Monday, November 26, 2007

Dropping out... all of the cool kids are doing it

Recently I've realized more and more that all of the sweet people that are associated with Vassar came but never graduated. It has all the trappings of a good theory, especially surprise. But without data, it was going nowhere. So I looked at Wikipedia's List of Vassar College People, which includes those who attended but did not graduate, and I did a quoted google search of each person's name. Here are the top results:

1) Meryl Streep - 2,520,000 results, graduated. Two-time Oscar winning actress.
2) Jane Fonda - 2,270,000 results, did not graduate. Two-time Oscar winning actress.
3) Anne Hathaway - 2,150,000 results, did not graduate. Actress, ironically starred alongside Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. Gorgeous.
4) Lisa Kudrow - 1,530,000 results, graduated. "Pheobe" from friends.
5) Anthony Bourdain - 1,240,000 results, did not graduate. Famous chef, hosts a show on the Travel channel.
6) Justin Long - 1,040,000 results, graduated. Actor in Waiting, among others. My boy.
7) Jacqueline Kennedy - 626,000 results, did not graduate. Wife of Jack Kennedy.
8) Neil Strauss - 555,000 results, did not graduate. Author of "The Game."
9) Noah Baumbach - 544,000 results, graduated. Co-Wrote The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou with Wes Anderson.
10) Hope Davis - 503,000 results, graduated. Actress, plays quasi-major role in many movies including About Schmidt.

All in all, I think that this was a solid experimental design. While the number of google search results is probably not the best way of determining popularity, it is blind to the nature of the study, and I would say that the top people on that list are probably the best known. The only problem with the google search is that it is hard to decide what is the most appropriate name to use. While Mike D could have been used instead of Michael Diamond, it may have given him too many results because "D" is so common compared to a normal last name. But he didn't graduate from Vassar, so if anything the results are skewed in the other way than I expected.

Either way, given that the Vassar College graduation rate after 6 years is 89% percent right now, the fact that 5 out of the top 10 most popular people did not graduate shows that there might be something in this dropping out business. Any thoughts?