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The 101 smartest liberal arts colleges in America

college student reading outside
college student reading outside

(Flickr / Grant)
Did your school make the cut?

If you're looking for an intellectually stimulating environment and a tight-knit community, you may want to consider one of the following universities.

From our recent list of the smartest colleges in America, we pulled out the top liberal arts schools, as categorized by US News & World Report.

These colleges emphasize undergraduate studies in the arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. Most are small, with class sizes typically under 20 students.

In order to determine a school's overall smarts, Jonathan Wai, a Duke University Talent Identification Program research scientist, analyzed the average standardized test scores that schools report to US News. (Those that did not report scores are not included.)

These tests are often criticized, but research shows that both the SAT and ACT are good measures of general cognitive ability, since just about any mental test measures one's ability to reason.

ACT scores were converted to SAT scores (math + verbal) using this concordance table so all schools could be compared on one metric. Then, an average of the 25th and 75th percentile was computed (see more detail on methods and limitations here).

On the following ranking, a (2) next to the school's name indicates that some or all students aren't required to supply scores; a (3) indicates that the school did not supply all students it has scores for, or did not tell US News if it had; a (4) indicates that the data is from a previous year, rather than from the most recent year; and a (9) indicates that the school may not require scores from all applicants and that it may not have submitted data for all students.

Here are the smartest liberal arts colleges in America:

Smarts Rank

School

Average SAT

1

Harvey Mudd College

1494

2

Pomona College

1460

3

Williams College

1455

4

Amherst College

1450

4

Swarthmore College

1450

6

Bowdoin College (2)

1445

7

Claremont McKenna College

1435

8

Carleton College

1415

9

Haverford College

1410

10

Vassar College

1405

11

Grinnell College

1400

12

Hamilton College

1390

12

Washington and Lee University

1390

14

Wellesley College

1385

14

Wesleyan University (2)

1385

16

Colgate University (3)

1375

16

Reed College (4)

1375

18

Macalester College

1368

19

Middlebury College

1365

20

Scripps College (3)

1360

21

Smith College (2)

1355

21

Oberlin College

1355

21

Bates College (2)

1355

24

Barnard College

1345

25

Colorado College (2)

1340

25

United States Air Force Academy

1340

27

Davidson College

1335

27

Mount Holyoke College (2)

1335

29

Colby College (2)

1330

29

Pitzer College (2)

1330

29

Connecticut College (2)

1330

29

St. John's College (NM) (2)

1330

33

Kenyon College

1325

33

University of Richmond

1325

35

Bryn Mawr College (2)

1320

35

St. John's College (MD) (2)

1320

35

Wheaton College (IL)

1320

38

Whitman College

1315

39

Bucknell University

1305

39

College of the Holy Cross (2)

1305

39

Union College (NY) (2)

1305

39

Franklin and Marshall College (2)

1305

39

St. Olaf College

1305

44

Lafayette College

1300

44

Occidental College

1300

44

Rhodes College

1300

44

Hillsdale College

1300

48

United States Naval Academy

1285

48

Centre College

1285

48

Gettysburg College

1285

48

Denison University (9)

1285

48

Lewis & Clark College (2)

1285

48

Bennington College (9)

1285

54

Dickinson College (2)

1280

54

Bard College (2)

1280

54

New College of Florida

1280

57

United States Military Academy

1275

58

Sarah Lawrence College (2)

1270

59

Sewanee—​University of the South (2)

1265

59

Lawrence University (2)

1265

59

Hendrix College

1265

59

Thomas Aquinas College

1265

63

Earlham College (2)

1260

64

Trinity College (CT)

1245

64

College of Wooster

1245

64

Kalamazoo College

1245

64

Illinois Wesleyan University

1245

64

Transylvania University

1245

69

Skidmore College

1240

70

Furman University (2)

1235

70

Wheaton College (MA) (2)

1235

72

Soka University of America

1230

72

Hobart and William Smith Colleges (2)

1230

74

DePauw University

1225

74

Beloit College (2)

1225

74

Muhlenberg College (2)

1225

74

Gustavus Adolphus College (2)

1225

74

Wofford College

1225

74

Marlboro College (2)

1225

80

University of Puget Sound

1220

80

College of the Atlantic (2)

1220

82

Knox College (2)

1205

82

Cornell College

1205

82

Berry College

1205

85

Grove City College

1202

86

St. Lawrence University (2)

1200

86

Willamette University

1200

88

University of North Carolina—​Asheville

1195

89

St. Mary's College of Maryland

1194

90

College of St. Benedict

1185

90

Millsaps College

1185

90

Hope College

1185

90

Augustana College (2)

1185

90

Birmingham-​Southern College

1185

90

Calvin College (2)

1185

96

Westmont College

1170

97

St. John's University

1165

97

St. Mary's College

1165

97

Luther College

1165

97

Lake Forest College (2)

1165

97

Concordia College—​Moorhead

1165

Note: The above schools are categorized as liberal arts colleges by US News & World Report.

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