The explanation for high college rankings

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September 17, 2012

10:08 PM

College of William and Mary President Taylor Reveley has a spring in his step, and it isn’t because of any succulent bits.

Thanks in small part to the president, the College ranks sixth among public institutions according to the U.S. News and World Report.

While Reveley’s ever charismatic attitude certainly helps the College’s reputation, the majority of the praise belongs to the faculty, staff, administration and students. The College ranks so high so often, not because of luck, but because of their hard work.

U.S. News and World Report ranks colleges and universities on seven main categories: “peer assessment; graduation and retention rates; faculty resources (class size, for example); student selectivity (for example, average admissions test scores of incoming students); financial resources; alumni giving; and … graduation rate performance and high school counselor undergraduate academic reputation ratings.”

Year after year, the College posts intimidating admission rates, admirable professor/student ratios, and surprisingly high alumni donations. I could spit statistics at you for another 400 words, but doing so still wouldn’t explain why the College sits comfortably in the top ten.

There isn’t a student who came to Williamsburg because of a single statistic — or even solely because of the statistics.

A greater motivation exists, but what is it?

Athletics? Tribe Pride? We may say “Roll Tribe,” but we’re no Alabama. Sell-outs are as rare as Jimmye Laycock sticking with one quarterback. The average age of the fans isn’t much lower than 50. Students think the basketball teams play at Zable Arena. While we have some incredible teams (I’m looking at you, cross country and women’s soccer), this is not a sports school.

Academic prowess? An insatiable desire for knowledge? Swem on a Sunday night will prompt you to say “yes,” but take a walk through the units the night before. Mama Kim’s, the Delis and the Hipster House enter conversation just as much as tomorrow’s homework load.

We’re no party school either, don’t get me wrong. Wednesday nights are not acceptable nights to stumble into your room. There’s a fine line. The College has two faces: academic Monday through Thursday, and Friday through Sunday.

Stellar dining services? Let’s keep going.

Having a school steeped in history? Duke of Glouchester Street has played host to a number of historical events, from the days of the colonies to the Civil War to now. On the other hand, most everything is closed by the time class ends, and the most exciting thing on a Saturday is the farmer’s market (they have great bread).

Our dominance as the best school in the state? Sure, the University of Virginia has its perks, but there’s really no competition there. We were first, and we’ve been better for quite a long time. Just don’t tell that to the U.S. News and World Report — they’ll disagree.

If it’s not any particular statistic, or all the statistics, and if it’s not Tribe Pride, academics, fun times, being the best or the history and traditions, what about the College collects impressive rankings year in and year out?

It’s no one thing, but all the aforementioned. It’s everything about the College — the good, the bad, the ugly (Morton). It’s a collective spirit and sense of forwardness about the community. It’s being able to put in the hours and effort in and out of the classroom. It’s the ability to think critically, apply effectively and work collectively. It’s the idea of moving toward the future, quickly and with confidence.

The College will point to any number of awards, statistics, or anecdotes of student success to explain the rankings, but as students, we know there’s more to the rankings.

We’re an elite school because we put forth the effort required. We don’t rely on state funding or an outdated reputation — we create an environment deserving of an elite rank.

Email Chris Weber at [email protected]

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About Author

Chris Weber

Senior staff writer Chris Weber '15 is an English major from Spotsylvania, Va. He was previously Sports Editor.