Stanford Labeled Most Stressful College in America

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Tina Brown
That is [the case](, at least according to The Daily Beast.* But don’t worry, it doesn’t actually mean anything. Let’s look at the methodology, step-by-step.
  1. Cost, which is weighted at 35%. This is important. However, what the story fails to mention is that Stanford has tremendously generous financial aid packages available–according to this lovely brochure, if your parents earn under $60,000 a year, they are not expected to contribute to the student’s education at all. That covers nearly 30% of undergrads. There are obviously other financial aid packages for students whose parents are between there and wealthy, but the point is clear: if money is a problem, the school helps you work around it.

  2. Competitiveness, which is weighted at 35%. Stanford comes in fourth. Anecdotally speaking, this is a joke. It is simply not that hard to get good grades at Stanford–certainly not much more difficult than it was when I went to public high school at Woodside. And the students are not cutthroat with one another. There is no chance Stanford is in the top 20 in this category, and there is a reason that the old saying that the hardest part is getting in remains true. Which brings us to…

  3. Acceptance rate, which is weighted at 10%. The justification for using this as a factor is “More competitive schools generally produce a more competitive student body.” Probably true to a very limited extent (although no evidence is provided), but this seems redundant to what would have been a well-executed competitiveness measure.

  4. Engineering, which is weighted at 10%. This measures the rigor of the graduate engineering program. Stanford comes in 2nd to MIT. Indeed, Stanford has a rigorous engineering program. But this would really make a lot more sense as a factor if it wasn’t 1) restricted to grad students and 2) took into account diversity of choice. Engineers at Stanford have a wide variety of fields to choose from where Stanford is still elite if they don’t enjoy that–in other words, they are choosing to be engineers despite having other options. Whereas at Georgia Tech or MIT, there is less diversity of study, so unenthusiastic engineers’ choices are less appealing.

  5. Crime on campus, which is weighted at 10%. Stanford comes in fifth here, which is just baffling. While I have certainly heard of instances of theft, there really isn’t any reason to believe that Stanford is among the more dangerous schools in America (our university trusts us enough to let us drink as minors, so long as we don’t get ourselves into external trouble).

  6. Wellness rooms, weighted at 0%. That’s a category we could’ve won.

But really, there is not a reasonable accounting for a school’s positive characteristics–for all the criticisms of the Wellness Room, mental health certainly is emphasized on campus, not to mention that the weather and campus are beautiful, the dorms and dining halls are by and large nice, and that the pampering by administrators is unparalleled (at least in my experience). If anyone has stories of the stresses or lack thereof during their time at Stanford, they are welcome to share them, but I think we can fairly say that this ranking is bunk.

*As an aside about that, I recently had a class with a guest lecture from long-time journalist Seymour Hersh. When Mr. Hersh couldn’t think of the name of Tina Brown, his former boss at the New Yorker, and current editor-in-chief of the Daily Beast, he tried to jog his memory by referring to her as “that fancy lady.” As a bonus aside, she has someone print out or fax, if she’s across the Atlantic all the stories that appear on the Daily Beast in a given day so she can read them.

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4-11-2010 The Day in Review

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