According to experts, happiness is one of those things that contribute to academic success. So, if you want to be in and out of college in 4 to 6 years carrying with you some of the best moments of your life and a much-deserved degree, it’s a wonderful idea to attend an institution where most students are feeling great.
While there are rankings of colleges with the best academics, value, programs, social life, location and even food, there are also rankings of those with the unhappiest students.
And below, you will find a total of 20 of them!
However, I should note that there is some subjectivity in any college rankings and this one is not an exception. The list was made based on reports from various sources, but ultimately it’s a student who makes the college experience good or bad.
And I personally know many people who graduated from colleges many regarded as less than perfect, but nevertheless, those graduates remember their college experience fondly.
The claim to fame of Clarkson University is that it’s a leader in technological education. True enough, its undergraduate engineering and computer science are ranked by US News. The go-to college ranking site of many degree-seeking students also ranks the private research institution #127 in National Universities.
Its 640-acre rural campus is located in Potsdam, New York, which houses over 2,800 undergraduate students. The school also has two other campuses in the Empire State.
However, it’s one of the 10 campuses with the least happy students, says a HuffPost report.
Some female students at Clarkson University also note that most of the attendees are male engineering students, which doesn’t come as a surprise since it’s known for its technical programs first and foremost.
There is no denying that Duquesne University is one of the top Catholic schools in the US. As a matter of fact, Niche ranks it #39 in Best Catholic Colleges in America and #3 in Best Catholic Colleges in Pennsylvania.
Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it was founded by the members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit in 1878. The school was originally called the Pittsburgh Catholic College of the Holy Ghost. Nowadays, its 48-acre campus with an urban setting houses more than 5,000 students.
Based on a ranking by the Princeton Review, Duquesne University is one of those with the unhappiest students.
Some reviews on Niche’s website say that, while the campus and its location are both lovely, the administration, student support and Greek life leave much to be desired. Others agree that it doesn’t offer diversity population-wise. Online programs, on the other hand, are not good, say some.
Its main campus may be in Boston, Massachusetts alright, but Emerson College has satellite campuses located in Los Angeles, California and Limburg, Netherlands. The private college has 26 majors and 30 minors, plus it offers a number of online master’s degree programs and certificates.
Although it has a small 8-acre urban campus that accommodates more than 4,000 students only, its US News rankings can impress — #7 in Regional Universities North and #7 in Most Innovative Schools.
But it’s also one of the Top 20 Least Happiest College Students ranking by the Princeton Review.
According to Emerson College’s students who talked about the school on a forum site, the campus is so small — again, it’s just 8 acres — that they get to see the same people each day, both those that they want to see and don’t want to see. Many attendees are also not as outgoing as they wanted them to be.
George Mason University
A public research university located in Fairfax County, Virginia, George Mason University was founded in 1949 as a branch of the University of Virginia, which is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the Academical Village).
US News ranks it #137 in National Universities and #64 in Top Public Schools. The well-known college ranking site also ranks it #94 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs. On the other hand, Niche ranks George Mason University #13 in
Colleges with the Best Student Life in Virginia and #19 in Top Party Schools in Virginia.
But also, it was once #11 in the Princeton Review’s Top 20 Least Happiest College Students ranking.
Many participants in an online forum site agree that most students at George Mason University are commuters, and the traffic makes going to and fro the school difficult. Also, those who drive cars complain of insufficient parking. Some agree that there are not a lot of things happening at the institution since it’s a small campus.
Illinois Institute of Technology
Having a Carnegie R2 designation, Illinois Institute of Technology has high research activity.
And this is why it’s ideal for individuals who are after research-intensive degree programs. As a matter of fact, according to the institution itself, both students and faculty members are conducting research that harnesses the power of technology and innovation for the betterment of humankind.
The majority of the most popular majors at the school are STEM ones such as engineering and computer science.
But perhaps it’s because of the rigorous curriculum at Illinois Institute of Technology that the private research university is considered to have the least happy students.
However, based on a report by Tech News, which is the school’s official newspaper, many students find that the ranking doesn’t make any sense based on their own experience.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Also known as IUP, Indiana University of Pennsylvania is a research and student-centered learning community. It offers more than 140 undergraduate degree programs and some online ones. As of this writing, its 374-acre campus with a rural environment is home to almost 10,000 students.
Niche ranks Indiana University of Pennsylvania #100 in Top Party Schools in America and #5 in Top Party Schools in Pennsylvania. The college ranker also ranks it #5 in Best Greek Life Colleges in Pennsylvania.
As a result of this, it’s easy to assume that its students are very happy.
But the fact is that Indiana University of Pennsylvania is said to have some of the least happy students in the US.
In another in-depth report, many students of color attending the public research university said they felt unwelcome. They also said that they were not getting support, which left them feeling targeted and unsafe.
Founded in 1915 by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), Marywood University is a small private Catholic school located in Scranton, Pennsylvania. While it offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs, the number of students attending it is less than 3,000 only.
Niche ranks Marywood University #69 in Best Catholic Colleges in America and #7 in Best Catholic Colleges in Pennsylvania. US News, meanwhile, ranks it #48 in Regional Universities North.
A HuffPost report, however, mentions it in a rundown of colleges with the least happy students.
Some of its students confess that the location of Marywood University is something they are not pleased with — it feels cramped being surrounded by domestic homes. Others say that the dorms are old. Most of the attendees are girls, and in-state students already knew one another, being from the same local high schools.
New Jersey Institute of Technology
Founded as Newark Technical School in 1885, New Jersey Institute of Technology is a public research University. As a matter of fact, it has very high research activity, as evidenced by its Carnegie R1 designation. US News ranks the school #97 in National Universities and #87 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs.
An online slideshow of the 10 most unhappy colleges included New Jersey Institute of Technology.
However, it’s not the first time for this public research university. According to one website, it was #2 in the 2017 ranking Least Happy Students. It was #3 in both 2016 and 2015. And, back in 2014, it was #1.
Based on an online report, the students at New Jersey Institute of Technology are not particularly happy with their teachers. But the school’s administration responded that it’s just that their curriculum can be challenging. It adds that, in the end, choosing a good-fit school is key.
Established in 1906 as a business school, Pace University is a private institution located in New York City. It has a satellite campus in Westchester County, New York.
US News ranks some of its programs, including business, computer science and nursing.
Many online listings of colleges and universities with the least happy students include some institutions located in New York, and one of them is Pace University.
The private school is known among its attendees to have a terrible financial aid office. The other office students can turn to for assistance, which is referred to as Pace’s Office of Student Assistance, is also said to be useless. And not too long ago, hundreds of students were said to be unenrolled as a result of being unable to process papers.
Queens College – CUNY
Because it’s located in what’s considered America’s most ethnically diverse county (Queens), it’s no wonder why the student body of Queens College – CUNY boasts of the diversity many degree-seeking individuals look for in a college. Currently, nearly 16,000 attendees share its 84-acre suburban campus.
It’s one of the top public institutions in the country, as evidenced by the #13 in Top Public Schools ranking by US News. The college ranking site also ranks it #58 in Regional Universities North.
But those accolades didn’t stop Queens College – CUNY from having some of the least happy students.
Reasons why many of those who go to it are unhappy are unclear. However, it’s a commuter school, and making friends where most students live off-campus isn’t that easy. Queens College – CUNY is also not a party school, and athletics is not a big part of the campus life, students say.
Seton Hall University
Located in South Orange, New Jersey, Seton Hall University is a small institution — its 58-acre suburban campus is home to a little over 6,000 students. The private Catholic research university, which was founded in 1856, has a rolling admissions policy and a high acceptance rate of 77%. Tuition, as of this writing, is $41,568.
US News ranks it #137 in National Universities and #51 in Nursing.
However, some online listings of colleges with the least happy students also give it a high ranking. As a matter of fact, one website gave it a #7 ranking back in 2018.
Participants in one forum site in cyberspace have varied opinions as to why Seton Hall University is home to some of the unhappiest students in the land. Some on-campus residents say the food sucks. Others agree that tuition is too expensive. There are also those who complain that it’s in a bad neighborhood.
Located in Boston, Massachusetts, Simmons University offers its undergraduate programs to women only. Its graduate programs, on the other hand, are co-educational. Since 2013, the private school has been offering online programs, although applicants must have at least 17 prior college credits in order to be accepted.
While Niche ranks Simmons University #4 in Best Women’s Colleges in Massachusetts and #11 in Best Women’s Colleges in America, these rankings can’t keep the school from ranking high in many listings of the unhappiest colleges.
An online forum participant says that students are unhappy with the food, infrastructure and administration, too.
St. John’s University
A private Roman Catholic institution located in Queens, New York, St. John’s University is ranked by US News #166 in National Universities. On the other hand, Niche ranks it #12 in Most Diverse Colleges in New York, #20 in Best Greek Life Colleges in New York and #27 in Top Party Schools in New York.
Back in 2018, the Princeton Review asked some of the students at St. John’s University how strongly they disagree with the statement “I am happy at my school”.
The said survey landed the private Roman Catholic institution #9 in Colleges with the Least Happiest Students.
According to the spokesperson for St. John’s University, the poll represented only about 4% of its entire student body, thus rendering the results statistically insignificant. Some students who were unhappy with the school said that the administration showed no interest in addressing issues that they deemed important.
Considered the eighth largest university in Boston, Massachusetts where it’s located, Suffolk University is a private research university with a total of more than 6,300 full-and part-time students. It was founded in 1906 as a law school.
It’s #234 in National Universities and #95 in Top Performers on Social Mobility by US News. Its business and computer science programs are also ranked by the college ranking site. Meanwhile, Niche ranks it #6 in Best Colleges for Accounting and Finance in Massachusetts and #26 in Most Diverse Colleges in Massachusetts.
Unfortunately, in the Princeton Review’s Top 20 Least Happiest College Students ranking, Suffolk University is #19.
Most of the not-so-pleasant reviews on the private research university mention the fact that there is no social life on campus and that there are very few student activities. Some are negative comments on financial assistance.
Truman State University
Named after the 33rd president of the US for he was a native to where the school is located, Truman State University is a public institution in Kirksville. It currently enrolls almost 3,900 undergraduate students.
US News ranks it #1 in Top Public Schools, #2 in Regional Universities Midwest and #3 in Best Undergraduate Teaching. The popular college ranker also ranks Truman State University #1 in Best Value Schools — in-state tuition costs $9,014 and out-of-state tuition amounts to $17,036.
Despite the high rankings, it is said that most students at the school are unhappy.
Some time ago, 5 students at Truman State University died by suicide in a single year. And if you will check reports on student deaths on the Truman Media Network (TMN), it seems like there are lots of them, although it doesn’t necessarily mean that all incidents could be blamed on the school.
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy (USMA) is a United States service academy located in West Point, New York. It also goes by names such as West Point and Army.
When building a college list, students, especially those from low-income backgrounds, consider the cost of attendance as one of the most important deciding factors. Great news for those who wish to attend the United States Military Academy on a budget: the government pays for each and every college-related expense!
But it’s in exchange for an active duty service obligation upon graduation.
According to an online forum participant who graduated from the academy, it’s a good place to be from and not at. All in all, the campus vibe is competitive and stressful. The academics are hard, too, being an Ivy League equivalent. And since all freshmen have to live on-campus, it isn’t surprising why many attendees feel unhappy.
United States Naval Academy
Also known as the US Naval Academy, USNA or simply Navy, the United States Naval Army is a federal service academy located in Annapolis, Maryland. Undergraduate students at the institution, obviously, are being trained to become professional officers of competence, character and compassion in the US Navy and Marine Corps.
The students, by the way, are considered midshipmen on active duty in the US Navy.
While the attendees of the United States Naval Army do not pay any tuition as well as other college-related costs, the institution is a place for a lot of unhappy students.
Attending the school is especially stressful for freshmen students because of the ritualistic tasks they have to carry out on the daily, which is essential to acclimatize them to a sense of military understanding and respect. And because of this, those who wish to attend the United States Naval Army should know what they are getting themselves into.
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Serving as the flagship of the University of Tennessee system, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville is a public land-grant research institution with a Carnegie R1 designation. It was founded 2 years before Tennessee became a state. The institution offers more than 90 majors across over 100 undergraduate degrees.
US News ranks it #115 in National Universities and #53 in Top Public Schools.
It’s true that the University of Tennessee, Knoxville doesn’t spearhead online rankings of the least happy campuses in the country, but the fact is that its name still graces a lot of them.
Some students feel that the school is simply too populated — its 910-acre suburban campus houses more than 25,000 students. Others agree that sports is so big at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville that they feel like the administration is investing lots of the resources in athletics and less in academics.
University of Texas at Dallas
Considered one of the largest public research universities in the area, the University of Texas at Dallas is ranked #151 in National Universities and #72 in Top Public Schools by US News. Home to more than 21,400 students, its tuition costs amount to $14,564 (in-state) and $39,776 (out-of-state).
The University of Texas at Dallas is often spotted in various top 10 listings of the least happy campuses in the US. One of the probable reasons for such is that it’s a commuter school — most of its students have to work and drive to school everyday, which can take its toll on their mental and physical well-being sooner or later.
However, the erection of new residential buildings at the institution in 2020 has made it into a hybrid between a commuter school and one with a more traditional vibe.
Xavier University of New Orleans
Also known as Xavier University of New Orleans or XULA, Xavier University of New Orleans is a private, historically black college or university (HBCU) in New Orleans, Louisiana. But it’s not just any other HBCU — it’s the only Catholic HBCU that’s also the first Catholic university founded by a saint!
US News ranks the private, liberal-arts based, co-educational institution #14 in Regional Universities South and #5 in Historically Black Colleges and Universities. It’s #25 in Best Value Schools, too.
Still, those impressive rankings couldn’t keep the institution from being on this list.
Numerous online college listings of colleges with the unhappiest students mention Xavier University of New Orleans. And in 2019, its students had one more reason to feel down — a recent graduate was killed in a controversial police shooting, which took place in Fort Worth, Texas.
Working hard allows you to achieve academic success. Things can be easier, however, if you are happy and pleased with the college you are attending. And that is why you should carefully research the campus life, student activities, location and overall vibe of a school before you put it on your college list.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.