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HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) – The students have spoken, the rankings are out, and North Carolina’s touted universities fared pretty well.

We are talking about The Princeton Review and its 31st annual ranking of The Best 388 Colleges, which includes rankings of schools in 50 categories that range from good professors and financial aid to a lot of pot and liquor.

We will get to some of those, but you must know this evaluation is based on what the students think. This isn’t some lofty compilation of graduation rates and academic accomplishments by the faculty.

This touches on those factors, but this list also tells us who has the best dorms, the best beer, the most pot and a lot of other things that some students find more engaging than, say, “Introduction to the Subcultures of Antarctica.”

These 388 schools, from Agnes Scott to Yale, include several schools in our area – Appalachian State, Elon University, High Point University, UNC-Greensboro and Wake Forest – along with Davidson, Duke, East Carolina, NC State and the branches of UNC in Chapel Hill and Asheville. So not everyone but maybe everyone.

Princeton Review says its categories span academics, amenities, school services, campus culture, and extracurriculars and include input from some 160,000 students. An 85-question survey asks students to rate their professors, administrators, school services and other aspects of life at their colleges. The average response from a school is about 400, and surveys were conducted in 2021-22 and/or the previous two academic years, a release said.

Those top-25 lists comprise only one chapter in the book The Best 388 Colleges.” The complete ranking lists are posted on The Princeton Review’s website. The schools also are grouped by best in each region, but they aren’t ranked. They appear in alphabetical order and provide the academic and administrative minutiae you typically see.

Still, those 50 lists are pure fun and include many insights, and we went through all of them to find out which of North Carolina’s schools showed up well – or not (not every list is a positive). HPU and Elon even sent out releases noting their rankings in various categories.

These include the categoryTheir Students Love These Colleges,” which is based on students’ overall satisfaction. Vanderbilt came in No. 1, but Elon was No. 14. That’s not too shabby. Those students are proud.

There were a lot of other things to raise our eyebrows, too. Some of it will make alumni proud. We didn’t include ranking in every category. You can check them until your heart’s content. But we believe we have everything that included an NC school. Feel free to argue among yourselves.

Elon University ranked in numerous categories. (Elon University)

The important stuff

BEST CAREER SERVICES: Clemson, No. 1; Elon, No. 9; High Point, No. 20.

BEST CLASSROOM EXPERIENCE: Reed College in Portland, Oregon, No. 1; Elon, No. 20.

BEST STUDENT SUPPORT ANDS COUNSELING SERVICE: U.S. Military Academy, No. 1; High Point, No. 23

BEST RUN COLLEGES: Rice University, No. 1; Elon, No. 4; High Point, No. 16.

Qubein Arena on the High Point University campus. Officials were pleased with its rankings. (HPU)

EVERYONE CARES ABOUT CONSERVATION: College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, No. 1; UNC Asheville, No. 6

LBGTQ FRIENDLY: Mount Holyoke, No. 1; UNC-Asheville, No. 9.

BEST SCHOOL NEWSPAPER: Columbia, No. 1; UNC-Chapel Hill, No. 10; Elon No. 15.


STUDENTS LOVE THEIR SCHOOL TEAMS: Arizona State, No. 1; UNC-Chapel Hill, No. 18.



MOST CONSERVATIVE STUDENTS: College of Ozarks (Mo.), No. 1; HPU, No. 14; Elon, No. 25.

A file photo of Wake Forest’s campus after students had “rolled the Quad” in celebration. (WGHP FILE).

The really important stuff

This is about lifestyle and fun and the things students remember more than most classes. Here are the categories in which NC schools ranked (and some in which they didn’t). You can pass judgment as you see fit.

BEST CAMPUS FOOD: UMass, No. 1; HPU, No. 17

BEST DORMS: Washington U. in St. Louis, No. 1; HPU, No. 4; Elon, No. 13.

HAPPIEST STUDENTS: Tulane, No. 1; Elon, No. 20.

BAD CAMPUS FOOD: Hampden-Sydney, No. 1.

BAD DORMS: Simmons U. in Boston, No. 1.

Asheville, home to UNC-Asheville, which got high marks in several categories. (AP PHOTO)

MOST BEAUTIFUL CAMPUS: U. of San Diego, No. 1; Elon, No. 8; HPU, No. 19. We found it odd that Pepperdine was No. 22, although it sits on a hill in Malibu, California, with the Pacific on its western horizon and the mountains to its east.

POT’S NOT HOT: Brigham Young University, No. 1 (nosing out the service academies).


LOTS OF BEER: Wisconsin, No. 1.

LOTS OF GREEK LIFE: Alabama, No. 1 – which makes it understandable why HBO and Vice are doing a documentary on sorority rush there – and Elon, No. 12.

North Carolina guard Christian Keeling looks to pass while forward Armando Bacot, right, defends against Duke forward Javin DeLaurier (12) and forward Wendell Moore Jr. during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
North Carolina guard Christian Keeling looks to pass while forward Armando Bacot, right, defends against Duke forward Javin DeLaurier (12) and forward Wendell Moore Jr. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

LOTS OF HARD LIQUOR (how widely hard liquor is used): Syracuse, No. 1; Wake Forest, No. 3; Elon, No. 10.

REEFER MADNESS: Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., No. 1.


COLLEGE CITY GETS HIGH MARKS: Columbia University (New York City), No. 1; UNC-Asheville, No. 15.

TOWN-GOWN RELATIONS ARE GREAT (How well students get along with town): Agnes Scott in Decatur, Ga., No. 1.

Not so positive

Some of the categories are not based on the best but those who aren’t. And some of our schools found themselves on these lists, too.

East Carolina University (WGHP PHOTO)

For instance, in “Financial aid not so great,” which measures students’ overall satisfaction with financial-aid packages, SUNY-Purchase College is ranked No. 1. That would mean it was the worst.

But also on that list were Appalachian State (No. 13), Elon (No. 18), East Carolina (No. 21) and High Point (No. 24). You should note that HPU’s release didn’t mention this list.

There were a few more points of ignominy, and East Carolina came out particularly black-eyed. To wit:

Appalachian App State stock
Appalachian State University



LGBTQ UNFRIENDLY: University of Tennessee, No. 1; ECU, No. 14.


A big deal

HPU’s release noted that only a small percentage of the nation’s colleges and universities were included in Princeton’s rankings, and that release expressed pleasure to be included. Elon’s release noted this was the 18th year in a row it had been included.

“High Point University is honored to be named as one of the best institutions in America,” HPU President Nido Qubein said in the release. “It is evident by our growing enrollment, the success of our students after graduation and the accolades from our parents that this is a university that will prepare students for the world as it will be. Yet it is the success of our students and the impact they are making in the world that is our greatest achievement.”