The Smartest Colleges in America

Jonathan Wai and Max Nisen


Schools are constantly ranked on everything from the beauty of their campuses to their party scenes, but rarely on their students' intelligence.

Exclusively for Business Insider, Dr. Jonathan Wai, a Duke University Talent Identification Program research scientist and psychologist, computed a new ranking of America's colleges and universities based purely on smarts, as shown by the student body's average scores on standardized tests.

Though these tests are often criticized, research shows that both the SAT and ACT are excellent measures of general cognitive ability, and the scores of a school's student body give an accurate snapshot of their abilities.

Cognitive training company Lumosity took a crack at this last year, ranking more than 400 schools based on students' performance on brain-training games. There were a couple of problems with its list, however, as they only had data available from students who played the games, meaning some of the smartest schools got ignored, and there is no peer-reviewed research showing their games are a reliable and valid measure of smarts.

Now, for the first time, we present the real smartest colleges in America. (Read more about our methodology and reasoning here.)



10. Stanford University


Location: Palo Alto, Calif.
Average test score: 1475
U.S. News Ranking: 5
Lumosity Ranking: 3

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9. Columbia University



Location: New York City, N.Y.
Average test score: 1480
U.S. News Ranking: 4
Lumosity Ranking: 61

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7. Washington University in St. Louis (Tie)



Location: St. Louis, Mo.
Average test score: 1490
U.S. News Ranking: 14
Lumosity Ranking: 6

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7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Tie)



Location: Cambridge, Mass.
Average test score: 1490
U.S. News Ranking: 7
Lumosity Ranking: 1

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5. Harvey Mudd College (Tie)



Location: Claremont, Calif.
Average test score: 1495
U.S. News Ranking (Liberal Arts): 16
Lumosity Ranking: Unranked

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5. The University of Chicago (Tie)



Location: Chicago, Ill.
Average test score: 1495
U.S. News Ranking: 5
Lumosity Ranking: 16

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2. Yale University
(Tie)


Location: New Haven, Conn.
Average test score: 1500
U.S. News Ranking: 3
Lumosity Ranking: 5

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2. Harvard University
(Tie)


Location: Cambridge, Mass.
Average test score: 1500
U.S. News Ranking: 2
Lumosity Ranking: 2

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2. Princeton University (Tie)



Location: Princeton, N.J.
Average test score: 1500
U.S. News Ranking: 1
Lumosity Ranking: 39

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1. California Institute Of Technology



Location: Pasadena, Calif.
Average test score: 1535
U.S. News Ranking: 10
Lumosity Ranking: Unranked


These rankings are based on the average of each school's reported SAT scores (math plus verbal) and ACT scores (converted into equivalent SAT scores) of first-year, degree-seeking students in 2012 as reported to U.S. News. See the explanation of our methodology and reasoning here. For comparison, we've included U.S. News' overall rankings (which split universities and colleges) and Luminosity's ratings based on brain games.


Click here to see the full list.


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