Carson Bonner, Campus Carrier news editor
Jen Vincent, Campus Carrier staff writer
The education company The Princeton Review provides admissions information on colleges as well as testing prep and tutoring for high school students. Annually, they rank colleges across the country based on academics, demographics, extracurriculars, politics, social scene and quality of life. Each group has sub-categories for more precise rankings. The rankings are released for the purpose of informing applicants, as well as college students, of what they can expect from the schools they are applying to.
Berry received several positive rankings, scoring in the top 389 colleges. According to the Princeton Review website, this category is decided based on a number of factors decided based on student surveys and reports, rather than institutional data and statistics. Over 165,000 students submitted surveys, which were then evaluated, determining a college’s score.
“It’s incredible and exciting that we were named in that ranking,” Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Lindsey Taylor said. “When you think about the value of the Berry education, the hands-on learning experience, the work and the career readiness, coupled with a really rounded education and academic experience, Berry deserves that ranking. You guys are graduating as literal rockstars and I’m always so proud that Berry has been a part of giving you all that step forward.”
In addition to that positive ranking, Berry was named 23rd most beautiful campus. Berry’s campus is the largest in the world and owes much of its maintenance and beauty to the grounds crew. That team maintains landscaping, grass, mulch and flowers and works to ensure that the campus has a consistent appearance during all seasons.
“We have a gorgeous campus mostly due to the work of the grounds crew,” Taylor said. “I think we should be ranked higher on the list, because our campus is truly beautiful and well maintained. I know it’s easy to take it for granted though.”
Berry was also ranked in several categories regarding demographics, such as religion and political alignment, earning the title of 14th most religious students. While Berry is not officially a Christian college, it was founded by on Christian principles. According to Vice President of Enrollment Management Andrew Bressette, it’s unsurprising that Berry ranked so high on the list, due to student run religious groups and practices.
“Yes we have a chaplain who ministers to all students and yes we have a service on Sunday nights, but religion for us is much more student run than it is institution driven,” Bressette said. “Many of our religious groups are run by students for other students and we don’t have religious requirements for our students.”
Religious groups offered on campus vary from Campus Outreach and Baptist Collegiate Ministry to Buddhist Studies and the Canterbury Club. Students like sophomore Amelia Ousley value the religious opportunities on campus and consider these a positive factor of Berry.
“I’m very encouraged by Berry having the 14th most religious students,” Ousley said. “It’s made it easier to find a community of people who share similar religious beliefs and participate in religious activities. If I’d known [Berry would hold] that ranking, it would have encouraged me [more] to apply.”
While for the most part, Berry held positive rankings, also holding a Green College status in acknowledgement of conservation and environmental awareness efforts, there was one category that Berry ranked ninth in that held a more negative connotation: LGBTQ Unfriendly. In the student survey conducted to create Princeton Review’s list, a statement was given and students were asked to agree or disagree with it to determine Berry’s general feelings toward the LGBTQ community. For this category, students were asked to evaluate if students treat all persons equally, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
“I think to that point, we’ve been slow in some of the efforts to be more inclusive in some ways but not in other ways,” Taylor said. “ I’m surprised we ranked that high in terms of unfriendliness, but I think Berry is a more welcoming place than that would suggest. If we were in a position of being stagnant, I would be concerned. I am proud of the direction that we’re heading in and I feel like I would respond differently if I wasn’t sure about the direction we were going in. And I think we’re in a hopeful position for more progress.”
According to Bressette, while the Princeton Review is a reputable source with the potential to sway students and applicants, it should not necessarily determine whether or not students end up applying to a school.
“A ranking isn’t going to tell you if a school is a good fit for you,” Bressette said. “The only way you’ll really be able to tell that is if you experience it. If you visit, talk to students, or ask questions about factors that are important to you. Everyone is worried that if they don’t choose the right college, they’re doomed but that isn’t the case. What we try to emphasize is to use those rankings as resources for areas of concern, and then go on your visits and ask questions. Act based on verifiable experience that can actually benefit you in the long run rather than purely statistics and rankings.”