The 50 smartest colleges in America

What makes a college great depends on a variety of factors, none more important than its ability to help students succeed. To that end, in August we ranked the 50 best colleges in America. Crucial to that pursuit, however, is attracting smart students who are already primed for success.

We worked with Jonathan Wai, a Duke University Talent Identification Program research scientist, to generate an exclusive Business Insider ranking of the smartest schools in the US. Here’s how we did it:

  • We looked at the ACT and SAT scores in the latest US News & World Report ranking for 1,338 colleges and universities.
  • ACT scores were converted to SAT scores (maths + verbal) using this concordance table so we had a single metric for comparison.
  • Then we averaged the 25th and 75th percentiles.
  • There are limitations to this methodology, but research shows that both the SAT and ACT are good measures of general cognitive ability, since they measure one’s ability to reason.

Pasadena-based California Institute of Technology took top honours, with the University of Chicago, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton rounding out the top five.

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