How accurate are Lehigh’s unofficial rankings?

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Lehigh has been featured on multiple rankings sites such as the Princeton Review and Time Labs, resulting in publicity and exposure of the university’s environment, but the impact and accuracy of these rankings remain uncertain.

The rankings include lists related to social environment such as “LGBTQ-Unfriendly,” “Party Schools,” “Most Caffeinated Campuses,” “Lots of Beer” and “Town-Gown Relations Are Strained,” and academic-related lists such as “Colleges that Pay You Back,” “The 50 Most Amazing Libraries” and “Best Northeastern.” Most of the rankings Lehigh has been featured on have been generated by the Princeton Review, Time Labs and College Rank.

Princeton Review conducts its research through surveys and agree/disagree statements sent out to students of universities and colleges. For example, the “Party Schools” list that ranked Lehigh fourth was based on student responses to a survey regarding the use of alcohol and drugs at their universities, the number of hours they study each day outside of class time and the popularity of fraternities and sororities at their schools.

The “Town-Gown Relations Are Strained” list that ranked Lehigh fifth was based solely on the response of agree or disagree to one statement: “Students get along with members of the local community.”

The Time Labs conducted research through GrubHub, which analyzed delivery orders during the 2014-15 academic year to see which colleges are ordering the most caffeine, to rank Lehigh as No. 1 on “The 50 Most Caffeinated Colleges” list.

Although they do not collect the data for these rankings, the Lehigh Office of Institutional Research is aware and skeptical of these lists.

“These rankings, we read them, they’re entertaining, but I don’t think there’s any good, hard science behind them,” said Zane Kratzer, a research analyst for the Office of Institutional Research.

The lists that are based upon student responses are accurate in a sense, but the research analysts of Lehigh’s Office of Institutional Research said they’re are skeptical because they cannot necessarily ensure precision of results.

Despite this, the analysts recognize that these types of rankings are seemingly popular to students and alumni because of the entertainment factor. They are often shared on social network sites, such as Facebook, among current students and alumni.

“I think that rankings in general have just boomed over the past five to 10 years. We all love them,” said Margaret Munley, a research analyst for the Office of Institutional Research.

Shea Vero, ’20, heard about Lehigh through its third place ranking on “The 50 Most Amazing Libraries” list by College Rank.

“I chose to visit Lehigh because I saw it on the list of prettiest college libraries,” Vero said. “I had actually never heard of Lehigh before I saw it on the list, but when I came to visit I fell in love with the school.”

While one of these rankings resulted in a positive outcome for Vero, Lehigh employees seem to be optimistic about not allowing negative rankings to push students away from applying.

From their own experience, employees imply that other more outstanding factors are of greater importance when choosing to attend Lehigh.

“Most of the anecdotal evidence indicates people are more swayed by a visit and how they feel once they get to campus than these surveys,” said Lori Friedman, director of media relations for the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.

Vero’s account of her experience corroborates this as well. The rankings clearly give the school publicity, as one helped Vero find the school, but what truly helped her to decide was actually visiting the campus.

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