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Articles / Applying to College / "Smart" Colleges?

"Smart" Colleges?

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Dec. 27, 2012
"Smart" Colleges?

Those of you high school juniors (and maybe sophomores) who are in the hunt for possible college candidates are being bombarded by what I call "roundup lists." You'll see "Best" or "Most" (or this or that) listings for Party Schools, College Value, Best Food, Hottest Coeds and Guys, Most Jocks, Best Weather, Hardest Academics, etc. We tend to love lists, although we permit others to do our thinking for us, sometimes, when we believe that the food at one school is better than that at another, even without sampling the cuisine ourselves.

So, here's yet another entry in the roundup sweepstakes: The 20 Smartest Colleges In America. The article has received a rather broad distribution across the Web. I discovered it on Business Insider. The rationale for these rankings is intriguing, although there are some naysayers on the College Confidential discussion forum. That's the wonderful thing about well-moderated discussion forums. There is usually enough give and take to provide pause for thought, rather than just accepting an article's contention without weighing more than one side of an issue.

So, if you're willing to peruse this roundup list, let's see which schools rank at the top of the "smartest" list. Keep in mind, though, that the shirt you stretch out with that pocket protector may be your own.

Here are some excerpts from the Business Insider article, along with a few related comments from the College Confidential discussion threads.

The 20 Smartest Colleges In America

by Megan Willett

Think there's a difference between the most selective colleges and those with the smartest students?

That's what Lumosity, a cognitive training site run by Lumos Labs, sought to find out with a series of games designed to test America's leading higher education institutions ...

[Here's the scoop on Lumosity: "Over 25 million people already use Lumosity.com, and we're adding hundreds of thousands more each month. These users join us because they know Lumosity.com offers the web's most comprehensive and effective training program. Thanks to this training, users report positive and often profound results ..."]

... Dr. Daniel Sternberg at Lumosity took it upon himself to discover which institution really had the smartest individuals.

He and his team tested 60,000 students at over 400 colleges and universities to play games that measured various cognitive skills including attention, memory, speed of processing, problem solving, and flexibility ...

... Dartmouth College performed the highest on attention, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology was the best with memory, Harvard students ranked highest at speed of processing, and that Yale students performed best on flexibility ...

... The overall winner was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the school with the best problem solvers ... beating last year's winner the University of Cambridge as well as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton for the title.

Without further ado, then, here's the Top 20 Smart Schools:

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

2. Harvard University

3. Stanford University

4. Northwestern University

5. Yale University

6. Washington University in St Louis

7. Dartmouth College

8. Wellesley College

9. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

10. Duke University

11. College of William and Mary

12. University of Pennsylvania

13. University of Portland

14. University of California-Berkeley

15. Vanderbilt University

16. University of Chicago

17. Carnegie Mellon University

18. Macalester College

19. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

20. University of California-Los Angeles

Now, what do some of those College Confidential posters think of this roundup?

- "Although I believe "Ohio Northern" at #49 should be replaced with #85 Ohio State for accuracy in terms of smartness. Nonetheless, I am content with the fact that tOSU is still ranked ahead of schools such as NYU, USC & Georgetown. I guess I should simply concede that Ohio Northern kids are great gamers."

- "It's a game. Who knows what students volunteered to play. And it surveys 400/3000+ colleges which means little."

- "Wow, Boston College at 25th pummels Georgetown (121st), and even Notre Dame (35th)! How can that BE?! Surely GU can put up better numbers than that!"

- "The survey does seem to employ a rigorous methodology. Its interesting that the University of Pacific does so well while Columbia does so poorly."

- "This ranking is laughable. Northeastern smarter than Princeton? Pacific and BU smarter than Brown? Portland smater than Chicago? Columbia and Cornell out of the top 50? Georgetown and USC out of the top 100?"

- "That's like comparing apples and oranges honestly...You can't say they're smartest...You can just say they're best at those games...Just like IQ isn't intelligence...It's logic ability..."

- "The "Lumosity" test measures attention, memory, speed, problem-solving, and flexibility. That covers a lot of cognitive ground. It surely isn't a perfect measure of general intelligence, but I think the strong correlation with other measurements is significant.


* they probably did not get an equally good random sample of students at all participating schools

* they didn't test across pre-college and post-college intervals, so they aren't seeing any improvement of student performance over time that might be attributable to the colleges."

- "I do find it rather suspect that MIT landed in first place. Given that the point spread is fairly tiny and that individual skill sets needed to be evaluated and compiled, one wonders if the list designers massaged their data until they came up with a list that looked more legitimate to a general audience."


So, what do you think? Let us know. Post a comment below.


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.


Admit This

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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