Most Beautiful College in the U.S.?
Earlier this week the social media universe in and around Davidson came to life with a post that has now been shared countless times. It is a post with a title that contained “Most Beautiful College Campus,” and not surprisingly to those with a clear bias Davidson was the top of the list.
And while most of the people reading this article in News of Davidson likely have that bias, we hope that most are also interested in learning more about the details below the headline.
This story didn’t come from U.S. News and World Report, Money Magazine, or the Princeton Review. It came from “College Rover.” Wait, what?
What’s a College Rover? And what qualitative methodology did they use to come up with this information? Would the article and the website that generated this “news” pass the standard rigor of Davidson academic standards? Maybe not.
A little bit of research reveals that “College Rover” is a website created by a parent named “Bill” who, according to his site, watched his daughter try to keep an ever-changing spreadsheet of college information up-to-date. The site launched in May 2022 and has made several upgrades in 2023. Oh, and they have a cute drawing of a dog on their logo.
The site’s “about” information also includes the following description:
College Rover, a user-friendly tool for students and parents/guardians to quickly sift through mountains of information about colleges – then share, save, and download! We launched in May 2022 and want to say a big thank you to all of our subscribers this past year! In January 2023 we added the majors and degrees section, and in April 2023 we updated the user interface and loaded updated 2021-2022 data.
Simple searches on the site often redirect readers directly to the individual college’s website. However, when users want to compare information and save it, they must create an account. Per the site’s FAQ page: “If you choose not to subscribe, you can still search, but you won’t be able to save your searches into a collection or download to a spreadsheet.”
And to be clear, it is a paid service. Students and parents/guardians must subscribe to access save the information from their searches, with monthly costs at $2.99 or a yearly subscription for $23.99.
Presumably in order to draw people to the College Rover website, “The College Rover Team” creates content that they publish as “articles” about various topics – including that recent about the “Most Beautiful College Campuses in the U.S.”
Previous “articles” in their “library” range from ranking the Best Colleges, The Most Conservative, The Most Liberal, Cheapest Out of State Tuition, Best Colleges for LGBTQ+ Students, Best Architecture Schools, Best Business Schools, to an article entitled “Is Capital Goods a Good Career Path? 6 Top Jobs.”
Each of these articles ends with a pitch to “Use College Rover to find the best school for you.”
Let’s get back to the most beautiful college. Here’s another interesting detail. College Rover published their article on July 17 without much fanfare. Turns out it wasn’t until a “Yahoo News” columnist packaged the details of the College Rover information and essentially “tied a bow on it.” The Yahoo News piece was published on August 8. Within hours, the “news” about a school in North Carolina was picked up by the Charlotte Observer and the News and Observer, as well as local television stations.
It certainly looks like this Yahoo News bump is the biggest news bump in College Rover’s short history. A less-than-sophisticated Google search of College Rover in the “news” section reflects several hits for the “Beautiful Colleges” article. However, beyond those news stories, College Rover has two other news articles on the list. They have been picked up for their “study” about what music artists high GPA college students prefer (hint: it’s Taylor Swift) and another picked up by “Biz Women” that collected data about colleges and universities that produce the highest number of female CEOs.
The next big question that has been batted about by a few alumni is whether the content on College Rover is written by humans or generated by artificial intelligence (AI). That’s not clear. Like all the other articles in the College Rover library, the byline is given to “The College Rover Team.” And a thorough search of the website only reveals the name of one human – the parent named “Bill.”
And then there is the source listed for the data in the “Most Beautiful College” article, it’s a “2023 College Rover Study.” And Davidson earned the lofty top spot was because 75% of the Yelp/Trip Advisor online reviews of Davidson included the word “beautiful.” So, regardless of how the article was “written,” the data was compiled by data algorithms.
Do all the people who shared the “Beautiful College” social media post care that Davidson didn’t make College Rover’s list of “Best Liberal Arts Colleges in the U.S.?” Would a lot of people be surprised that Transylvania University made that list? The good news is that Davidson is in some pretty good company on the “honorable mentions” list: Some honorable mentions include:
- Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York
- Smith College, a women’s college in Northampton, Massachusetts
- Barnard College, a women’s college in New York City
- University of Richmond in Virginia
- Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut
- Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota
- Colgate University in Hamilton, New York
- Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina
- Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont
- Hamilton College in Clinton, New York
Okay, maybe we should go back to just being happy that less than a month after Stephen Curry’s documentary “Underrated” took Davidson onto the big screens and into living rooms around the globe, there is yet another reason that Davidson pops up in a Google search.
We have clearly spent way too much time researching all this information, but we hope some will find it interesting if not useful. Go ‘Cats!