This Texas university is the happiest in the US


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University can be a life-changing experience, from learning the skills needed to secure your dream job to making life-long friends. But at which universities will you make the most joyful memories? used an emotional recognition tool to analyze thousands of Instagram photos geotagged at different universities to find out which universities are the happiest.

From the friends made and knowledge gained to all those late nights spent playing beer pong, if you went to college, chances are you made some happy memories during your time as a student. You may have even met the love of your life at university, as one in seven married people in America does.

But if you’re yet to take the leap into higher education, you’ll no doubt be wondering which university could offer you the happiest experience. Surveys, reviews and rankings can all help you to form an idea of how you’ll find the academic side of college, but where can a prospective student go to check out the light-hearted, candid moments of campus life?

With 59% of those aged 18 to 29 on Instagram, we figured the beloved photo app offered a unique glimpse into just how happy university students are. So, in a mammoth study that’s surely worth an A+, our analysts at used Instagram and an innovative AI tool to discover the happiest universities in the U.S., UK, and Australia.

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How We Used AI to Detect Happiness

Using Amazon Rekognition API, an AI emotion recognition tool that measures levels of emotion in human faces, analysts scanned thousands of Instagram photos geotagged at different universities to find out which universities boast the highest proportion of faces that register as happy. Our analysis considers a face to be happy if the AI tool gave it a happiness score equal to or greater than 75%.

While smiles can range from politely professional to the awkward kind reserved for open mic comedy nights, big grins caught on camera are usually a reliable indicator of a happy mood. But artificial intelligence increasingly knows best, so, equipped with an Instagram account and an AI tool that can detect emotional levels in faces, we went in search of the happiest universities in the U.S., UK and Australia.

Using the AI tool, we scanned thousands of images of faces featured in Instagram photos tagged at different universities. The tool analyzes clear photos of faces and provides a confidence level from 0% to 100% on how likely a face is to be expressing happiness. For the purposes of our analysis, we considered faces that received a score equal to or greater than 75% to be happy, enabling us to calculate the proportion of faces tagged at each university on Instagram that registered as happy.

 Read on for our results…

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10. University of Texas at Austin, Texas

% OF HAPPY FACES:  59.5%

Image Credit: RoschetzkyIstockPhoto / istockphoto.

9. Washington University in St. Louis, Montana


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8. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia


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7. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Image Credit: pkujiahe / istockphoto.

6. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina


Image Credit: Jim Brown / iStock.

5. Elon University, Elon, North Carolina


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4. Baylor University, Waco, Texas


Image Credit: Strekoza2 / iStock.

3. University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa


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2. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York


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1. Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas


Image Credit: Texas Christian University.

Not Everyone Feels Happy at University

If countless Hollywood movies are to be believed, the university experience is a happy whirlwind of non-stop parties and socializing with new friends. But, of course, while some people look back on their college years as the best of their lives, many others have different experiences of the journey from freshman to full-fledged graduate; in fact, low mood is actually very common on campus, with one survey revealing that 41% of students in the U.S. have symptoms of depression.

From an overwhelming workload to homesickness, all sorts of factors can contribute to someone not having a blast at university. But, as Sarah Richardson (head of student services at the UK’s University of Derby) puts it, “good mental health is vital for students. In short, happy and healthy students are successful students.” Fortunately, even students at the world’s happiest universities should be able to find plenty of support and guidance if they’re struggling with their mental health.

For ten tips on how to look after your mental health at university, take a look at this helpful guide offered by the University of Michigan.

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Methodology & Sources

We began by manually curating a list of Instagram location pages for the top universities in the U.S., UK, and Australia (e.g., the location page for Princeton University). From these pages we collected the latest available and featured images.

We cleaned the resulting images to avoid duplicates, then analyzed the remaining images with Amazon Rekognition API. Amazon Rekognition API is a facial emotion recognition tool that scans faces and calculates various metrics regarding facial expressions.

We focused on the ‘happiness’ metric, i.e., how likely a face is to be expressing happiness. For the purposes of our study, we considered a face to be happy if its happiness score was given as equal to or greater than 75%.

To avoid background faces altering the results in photos with a large crowd, we set the threshold to an analysis of no more than five faces per photo.

We could then rank universities in each country by the proportion of happy faces appearing in Instagram photos tagged there. We only report results for universities where our analysis found more than 100 faces.

The data was collected in December 2022 and January 2023.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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