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The 106 Smartest Liberal Arts Colleges In America

Wellesley College Students Graduation Commencement Campus
Wellesley College Students Graduation Commencement Campus

Via Flickr The best and the brightest.

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, which fuels learning and forges close relationships with peers and professors.

In order to determine a school's overall smarts, Jonathan Wai , a Duke University Talent Identification Program researcher, 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 and give a reasonable snapshot of the brainpower level of that school.

ACT scores were translated into SAT scores (math + verbal) using this concordance table , so that all schools could be compared using one metric. Then, an average of the 25th and 75th percentile was computed ( see a full description of the methodology 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

1480

2

Pomona College

1460

3

Amherst College

1440

3

Swarthmore College

1440

5

Williams College

1435

5

Bowdoin College (2)

1435

7

Carleton College

1430

8

Wellesley College

1410

8

Claremont McKenna College

1410

10

Haverford College

1400

10

Washington and Lee University

1400

10

Wesleyan University

1400

13

Vassar College

1395

14

Middlebury College

1385

14

Hamilton College

1385

16

Reed College (9)

1375

17

Scripps College

1367

18

Oberlin College

1363

19

Colgate University

1360

19

United States Air Force Academy

1360

21

Macalester College

1350

22

Colby College (2)

1345

22

Bates College (2)

1345

24

Grinnell College

1340

24

Bryn Mawr College

1340

24

Barnard College

1340

27

Davidson College (3)

1335

27

Smith College (2)

1335

29

Colorado College (2)

1325

29

Mount Holyoke College (2)

1325

29

Connecticut College (2)

1325

32

Whitman College

1321

33

Kenyon College

1320

33

Wheaton College

1320

35

Franklin and Marshall College (2)

1315

36

University of Richmond

1310

36

Union College (NY) (2)

1310

38

College of the Holy Cross (2)

1305

38

Pitzer College (2)

1305

38

Occidental College

1305

38

Hendrix College

1305

38

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

1305

43

Bucknell University

1300

43

Denison University (2)

1300

43

Rhodes College

1300

43

Hillsdale College

1300

47

Centre College

1285

47

Gettysburg College (2)

1285

47

St. Olaf College

1285

47

Lawrence University (2)

1285

47

New College of Florida

1285

52

United States Military Academy (3)

1283

53

United States Naval Academy

1280

53

Bennington College (2)

1280

55

Dickinson College (2)

1278

56

Lafayette College

1275

56

Bard College (2)

1275

56

St. John's College (2)

1275

56

Lewis & Clark College (2)

1275

60

Sewanee-University of the South (2)

1265

61

Sarah Lawrence College (2)

1250

61

Thomas Aquinas College

1250

63

Kalamazoo College

1245

63

College of Wooster

1245

63

Earlham College (2)

1245

63

Illinois Wesleyan University

1245

63

Knox College (2)

1245

68

Skidmore College

1240

68

Trinity College

1240

68

Muhlenberg College (2)

1240

71

Furman University (2)

1235

72

DePauw University

1225

72

Beloit College (2)

1225

72

Gustavus Adolphus College (2)

1225

72

Wheaton College (2)

1225

72

Transylvania University

1225

72

University of Puget Sound (3)

1225

78

College of the Atlantic (2)

1220

79

St. Lawrence University (2)

1215

79

Austin College (3)

1215

81

Soka University of America

1210

82

Grove City College

1207

83

Hobart and William Smith Colleges (2)

1205

83

Hope College

1205

83

Berry College

1205

86

Willamette University

1195

86

University of North Carolina-Asheville

1195

88

St. Mary's College of Maryland (3)

1190

89

Luther College

1185

89

Westmont College

1185

89

Cornell College

1185

89

Calvin College (2)

1185

93

Allegheny College

1180

94

St. Michael's College (2)

1175

95

Wofford College

1170

96

Southwestern University

1168

97

St. John's University

1165

97

College of St. Benedict

1165

97

Millsaps College

1165

97

St. Mary's College

1165

97

Washington College (2)

1165

97

Coe College

1165

97

Lake Forest College (2)

1165

97

University of Minnesota-Morris (3)

1165

97

Wittenberg University (2)

1165

97

Lyon College

1165

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

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