If you don’t drink — especially if you don’t even like being around people who do — the American college experience can be challenging. To quote a BioMed Central Public Health report on alcohol drinking among U.S. college students, “Alcohol use…occurs [at college] in specific social environments characterised by independent living, reduced parental control, increased social homogeneity, [and] wide availability of alcohol-related social activities….”
Luckily, there are alternatives. In the just-released 2019 edition of its annual college rankings, Princeton Review identifies 20 Stone-Cold Sober Schools.
The Review’s rankings, covering some 62 categories, are based on questions answered by some 140,000 students in the 385 colleges and universities included in the survey. The sober school list is based on students’ answers indicating a combination of high personal daily study hours (outside of class), low usages of alcohol and drugs on campus, and low popularity on campus for frats/sororities.
Not surprisingly, a number of the colleges on the list are either religious institutions or military academies.
Most sober of all? Utah’s Brigham Young University, a Mormon school that is, as one student noted, “all about putting religion and education together.” Students are required to adhere to an Honor Code that, among other things, demands abstinence not only from alcohol and drugs but also from tobacco, coffee, and tea, as well as what Mormons consider “inappropriate” sexual behavior such as homosexual liaisons and extramarital intercourse.
The next most sober school is College of the Ozarks, an ultra-conservative private Christian college in Missouri.
The problem is apt to be especially bad at schools in places where people are more prone to heavy alcohol use. These are America’s drunkest states.
Other institutions on the list, in descending order, are Thomas Aquinas College, the United States Naval Academy, Wheaton College (IL), Calvin University, Gordon College, the United States Air Force Academy, Grove City College, City University of New York-Baruch College, the United States Military Academy, City University of New York-Hunter College, University of California Merced, Agnes Scott College, Mills College, Baylor University, Berry College, Middle Tennessee State University, Illinois Institute of Technology, and Texas State University.
Even for those who have no problem with alcohol, a party atmosphere can be a distraction — which is the last thing you’d want if you’d managed to gain admission to a selective school. These are the hardest colleges to get into in every state.