The Party Schools: The Definitive List


It’s the list no school wants to be on.

But every year, for better or for worse, The Princeton Review publishes its provocative ranking of the Top 20 “party schools.” And college officials whose schools land on the list wince and often vehemently argue how unfair and undeserving they are of the dubious honor.

It’s based on a combination of survey questions completed by students on the use of alcohol and drugs, the average number of hours of study each day, and the popularity of the Greek system.

Predictably, schools that make the party ranking attack the credibility of the list along with The Princeton Review. “Among all the rankings published by various media outlets, the Princeton Review’s stand out for their complete lack of objective, scientific methodology,” UI spokesman Tom Moore told the Iowa City Press-Citizen. “Their rankings are based almost exclusively on anecdotes and random, subjective feedback.”

Well, yes and no. The ranking is based on extensive online surveying of current students on college campuses.  Each year, tens of thousands of students on hundreds of campuses are asked to answer more than 80 questions. As far as the University of Iowa goes, it has the dubious distinction of making the Top 20 party school list for at least five consecutive years. In fact, 13 schools have made the list in each and every one of the past five years.

Of course, it’s easy for one-year anomalies to crop up that could unfairly get schools on a list like this. So we’ve taken a longer, five-year perspective to examine how the list has changed from 2014 to 2010.

Here’s the “party schools” that tend to show up again and again.

Ranking The ‘Party Schools’ From 2014 to 2010


2014 Rank & School2014 Rank2013 Rank2012 Rank2011 Rank2010 Rank
University of Iowa124912
UC-Santa Barbara275810
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign341118NR
West Virginia University41646
Syracuse University51012NRNR
University of Florida66972
Ohio University-Athens73125
University of Wisconsin-Madison81314128
Penn State University911731
Lehigh University10NRNRNRNR
University of Georgia115214
Florida State University1288119
DePauw University1312151015
University of Mississippi1414353
University of Texas-Austin15151067
Miami University-Ohio169NRNRNR
University of Maryland-College Park17161819NR
Tulane University18NRNRNR19
University of Vermont19NR19NRNR
University of Oregon20NRNRNRNR
University of South CarolinaNR1720NRNR
James Madison UniversityNR18NRNRNR
University of MaineNR19NRNRNR
University of TennesseeNR20NRNR16
University of Alabama-TuscaloosaNRNRNR13NR
Sewanee-The University of the SouthNRNRNR1417
Indiana University-BloomingtonNRNR161514
Louisiana State UniversityNRNR13NRNR
University of Colorado-BoulderNRNRNR1611
University of MissouriNRNRNR17NR
Michigan State UniversityNRNRNR20NR
Union College (NY)NRNRNRNR13
University of North DakotaNRNRNRNR18
Arizona State UniversityNRNR17NR20

Source: The Princeton Review

  • disqus_jvvDhQQV0I

    No Rutgers or U of Delaware?

    • Billy Bob Cooter

      Rutgers is not a big party school. I’ve partied at Rutgers and I was partying harder as a 40 year old man than most of those students. I was disappointed because I thought guidos knew how to party, at least that’s what Jersey Shore taught me, guess that show was wrong.

  • Billy Bob Cooter

    Penn State is a falling star. What happened?

    • morning_in_america


      • Billy Bob Cooter

        That’s a simple answer, but it really doesn’t make sense.

        Joe Paterno was a strong advocate of academics. Even the Penn State library bears his name. So losing a strong advocate of academics would lead one to conclude that Paterno’s departure would cause Penn State to focus less on academics and therefore more on partying.

        • morning_in_america

          Wrong on two fronts: (1) less victories with Paterno gone, due to sanctions, so less to celebrate, (2) the perception that things were out of control and degenerate in State College would lead to some tempering of the party atmosphere while the university was undergoing huge amounts of outside scrutiny. Penn State would want to project a cleaner image.

          • Billy Bob Cooter

            Interesting perspective again, but your conclusion presumes that students only partied because of football, yet football is only a fall sport. Surely you don’t think students were still celebrating football victories in the Spring semester, do you?

            Additionally, out of the schools listed as a top 10 party school in 2014 only Wisconsin had a good football/basketball program this past year. Plus, in 2010 when PSU was ranked the #1 party school their football team was barely above 0.500 (7 wins and 6 losses). Hardly much of a reason to celebrate. Clearly sports and sports victories are not a driving factor into party school rankings.

            UC-Santa Barbara

          • morning_in_america

            So you completely ignore my point 2? When looking at why something like partying apparently changed drastically at Penn State, you have to ask what else changed there that might have affected it. Clearly Paterno’s downfall and scandal was the key event during that period. So whether it is the destruction of the football program (post-Paterno) or the desire to present a cleaner, less decadent image to the world (post-Paterno), an attempt to deny the linkage to Paterno’s scandal is only really plausible if a more plausible alternative event could generate these side effects.

  • morning_in_america

    Congratulations to the University of Iowa for the persistence to drive to the top!

  • morning_in_america

    Looks like the Big 10 is where to go for a good time.