St. Mary’s College of Maryland is one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduate education, according to The Princeton Review.  The New York-based education services company known for its test-prep courses features the college in the just-published 2009 edition of its annual book, “The Best 368 Colleges” (Random House / Princeton Review, July 29, 2008, $21.95).  Only about 15 percent of America’s 2,500 four-year colleges and two Canadian colleges are in the book.  It has two-page profiles of the schools and student survey-based ranking lists of top 20 colleges in more than 60 categories.  The Princeton Review also posts the book’s ranking lists on its website at which users can read FAQs about the book.     

In its profile on St. Mary’s College of Maryland, The Princeton Review quotes extensively from St. Mary’s students surveyed for the book.  Among their candid comments on the college: “Set on the beautiful St. Mary’s River, St. Mary’s College of Maryland is a humble oasis that has all of the intellectual stimulation of a private liberal arts school with none of the academic rivalry.”

In the “Princeton Review Says” section, the book’s authors write, “There are few better choices than St. Mary’s for better-than-average students….Now is the time to take advantage, before academic expectations of the Admissions Committee start to soar.” St. Mary’s College of Maryland is on the following ranking lists in the 2009 edition of the book: Lots of Race/Class Interaction; Gay Community Accepted; and Happiest Students.

Said Robert Franek, Princeton Review’s V.P., Publishing, “We chose schools for this book primarily for their outstanding academics.  We evaluated them based on institutional data we collect about the schools, feedback from students attending them, and our visits to schools over the years.  We also consider the opinions of independent college counselors, students, and parents we hear from year-long.  Finally, we work to have a wide representation of colleges in the book by region, size, selectivity and character.”

The ranking lists in “The Best 368 Colleges” are based on The Princeton Review’s survey of 120,000 students (about 325 per campus on average) attending the 368 colleges in the book.  A college’s appearance on these lists is attributable to a high consensus among its surveyed students about the subject.  The 80-question survey asked students to rate their schools on several topics and report on their campus experiences at them.  Ranking lists report the top 20 schools in categories that range from best professors, administration, and campus food to lists based on student body political leanings, race/class relations, sports interests, and other aspects of campus life.  The Princeton Review does not rank the colleges in the book 1 to 368 in any category, nor do the rankings reflect The Princeton Review’s opinion of the schools.  

The school profiles in “The Best 368 Colleges” also have school ratings in eight categories. The ratings are numerical scores on a scale of 60 to 99 based largely on school-reported data collected during the 2007-08 academic year. Rating categories include Admissions Selectivity, Financial Aid, Fire Safety, and a new Green rating that The Princeton Review developed in partnership with ecoAmerica, a DC-based environmental organization. The Green rating is based on several criteria concerning environmental policies and practices reported by the colleges to The Princeton Review.

“The Best 368 Colleges” is one of nearly 200 Princeton Review books published by Random House.  Over the years, various