Schools With The Least Happy Students

The UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business. Courtesy photo

Going to college is a big step. Advisers generally recommend students do their research by reaching out to current students and faculty and, if they can afford it, taking the time and spending the money to visit the schools they’re interested in. But even those who take those steps and do everything right can sometimes choose wrong. Sometimes, things don’t work out, and students are left feeling less than happy with the college experience at their schools of choice.

This year, at the top of The Princeton Review’s 2018 list of schools with the least happy students is Xavier University of New Orleans. Just last year, Xavier didn’t even make this list, which goes to show that disaffection can be a year-by-year, class-by-class issue. However, 2018’s second- and third-place colleges were ranked ninth and fourth place, respectively, in 2017: Simmons College in Boston, and the United States Naval Academy. Also interestingly, last year’s college with the most unhappy students, Montana Tech of the University of Montana, is no longer even listed among the top (bottom?) 20.

One thing that becomes clear from The Princeton Review‘s ranking is that the size of a school has little bearing on the level of happiness of its students. Schools making this year’s list include some with small populations, such as No. 8, the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, which has just 898 individuals enrolled; to schools with thousands of students, such as No. 13 University of California-Berkeley, with over 27,000 students enrolled, and No. 20 George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, with almost 25,000 students enrolled. (See our story on the schools with the happiest students here.)


The Princeton Review reports that Xavier, the only historically black, Roman Catholic school in the country, “produces the most black doctors in the nation.” Given the vibrant arts and culture scene in the city, the many “fun events” that students say the Xavier Activities Board hosts throughout the semester, and the “close-knit family” feeling students get, it’s hard to understand how Xavier students could be so unhappy. In fact, one student said: “Everyone comes from various backgrounds and has such unique ways of approaching problems in the world today. My peers at Xavier always look out for one another and are welcoming to all. There’s no room for intolerance, and it’s always easy to find a companion.”

The only seemingly bad thing students had to say about the university — and, admittedly, many said it — was that “class and school work are priorities,” and that it “isn’t much of a party … school.” 

Contract this with the fact that three of the 20 schools on the least happy list are military academies, including the aforementioned academies and No. 11, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy of Kings Point, New York.

A 2014 study conducted by the American Educational Research Association found that making The Princeton Review’s unhappy list could reduce a school’s application rate by up to 5%. The survey is sent to students at almost 400 universities, and the ranking is determined by students’ answers to the question, “Overall, how happy are you?”

Here’s the full list of the 2018 unhappy schools.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.