The validity of considering ranked aesthetics among colleges

In a recent article published by Best College Values titled “50 Most Beautiful Colleges in the Fall”, Wheaton College, MA (just to be clear) ranks nationally at number 13 out of 50 chosen colleges and universities.

The beginning of the round-up article eloquently classifies the fall season in a generic and alluring way, as to be expected from a prospective-student service site. It then lists 50 of the “most stunning” displays of the fall season at institutions across the country. Yet, the reader can’t help but wonder how and why these schools were selected. 

While there is no doubt that Wheaton College has one of the most stunning campuses in New England, let alone the United States, the chosen 50 colleges and universities that the article lists seem arbitrary and random. 

The picked schools range from University of Virginia, with 15,000 undergrads, to Middlebury College, a college with only 2,500 degree-seeking scholars. The article represents a diverse group of schools, but many aesthetically spectacular universities were left out. These exclusions prompted the public to share their feelings of animosity in the comments below the article. 

Although it is interesting for the viewer to analyze the list of selected schools, the article might have been more successful if it represented 75 or 100 schools. 

As stated in the introduction of the article, the organic and vibrant colors of Mother Nature’s fall attire liven up any environment, despite the raw attractiveness of the place. With this thought in mind, how exactly the authors picked these 50 schools to show off to the pre-frosh of the world is still in question. 

Maybe they evaluated the trees on each campus – their location, their ability to produce a bountiful amount of colors, the variety of species – and compared the results to other institutions. This is a valid approach. As a result, shouldn’t the photographs in the article reflect the campuses greatest aesthetic perspective? One would hope so, but this is not the case. 

A few of the images contradict the descriptions written below them. The campuses of Swarthmore College, Wesleyan University, Vassar College, and Northland College (the list continues…) might have “colorful settings” and “beautiful foliage” during the fall season, but the authors are unable to show photographic confirmation. The images show either post-foliage trees, or trees with brown and dead leaves (not quite the “quintessential” campus fall that the article hyped in its introduction). It should also be noted that the photograph below St. Joseph’s College is not of St. Joseph’s College. 

Like many online evaluative lists, this article seems to have a biased undertone, which ought to be considered while we “ooh” and “aah” over the school rankings. I am not saying that the reliability of the seasonal descriptions of each school come into question, but rather the faults of the article cast doubt upon its veracity. There are numerous schools in the United States that are just as “glorious” as these, but these 50 were fortunate enough to be chosen. While these institutions are, indeed, attractive, the article should have indicated the methodology that it used to evaluate them.

Wheaton College remains one of the most quaint and beautiful campuses in New England; this reality will never change. The  campus’ eclectic group of buildings makes it stand out from its neighbors. The pond and the Dimple add personality, and more importantly, the community continues to preserve the beauty of the sweet little campus that  we call home.