The Princeton Review released its big book of rankings recently (h/t Bob), and West Virginia has regained its title as the best school for gaining 25 pounds due solely to beer and having to explain to your parents pictures of yourself naked and fellating an unfamiliar lacrosse team on Tumblr . Okay, that’s what I think “#1 party school means,” but what the hell do I know? I went to Rice.
Rice retained its title as the school with the “happiest students,” which must be a new development in the decade+ since I graduated. I mostly remember a bunch of neurotic nerds, but I was also pretty drunk during that four-year period.
This year’s rankings require registration at the Princeton Review‘s website, but I did find a description of Rice from last year’s announcement of the rankings.
A sunny and social place to get a prestigious degree, Rice University is Houston’s answer to the Ivy League. Consistently ranked as “one of the top universities of the nation,” Rice maintains a stellar faculty, a “vibrant research program,” and a “diverse selection of courses and departments.”
Okay, good education, but happiest?
Rice University offers “the most amazing balance of serious education and an unbelievably rewarding personal life.” According to most undergraduates, “The college system is the key to life at Rice University,” through which students are assigned to residential communities for all four years of study. The cornerstone of the Rice community, “The ‘Hogwarts style’ housing system creates an intimate place to create lasting friendships, as well as friendly competition between different dorms.”
I graduated from college around the time J.K. Rowling was writing the first Harry Potter book, so the Hogwart’s comparison obviously was not around when I was there. Here’s the thing: Hogwart’s was not a happy place.
While they look like a bunch of “outgoing, down-to-earth kids,” students reveal, “Everyone at Rice is, in some way, a nerd.” At this “geek chic” school, “Regardless of your interest and no matter how nerdy it might be now, you’ll definitely find someone else who shares your passion.”
“Rice genuinely has a diverse community that accepts people of all backgrounds.” Nonetheless, Rice students do share some common traits, generally described as “liberal for Texas,” low-key, and “good natured.” While most undergraduates are “studious,” they’re not overly serious. The typical student “rolls out of bed in a t-shirt” and is “willing to help you out in times of need.”
I think this is the key. The single most important thing uniting Rice undergrads, in my experience, was that we were all nerds in high school, and we all came to Rice to be among our own people. The Rice University of the 1990′s was a sociological experiment run amok: take 2,600-2,700 people aged 18-22, almost all of whom spent their high school years studying, at debate tournaments, or playing 8-bit video games, turn them loose on a campus in the middle of America’s fourth-largest city with no adult supervision, and see what happens. I could tell you tales of wildness, but my memory is fuzzy.
The Rice University Class of 2017 started classes today, as it happens. I wish them well. This is a different world (old-school TV pun intended) than the one in which I attended college. I have heard that the administration is more cautious, and that today’s students may not have the opportunity to learn firsthand that releasing twenty pounds of live crickets inside another dorm building is not, in fact, a funny prank. The old Wiess Commons is no longer standing, so there is no obvious place to post cutouts of German porn magazines in preparation for Night of Decadence. Still, I have no doubt that this new crop of kids will let their freak flags fly proudly.
To the students of Edgar Odell Lovett College, I have two bits of wisdom to share:
1. No matter how many times they paint the bathroom walls in the Commons, Cobb will still suck.
2. Rah rah, fuck.
Photo credit: ‘Rice University – Rice statue with Lovett Hall’ by Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.