Grading Wash. U.
We’ve all been there—the wide-eyed prospective freshman stage, where all the colleges in the world are open to you and they all seem better than high school. After the initial elation wears off, most people sober up with the notion that they can only attend one school out of the dozens they’ve considered.
This decision is scrutinized more thoroughly than an NFL draft pick, a sitting president, or a tacky dress at the Oscars. Most people expect a lot out of their college—they want to find their true friends, they want to find a deeper understanding of the world, they want to find out why their parents laugh so hard when they watch “Animal House.” When considering their academic future, students want all the information they can get.
Perhaps that is why YouTube’s theUrocks videos get hundreds of thousands of views each spring. The videos, about one minute each, provide a condensed snapshot of some of the nation’s finest universities. Our very own Washington University in St. Louis is among the featured institutions, and theUrocks provides an engaging (if debatable) picture of campus and academic life.
Each of the eight videos is highly complementary of the faculty, teaching assistants, students and the institution in general. Classes are described as a grind, and even the B-school earns praise for its rigorous curriculum. The Pre-med and Psychology departments are singled out for their reputation and intensity, but the videos also showcase a wide variety of available majors. Students are portrayed as involved, hard-working and perpetually protesting. The only misstep is when Wash. U. is described as “the Harvard of the Midwest”—an obvious inversion.
Housing and food also earn accolades. While on-campus housing is dubiously described as “spacious,” students gave off-campus abodes a favorable A-. The variety and availability of food is heavily lauded, and the narrators positively rave about the quality. “We’re not talking good by college food standards,” says one, “we mean good.”
The overall size of the campus is portrayed as sizeable but not sprawling, and students describe the feel as walkable and secure. The interiors of buildings—labs, classrooms, and cafeterias—are presented as well-furnished and roomy, and the exteriors are noted for their comfortably classic architecture (although the façade of Eliot Hall is conspicuously absent from any available footage).
When the discussion turns to the social scene, though, the narrators hate harder than Silky Johnson. An institution where one “spends more time studying brain cells than killing them,” Wash. U. is not only “a weak party school” and “a weak greek school,” but it suffers from “a lame hookup scene.”
The plus side, according to one student, is “lower disease transmission.” “It’s not really a party school,” says another, “at least not in the classical sense.” All of this appears to be a symptom of the students themselves. The videos show the results of a poll in which the student body rated the appearance of the opposite sex; guys were given a generous B-, while girls scored a harsh C+.
Overall, the videos present a dearth of statistics and ratings along with a few anecdotes from campus events. However, the videos all appear to be shot on the same day and in the same locations, resulting in a surface-level view of the more intangible aspects of the University. Although theUrocks is far from the end-all-be-all of college information, its videos give the viewer a relatively honest sense of the featured institution that is designed to make the toughest of choices a bit easier. And after watching the videos and attending the University, Wash. U. students may conclude that theUrocks is a hair more honest than we may prefer.