‘Unhappy’ students elude IIT experience

Technews Writer
Sun Oct 20, 2013
In November of 2011, the Princeton Review released their list, “The 10 Colleges With the Least Happy Students.”  Just down the list from the military academies, at number nine was our own Illinois Institute of Technology. Sadly, finding IIT on this list was not a shock or surprise to many current students. Why? IIT has frequented this list repeatedly. For me, this ranking does not make any sense at all.
My five years at IIT have been the best times of my life. I have had more opportunities than I could take advantage of, met friends from around the world, and grown more than I could ever have imagined. I can’t imagine what my life would look right now if I had not come to IIT. So, why do we repeatedly find ourselves on this list? I believe that there are a number of compounding factors that contribute to IIT being on this list of colleges with unhappy students.
The first of these is the IIT student demographic. What do I mean by that? I believe that there are two main populations of students that experience more unhappiness than any other groups during their time at IIT: commuter students and international students.
Commuter students frequently come to IIT to take classes, leave when they are done, and work off campus. By doing so, these students miss out on many events, student organizations, and experiences that are crucial to connect with and feel included in the IIT community. If my only experiences at IIT were my classes, I can understand why these students report feeling unhappy at IIT.
Secondly, international students from around the world come to Chicago to attend IIT. For these students being thousands of miles from home, being in a completely new country, experiencing winter for the first time, and often struggling with courses in English can all contribute to unhappiness in the international population at IIT.
IIT is a difficult university. In 2012, Newsweek ranked IIT as number 24 on the list of the most rigorous universities in the United States. The workload for any major is not easy and can overwhelm students. Many other colleges and universities that also find themselves on this list share this characteristic.
Finally, I believe that many students do not find a connection to the IIT community. All of the factors listed above can act as obstacles to finding a connection or a place to belong at IIT; I believe that focusing on making sure each student feels connected to, and a part of IIT will decrease the “unhappiness” in students. In the current version of this list on the Princeton Review website, IIT has dropped to number 16; I believe that this is in fact due to more opportunities for students to connect with each other and the university that have been created in the past few years.
One IIT alum (ARCH ‘75) commented on the Princeton Review list and summed up my thoughts on this topic perfectly, “I had the time of my life," they commented on the website.  "I actually learned something. After school I could support myself.”
Appears in
2013 - Fall - Issue 7