attirubtion, but Brown Profess Andy Van dame did teach a bunch of Pixar people) and Brownies like sex. Then again, college students like sex. Heck people like sex. 

The list features a lot of college that have a large footprint on the public’s mind when it comes to colleges (USC, NYU, Austin, Harvard, MIT, etc.). But there are some surprises like Drake (And how does $3 whiskies and Better Homes and Gardens make it interesting?), Sarah Lawrence (small classes and international programs–seriously, could you do some actual research–this is ONE OF MOST INTERESTING COLLEGES IN THE WORLD) and a big school outlier–Alabama (Football and frats).

In the comments, you will find people bemoaning both the writing and the list itself. But some commenters are offer their own colleges and in some cases with much more substance than Huffington Post could muster. 

How did George Washington University not make this list? 3 blocks from the white house, most politically active university, you graduate on the white house lawn. Doesn’t get much better than that.

How did George Washington University not make this list? 3 blocks from the white house, most politically active university, you graduate on the white house lawn. Doesn’t get much better than that.

OK, only the facts: That is, by far, the worst picture of any kind ever taken of USC. By any national standards, USC has one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, especially University Park. If not, in your own words why would so many movies be filmed there? And further, similar to Yale located in an older area of its city is a testament to USC’s venerable age est.1880, oldest west of the Mississippi, and its commitment to the city of Los Angeles. Not a flagship? USC is among the top 25 best academic universities in the country, last ranking 23. Who cares about Dr. Dre? Why mention him? What about George Lucas and the Annenburg Foundation handing over 100′s of millions to USC and so many other very prominent donors to the university for over a century? Diversity? What about being the most international university in the country with students from more countries than any other? What about high admission standards 4.0 and 1,350? I purposely haven’t even mentioned legendary sports achievements and entertainment. But why omit that Will Farrell is a proud alumnus and not merely an occasional visitor? In truth your description of USC is obviously poor reporting and likely biased. Notwithstanding, thank you for listing us as one of the most interesting colleges to attend. As a proud alumnus I agree in principal but for many, many more salient reasons.

The Perfect University

Perhaps not for you, but for someone:

US News Winners and Loosers

Last week I previewed the upcoming rankings…and now the results are out. The top 20 on either side is fairly predictable. 

Big Winner: BU up 10 places. Now tied with Lehigh University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison

Winner: GWU-removed last year for falsifying data, now number 52. 

Looser: Tulane-Can’t seem to crack the top 50. 

Winner: Hopkins with the best performance in the past 14 years, but still cannot crack the top 10. 

Looser: Howard-dropping 22 places. Ouch. 

Winners: Pennsylvania State University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Florida, Boston University and Yeshiva University in New York–all keeping the top tiew while University of Washington dropped out. UVM jumped 10 places, but still is a long way into cracking into the top tier. 

Winner: Clemson has it hits 21st in public Unis. 

Looser: University of Miami coming in at 47–they were just at 38. What happened?

Winner: UCONN: Keeps moving up. 

Winner: Wake forst now 23-best showing ever. Of course this is tempered by the five way tie of Carnegie Mellon University, the University of California-Los Angeles, the University of Southern California and the University of Virginia.

Winner: USNEWS for getting people to buy their magazine.

Looser: US for ever taking this stuff seriously .

For those that need a reminder why it is all nonsense head over to the Atlantic where they lay out the “best criticisms over the past 15 years:

  • An essay by Nicholas Thompson in The Washington Monthly, September, 2000.
  • A report from the University of Florida’s Center for Measuring University Performance, 2002.
  • An essay by Colin Diver, then president of Reed College, about the U.S. News rankings, his decision to withhold Reed’s participation in them, and the liberating consequences of that decision, in The Atlantic, November 2005.
  • A report from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, March 2009.
  • An essay by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker, February 2011.”

Alma Mata Index: Ranking universities by where their CEOs went to college

Time’s Higher Education continues to feed the monstor coming up with a ranking of Global universities based on where they went to universities. Simple enough premise: 

1) Take the 500 companies from the global 500 

2) Identify where their CEOs went to universities–all actual degress awarded. So say you went to University of Victoria for Undegraduate and University of Califronia, Berkeley for Graduate school, both universities get one point. 

3) Factor in the total revenue of the alumni CEOs’ companies-the more money, the higher the ranking. 

And voila you have a list. You can read the whole story here.

As one observer (Mark Freebairn, a partner at top City headhunters Odgers Berndtson) notes, “For prospective employers there is comfort in the fact that someone has been selected ahead of a lot of other applicants. It means they are obviously bright. Passing that selection process is an endorsement for employers.” Or is it just laziness?

Seriously, the sample size was less than 500 people. While many CEOs have two or three degress, this will only bump the number up slightly. Actually, for the top 100 universities, the tall of degress comes to 390 awarded. I expect there is a long tale of 100 more universities with one CEO. Certainly a typical CEO would have an undergaduate degree and a graduate school degree–probably MBA or Law. Indeed, the top 10 male CEOs have a total of 15 degrees collectively, or 1.5 on average. Female CEOs have to work harder (or perhaps are just smarter) judging by the number of degress earned-19, or 1.9 each. 84 universities had fewer than 6 degress awarded. Not exactly a resounding endorsement for such power houses as Columbia  or Yale(6), Oxford (5), USC (4), Umich (3) and Brown (2). 

Focusing only on the top 12, the sample size continues to be rediculously low coming in with a total of 159 degress awarded or just 13 each. While there might be some statsitical significance in relation to running a fortune 500 company, it pales in comparrision as to how many graduated from these same universities and are NOT running a fortune 500 company. Take Harvard, ranked number 1, with 31 degrees awarded. One can only asume that the degrees awarded spread out over multiple years and both undergraduate and graduate school. (A side note: Of the top 20 male and female CEOs, not one did their undergraudate at Harvard). Let’s just pretend that all CEOs graduated at the same time. 31 came from Harvard. In 2009, Harvard awarded a total of 7234 degrees (this includes undergraduate and graduate degrees like law and MBAs). 31 of 7234 went on to be CEOs. This would make a rather sad ratio of one in every 233 degrees, IF they all came from the same year. But they did not. They were spread out, one can fairly assume over a 20 year period. So let us guestimate that Harvard awards at least 7000 degrees every year for 20 years. So less than .03 percent of Harvard Degree earners went on to run a global 500 Comapny. Not exactly a reason to write home now is it?

To be fair, Harvard alum go onto to do MANY great things:


Fairburn acknowledges that ““While people still look at where a candidate went to university, and the quality of degree and what they studied, by the time someone is 45 with 20 years’ experience, it is less relevant. But it has an impact in the first three to five years. By then the advantage is established and it is difficult for laggards to catch up.”

Malcolm Gladwell took to task this sort of faulty thinking by distinguishing Treatment effect vs Selection Effect:


Social scientists distinguish between what are known as treatment effects and selection effects. The Marine Corps, for instance, is largely a treatment-effect institution. It doesn’t have an enormous admissions office grading applicants along four separate dimensions of toughness and intelligence. It’s confident that the experience of undergoing Marine Corps basic training will turn you into a formidable soldier. A modelling agency, by contrast, is a selection-effect institution. You don’t become beautiful by signing up with an agency. You get signed up by an agency because you’re beautiful.

At the heart of the American obsession with the Ivy League is the belief that schools like Harvard provide the social and intellectual equivalent of Marine Corps basic training—that being taught by all those brilliant professors and meeting all those other motivated students and getting a degree with that powerful name on it will confer advantages that no local state university can provide. Fuelling the treatment-effect idea are studies showing that if you take two students with the same S.A.T. scores and grades, one of whom goes to a school like Harvard and one of whom goes to a less selective college, the Ivy Leaguer will make far more money ten or twenty years down the road.

Times Higher Education is suggesting that where you goes. But the research does not fully bear this out. Alan Krueger and Stacy Dale (1999) found that “students who attended more selective colleges do not earn more than other students who were accepted and rejected by comparable schools but attended less selective colleges.” Indeed a decade later, they revealed that it did not matter if you got into an elite school–if you had the numbers:“Even applying to a school, even if you get rejected, says a lot about you,” Mr. Krueger told me. He points out that the average SAT score at the most selective college students apply to turns out to be a better predictor of their earnings than the average SAT score at the college they attended. (The study measured a college’s selectivity by the average SAT score of admitted students as well as by a selectivity score that the publisher Barron’s gives to colleges.)”

A final word rom Kruger


My advice to students: Don’t believe that the only school worth attending is one that would not admit you. That you go to college is more important than where you go. Find a school whose academic strengths match your interests and that devotes resources to instruction in those fields. Recognize that your own motivation, ambition and talents will determine your success more than the college name on your diploma.

My advice to elite colleges: Recognize that the most disadvantaged students benefit most from your instruction. Set financial aid and admission policies accordingly.




And the top universities, according to Times Higher Education?


1 Harvard University US–31 degrees, 25 CEOs

2 University of Tokyo JAP–14 degrees, 13 CEOs 

3  Stanford University US 13 degrees, 11 CEOs

4  École Polytechnique FRA 12 degrees, 12 CEOs

5 HEC Paris FRA 10 degrees, 9 CEOs

6 ENA, École Nationale d’Administration FRA 9 degrees, 9 CEOs

7 University of Pennsylvania US 9 degrees, 8 CEOs

8 Massachusetts Institute of Technology US 9 degrees, 7 CEOs

9 Keio University JAP 8 degrees, 8 CEOs

10 Seoul National University KOR 8 degrees, 8 CEOs 

11 Cornell University US 8 degrees, 6 CEOs

12 INSEAD FRA 7 degrees, 7 CEOs

13 Tsinghua University CHN 7 degrees, 7 CEOs

14 University of Chicago US 7 degrees, 6 CEOs 

15 Northwestern University US 7 degrees, 6 CEOs





A great Patrick O’Connor essay, exploring GritLock:

“But that’s not possible. How could students with grades that high have any grit? They’ve been winners since the day they were born.”

“Maybe some of them. The rest of them have only known persistence since the day they were born, success or no.”

“So you don’t have to be a flop to know about persistence?”

“It’s one way, but not the only way.”

“Well, how else could you learn it?”

“Oh, I don’t know. By leading a humble life, maybe.”

“Hmm. Do you know of any essay coaches that specialize in humility?”

Measure your own Grit at Penn. Take the 12 item survey.

Oh, Chicago, you are so cute

From the wonderful Chicagoist

The University of Chicago is renowned for Where Fun Comes to Die

But they already were showing some humor:

Because they have whacked professors

and great career prep

The Ivy League College Passion Rankings

Although passion owes its origins to suffering, it has come to mean strong feelings, both positive and negative. Any person who will sit down to write a review of a product clearly has feelings for it? Consumers have come to trust reviews on sites like Amazon or Yelp. A growing number of sites are offering up reviews of colleges written by the students themselves. My personal favorite is Unigo. While scoping out some information there, I got curious about which universities actually inspire the most passion. Note, this is not which university is best, or which has the highest ratings, but simply how many students took the time to register a review. Of course, this should favor the colleges with the largest student body. So to control that, let’s just weight them by dividing the number of reviews by the undergraduate student population. So if a university had a student population of 1000 students, but only 500 wrote reviews, we could say they have a passion rating of 50%. I know, not scientific, but we got to start somewhere. So the first ever International Counselor College Passion Ranking:

  1. Princeton 665 /5142=.129
  2. Brown 526 /6318= .083
  3. Columbia 476/7950=.060
  4. Cornell 792 /13,510= .059
  5. Harvard 596/10,265= .058
  6. Dartmouth 230 /4248= .054
  7. Yale 246/5311= .046
  8. UPENN 195 /10,345= .019

So does this sound like the right order? Does Princeton inspire more passion in its tigers than Brown does in its bears? Is the college that Ben founded really generate so little interest in its Wall Street wannabes? Let compare to some schools famous for spirit:

  • Duke = 381/6697=.057
  • USC = 399/17,380 = .023
  • UMich = 543/27,027 = .020
  • Wisconsin =392/30,170 = .013
  • Colgate = 569/2800 = .203

So the big football and basketball powerhouses simply fail while duke fits with Cornell and Harvard. Colgate shows exceptional level of passion. Maybe I will play around with some combos and get back to you.