If your family is about to spend $40,000 a year to send your freshman off to Reed College in Portland, Ore., you can rest assured that he will get the nation's top-ranked overall academic experience for undergrads.

The one thing the Reed student won't get, however, is much time with God, at least according to the newest rankings released Monday (Aug. 22) by The Princeton Review.

Reed, a private liberal arts and sciences school, placed first in overall academic excellence in the annual survey of 110,000 college students, but it also topped the category of schools where "students ignore God on a regular basis."

"Sometimes perception is a little different than reality," said Reed spokeswoman Beth Sorenson, who downplayed the religion score but happily trumpeted the academic rating.

Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, the Mecca of Mormon higher education, was rated the nation's most religious university. Perhaps not surprisingly, BYU also was dubbed the "most stone-cold sober" campus in the country.

The Princeton Review ratings, like the flurry of other annual college rankings, change from year to year. Colleges usually take them for what they're worth -- embracing the good scores while ignoring the ones they'd prefer to forget.

Ratings are based on student responses to a 70-question survey at 361 colleges and universities. Results were calculated from a five-point scale based on students' answers to the statement, "Students are very religious." Students were also surveyed on the best dorms (Loyola College in Baltimore), worst food (St. Bonaventure in St. Bonaventure, N.Y.), biggest parties (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and students most nostalgic for Bill Clinton (Mills College in Oakland, Calif.), among other categories.

Lewis & Clark College, also in Portland, came in at No. 5 on the list for the most secular schools. In between were Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. (No. 2); Eugene Lang College/New School University in New York (No. 3); and Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. at No. 4.

Sorenson said Reed takes the ratings in stride -- they don't participate in similar surveys by U.S. News and World Report, for example. "It's a survey of over 100,000 students, so there's bound to be some categories in there that are a little irreverent," she said.

Experts say the college experience has a dramatic impact on student spirituality. An ongoing $1.9 million study at the University of California-Los Angeles has shown that most students have found few outlets on campus to foster their spiritual development.

The UCLA surveys also found, for example, that regular attendance at worship services drops from 52 percent for freshmen to 29 percent for juniors.

Following BYU on the most-religious list were Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill. (No. 2), considered the Harvard of evangelicalism; Grove City College in Grove City, Pa. (No. 3), the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. (No. 4), perhaps the country's best-known Catholic school; and Samford University, a Baptist school, in Birmingham, Ala., at No. 5.

Carri Jenkins, a spokeswoman for BYU, said the 30,000-student school wears its religious image as a badge of honor. In a school where 98 percent of students are Mormon, Jenkins took pride in the "stone-cold sober" ranking for the eighth consecutive year. "We have always emphasized that we want students to come here because they choose the BYU environment, and we think these rankings reflect that," she said.

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