Party Schools

Every year the Princeton Review publishes its Best Colleges guide, which presents lists of "best colleges" in 63 categories, such as the best colleges for the money, the colleges with the best professors, the colleges with the least drinking on campus, the most politically radical (as well as conservative) colleges, and so on.

But it's the list of top "party schools" that always gets the most media attention by far and that generates the most controversy. The American Medical Association (AMA) has even called on the Princeton Review to stop publishing the list of top party schools. It charges that the list glamorizes alcohol consumption and should be stopped. 1

Clearly the abuse of alcohol should never be glamorized. To the contrary, it should never be seen as acceptable by anyone of any age, anytime, under any circumstance. Period.

But does the list really galmorize alcohol abuse? Institutions that appear on it, especially near the top, loudly insist that they shouldn't be there for any of a number of reasons that they gladly identify in a birage of press releases. 2

Being on the list is a stigma. No institution wants to lose talented prospective students as a result of such stigmatization. Being listed apparently shames schools into taking corrective actions.

As part of its own campaign against collegiate drinking, the AMA lists ten schools that have implemented aggessive anti-alcohol-abuse programs. Six of these institutions have previously appeared on the list of top party schools. 3 Clearly, they didn't want to be on the top party school list and made major reforms in dealing with alcohol abuse.

Instead of trying to censor and suppress information, we should use it as a springboard for discussion and action. Parents can use it as an opportunity to discuss alcohol abuse. Colleges, including ones that don't appear on the list, can use it as an opportunity to examine their own alcohol policies, And the AMA can use it as an opportunity to discuss alcohol abuse as a serious health problem.


  • 1. Buchanan, A. AMA Urges Princeton Review to End "Party Schools" Rankings. Associated Press, 8/22/02. Historical note: The American Medical Association actively supported the establishment of National Prohibition, opposed its repeal, and currently supports partial prohibition.
  • 2. For example, Dininny, S. Indiana University Ranked Top "Party Schol" in Survey Criticized as Irresponsible. Associated Press, 8/19/02.
  • 3. Sobering Statistics. USA Today, 8/20/02, 10A.