By Madison Purvis
University of Iowa students have recently been ranked ninth among 382 colleges across the nation in terms of happiness levels, according to the Princeton Review. This is the first time they’ve achieved a top-10 position in the category.
Best 382 Colleges, a book put out by the review, is full of college rankings, is based on 137,000 student surveys from all 382 participating schools.
Students fill out an 80-item survey that is broken into four sections. Each statement has five answer choices, from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree,” “Excellent,” to “Poor,” or a percentage category.
David Soto, a coauthor of the book, said the ranking of the “happiest students” is based on the statement “I am happy at my school.”
Soto said he and his coauthors hope the book “gives prospective students an idea of what life is like on any given campus and help them find the school that’s the right fit for them and their family.”
Barry Schreier, the director of the University Counseling Service, believes the increase in the happiness ranking may have to do with the increase in mental-health support and recognition around campus.
Schreier believes a lot of positive things have occurred at the university that could have contributed to dramatic jump in happiness, he said.
The biggest one however, is the dramatic increase in resources around campus.
Where there used to be one location for mental-health resources, there are now five. Accompanying the increase in the number of locations also means increased staffing, a huge benefit to students who are seeking help, Schreier said.
The UI also hosted a mental-health fair, another factor that could play into the ranking. More than 20 student organizations stepped in to be a part of it.
With more student organizations being involved in mental health, there is a larger voice on the matter. Schreier said he is seeing that more students want to be involved, which will hopefully lead to removing the stigma surrounding mental health. With that, there is the potential for even more happiness on campus.
Schreier said he also believes that more trans inclusivity on campus could play a role in this ranking and that this is a “powerful, strong, social justice.”
The question also arises about whether the change in ranking comes from what the university has done or from the attitude of the students on campus. Schreier said, “It is not an either/or, it is an and.” He said both the students and the UI play a role in student happiness.
Alexia Sanchez, the Student Life Committee chair for the UI Student Government, said she thinks Iowa has increased student happiness by “taking time to understand the student experience.”
She said Iowa does numerous surveys based on student satisfaction, and she believes the UI does a good job of working to improve the things the feedback suggests needs improving.
“When students are comfortable and happy here, they are more likely to grow and feel like a part of the community,” she said.
Her advice to students is to get involved on campus, because it helps make the UI a little smaller and less intimidating.
She also encourages students to always ask for help if they are struggling.
“There are so many resources on campus to take advantage of that can drastically make a difference in one’s life,” Sanchez said.