What Confessions Pages Reveal About Their Schools

What Confessions Pages Reveal About Their Schools

There’s plenty of talk about Stanford’s instantly famous ‘confessions’ page, but we weren’t the first ones and we aren’t the only ones spilling confessions on facebook. In fact, the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom shut down ‘Exeter Uni Confessions’ in October of last year – long before the phenomenon arrived at American schools. Now that they are in full swing, however, the Review did a word analysis counting specific words and categorizing posts from the confessions pages of 10 schools: Stanford, UCLA, Oregon, Cornell, UVA, UCSB, Wisconsin, Rice, Arizona, MIT and BYU. Some results aren’t particularly surprising: everyone talks about their freshman and senior years most, Wisconsin talks about beer more than twice as much as anyone else and BYU talks about hook-ups the least (and long-term relationships the most). Some findings, however, are a little more revealing.

The party scene was unsurprisingly the single most common subject mentioned in confessions. We split these up into categories about drinking, drugs and actual parties. A single confession can of course fit in more than one category. Despite Wisconsin’s predictable affinity for beer, Oregon tops the list for highest rate of posts about drinking in all forms, with UCSB not far behind and Wisconsin after that. Stanford, meanwhile, sits near the bottom of the list: a little above Rice and a solid notch above BYU.
UVA tops the list for confessions about drug use (excluding alcohol). Stanford interestingly comes in third, though everyone between UCSB (second) and Rice (far last) mentions drug use at a very similar rate. For all schools, marijuana is referred to more often than all other drugs combined.

The list for partying is predictably similar: again Oregon, UCSB and UVA sit on top. Stanford, Rice and BYU again round out the bottom, though this time Rice edges Stanford. UVA’s surprisingly high rate of partying and drug use for a school known for academic excellence may be partially explained by their prominent Greek scene, which they mention twice as often as any other school does.
Counting confessions about regret, guilt and shame produces a list that looks similar, though not identical to the list for drug use. UVA and UCSB again top the list by a large margin, with Stanford following in third. Before making any conclusions about the relationship between drug use and regrettable decisions, however, consider also that Arizona, which we found did not often talk about drugs, has nearly as many regrets as Stanford and in fact uses the word ‘regret’ more than any other school. Oregon, on the other hand, sits with BYU and Wisconsin as schools without much regret or shame.

On the other end of the spectrum, school work is the second largest area of confessions. Arizona seems the least academically preoccupied, but other stereotypical ‘party schools’ such as UCSB and Oregon don’t fit that stereotype at all, coming in first and third respectively. Stanford, meanwhile, is fourth. That’s correct, we talk less about academics than UCSB and Oregon. But before our collective Stanford ego bruises, please understand that this seems a dubious indicator of academic performance, as UVA sits 2nd, but Ivy League member Cornell sits second to last.

The final big area of focus is relationships, ranging from hook-ups to marriage. On one extreme, Oregon and UCLA talk about hook-ups in more than a quarter of their confessions. Rice, Cornell and MIT meanwhile are all at about 10 percent. Stanford is in the middle of the group, about even with our Rose Bowl counterparts Wisconsin. UCSB’s surprising absence from the top of the list is probably due to the fact that they have dedicated an entire separate facebook page named “UCSB Hook-Ups” to the issue. BYU is of course in a distant last place on this list.

The situation is nearly opposite when dealing with longer relationships instead of just hookups. BYU mentions relationships in more than a quarter of their posts and talks about marriage five times more often than anyone else. Oregon is at the bottom of this list, and Arizona, which ranked below Stanford in the hook-up category, is not far behind BYU, coming in second. Despite the popular saying about dating at Stanford, we come in fourth in this category, though perhaps many of our posts about ‘relationships’ are actually just complaints about the lack thereof.

Arizona also appears to be the most emotional of the ten schools: they talk about love more than almost anyone else in addition to talking about hate more than anyone else. Oregon and Wisconsin use neither very often, and in fact don’t use many words about emotion at all. The school that talks about love more than anyone else, MIT, also uses the word ‘hate’ the least. Thankfully, there isn’t a counterpart to MIT that exclusively hates.

Though we fail to top the list in either partying, academics or really just about anything, Stanford does talk about money and finances far more than anyone else. Interestingly, when we filtered for posts specifically mentioning tuition, bills or finances, there’s hardly a difference between schools, but Stanford is the only school that repeatedly talks about money and family at the same time. We also often use the words “rich” and “poor” when doing so. On a possibly related note, we use terms like “low-income” and “privileged” much more often, again evidencing that discussions about social class are uncommonly sensitive or controversial issues at Stanford.

On a final note, Stanford talks about loneliness more than any other school and if you’ve been on the page, you know confessions about depression and friendlessness are frustratingly common. At the same time, however, Stanford students talk about ‘Stanford’ as a school and community more than other students refer to their own school. Read through some posts and notice how we refer to our time at Stanford and talk about the Stanford community. It seems strange that we struggle with loneliness despite our collective awareness of being apart of this community. Perhaps, given a chance, some of our anonymous admissions would find acceptance as honest declarations.

Though these observations are based on actual data pulled from confessions pages, this is not a rigorous analysis. For more information on methodology, please contact Daniel O’Neel at doneel [at] stanford.edu*

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