Boston-Area Colleges, Ranked by Obnoxiousness
Nostalgic for that four-year vacation called 'college'? Us too, which is why we're bringing back College Week. Double-sink all of this week's college goodness, all week, right here.
Though I pretty much pretend to know about everything, I do happen to have a lot of experience when it comes to Boston colleges. One, I went to two of them and my siblings went to two more. Two, I spent many years living in and around different schools in the city for better or worse. And three, I’m a judgmental jerk. Anyway, in order to properly celebrate College Week, I’ve set about ranking four-year Boston-area schools by obnoxiousness. What could possibly go wrong?
22. Cambridge College
“I go to a small school in Cambridge.” This is the only school in Cambridge that can claim that without sounding like they need to be hit in the face with some sort of cheaply made pie. Therefore, sweet Cambridge College, you are free of obnoxiousness.
21. Newbury College
You are indeed a college in Brookline and not just a street Europeans walk down with shopping bags full of leather goods, I have recently found out.
20. UMass Boston
When I lived in Southie in the mid-aughts, I would go to the Healey Library to read all of the books about Ireland, or at least that was the plan before I discovered it also had magazines. Everyone around me always seemed weirdly focused on what they were doing, because most of them had real jobs as well as school and couldn’t just use their time in the library to hate-read old Rick Reilly columns from the backs of Sports Illustrateds.
Are you a cop? Because you’d have to tell me if you were a cop, right? Fisher, with its vaunted criminal justice major (#2 in the US, according to US News & World Report), is indeed home to many wannabe cops and wannabe FBI and Secret Service agents, now mostly because the latter gig sounds like the law enforcement version of a spring break travel guide. Their colors are even blue and white, so future cops can get used to the matching, which I’ve been led to believe is the hardest part of the job. And perhaps because of that rigorous affiliation with law, any attitude is... waitforit... arrested. No? But do you get it? TELL ME YOU GET IT.
Did you know that, in 2000, the first women’s Catholic college in New England and the safest answer to the question, “Where did my eighth-grade World Geography teacher originally transfer to Lesley from?” leased a portion of its campus to Merck Pharmaceuticals in exchange for $50 million? Do you think that that financial windfall could somehow turn Nancy Kerrigan’s fellow alums into New Money jerks, what with their free samples of Januvia and Remicade and Gardasil? Well, the answer is likely no. Bonus fact: their literary magazine is called Bang! (with that exclamation point!).
A school made up entirely of guys named Patrick who used to play CYO basketball at one of three churches in Peabody is not, on the whole, that obnoxious.
No, no. You’re thinking of Bentley. This is Curry. You know, former Massachusetts State Rep Jeff Perry of Barnstable’s alma mater?!? The college in Milton mentioned in James W. Ryan’s Wilson’sWomen: A Novel of Mystery and Revenge?!? Sigh. Never mind.
Originally Lucy Wheelock’s Kindergarten Training School, Wheelock is one of those tiny little Fenway schools (it sits on a 1.5-acre lot) that train the amazingly patient preschool teachers who deal with the kids whose parents went to a few of the schools higher up on this list. And also LacyJane Folger, Miss Hampton Beach 2008!
A progressive powerhouse from forever, Simmons is a women’s school that accepts transgender students, and has done pretty cool things on the side of acceptance. And so I am going to not even make a joke here, because IT ISN’T ALWAYS ABOUT THAT, OKAY?!!?
In 1998, Lesley College combined its powers with those of the Art Institute of Boston to form Lesley University, and make it much more difficult for me to stereotype its average student, which I believe to be their original intention. Well played, President Joseph B. Moore. Well played indeed.
The most obnoxious thing about Wentworth is the quality of the jobs their engineering grads get out of college. LET ME LIVE IN YOUR FUTURE PALATIAL MARBLEHEAD ESTATES!
I spent many years living on Gainsborough St in a building that was mostly filled with Northeastern students, and once spent several months at Northeastern for a story following around the robotics team on their quest for robotics glory. This was a weird time in my life.
ANYWAY, the university's cooperative education program that makes students work for at least part of school seems to tamper down obnoxiousness, despite regularly finding many run-of-the-mill college kids sitting in Pavement Coffee skipping classes on their parents' dime to discuss the intricacies of illegally getting into Our House East. Also, a kid once gave me three quarters of a pizza from Woody’s Grill & Tap at 2am because he was going to a girl’s apartment across town, and I still get tears in my eyes thinking of his kindness.
10. Boston Conservatory
A school at which uptight girls from the suburbs come together with hard-luck cases from poor neighborhoods and end up merging ballet and hip-hop to electrifying effect.
World University Rankings, which is apparently a thing, just named MIT the number one university in the world, so you’d think that would just blow them off the charts of obnoxiousness, as they parade around inventing computer programs that tell them what to order at restaurants that don’t even exist yet. But actually, these guys (and girls) are kind of tolerable in a geeky, extremely focused, charming manner.
This is a school with a major divide between underclassman and grads. Grads at Suffolk are usually working full time while they get a law degree so they can further their political career in North Quincy, or maybe do the Matt Damon in The Departed thing at the BPD. Undergrads stand outside of that dorm over at 150 Tremont next to the Sal’s Pizza smoking cigarettes in their sweatpants warily eyeing everyone as they Yik Yak or wait for drones to come down to sell them ecstasy or whatever happens in college nowadays. And perhaps because of this slovenly lassitude I saw day after day as I spent three years wandering past them, they are this high up the list.
It is easy to just characterize this place as the bastion for wealthy suburban New England high school students who decided against Colby in order to experience undergraduate life in a slightly more urban setting, so I will do just that. Tufts has all the elements that make up a great obnoxious school: privileged students, enclosed spaces, an elephant for a mascot... but the kids just aren’t that bad. And I know this for a fact, because I went to undergrad at Trinity, and let's just say Trinity would finish a little closer to #1. Go Bantams?
"AHHH, WE’RE IN WALTHAM!!! THIS IS NOT QUITE BOSTON! WHAT DO WE DO NOW?!?!" - Every social person at Brandeis, right before they start spending $25 each way just to get to bars in Allston
Disclosure: I have a degree from Emerson. Disclosure two: it is a graduate degree, and it took me three years. And let me say this: there is a crazy amount of creative talent at this school, be it in theater or television or creative writing. And the pressure of having all of these different types of creatives wandering around in a very small space wondering if they will be the one to get caste, or to have their web-show picked or their manuscript purchased can cause for some extreme drama. Emerson is a place in which obnoxiousness is picked up as an armor to use later in life, so you can steel yourself for rejection in Hollywood or from a book agent or a Broadway casting director. It is also very apparent during trivia night at the Tam after a few too many Brubakers.
More disclosures! I also have a degree from BU! I went to ALMOST EVERY COLLEGE IN BOSTON, I think? BU was a fantastic place to learn: to sit in the basement of the Castle eating shockingly great sandwiches and drinking beer and talking about journalism. To absorb the craft directly from the guys who wrote Black Mass. And to see a level of obnoxiousness that could get almost to a point of parody.
With such a big school, it’s hard to make the type of generalizations I truly love making in these arbitrary rankings, but there certainly exists a certain undertone among many of the extremely well-heeled undergrads (some of whom truly might have infinity money) that they can do whatever they want at any point and someone else will fix it. Crash my Range Rover into Sunset Cantina? Dad’s got it. Fail Urban Politics because I missed 21 classes? Dad’s going to write a letter. Get called the #4 most obnoxious school by a guy who only got a grad degree? Wait, is your dad going to get me fired?!?!
3. Berklee College of Music
The nation's best school for sultry-voiced vocalists whose ultimate ambition is to lose in the Battle Rounds of The Voice has an underrated obnoxious sensibility. You wouldn’t think that fleet-fingered six-string bassists playing technically impressive music no one cares about would be hyper judgmental of the people stepping over them on Mass Ave, but, well, shit. Actually maybe you would.
You thought you’d be number one, right? I mean, I’m sure when you pulled your computer out of your crimson Inateck MacBook Pro Retina sleeve cover and fired up this story, you were sure you’d be number one. You thought that because you are the oldest institution of higher learning in the US, and because you spent much of your undergrad playing squash on your final club’s squash court, and glad-handing with former solicitor generals and people who refer to Matt Damon as “Matty,” and having laughs at Grendel’s with a Cabot and an Everett and a very good friend of yours who also happens to be a very famous actress but let’s not get into names (okay, fine, it’s Natalie Portman), and at least three former writers from the Harvard Lampoon, plus Oliver Wendell Holmes the 8th that you'd surely be considered for the top spot here. Well, I’m sorry this didn’t work out. Please tell Matty we said hello.
1. Boston College
Wait a minute. How is it that a school that was basically built just so Irish Catholics could do something other than bartend makes it all the way to number one on this list? Well, as an Irish Catholic with an older sister who went here, I have had the pleasure of trying to sneak into the Mods since I was 16 years old. And Boston College gives you something of a different kind of obnoxiousness, not cloaked in superiority like some places or entitlement like others. Theirs comes from an open assumption that everything they’re doing is fine, that the obnoxiousness is written off by the consent of the rest of the people of Brookline/Boston/Newton. That everyone is totally okay with them picking fights outside of Cityside and Mary Ann’s in Cleveland Circle or throwing beer cans at the other houses on Sutherland or perpetually wearing yellow shirts. But it's not. You can't treat all of Boston like it's your shitty 8-man in Walsh, Superfans. Now will you please get up from that seat so I can order the Challenge Burger at Eagle’s Deli?
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