The 101 smartest liberal arts colleges in America

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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 SchoolAverage 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.