The Country’s Smartest Professors Work at These 5 Colleges

Choosing a college or university is hard work, and takes a lot of time and research for those who are serious about making the right choice. Of the myriad factors usually considered, however, the intellectual prowess of a school's faculty might not be something degree-seekers put on their priority list.

It's worth investigating, after all, since the caliber of the instructor surely has some bearing on student performance. Here are the top five institutions of higher learning, each ranked by the perceived intellect of its faculty, courtesy of the website Niche – which uses a variety of sources  for its ratings, including polls of students and alumni.

Stanford University, California
Currently No. 5 on U.S. News & World Report's ranking of national universities, Stanford has some extremely well-regarded programs, notably its Law School and School of Engineering, and is one of the top schools for computer science, as well. At more than $43,000 per year, the university is very pricey; those surveyed by Niche gave the school an A+ in academics, computers, and campus strictness – which may indicate a level of discipline that is conducive to learning.

University of Chicago
Tied with Stanford for position No. 5 by U.S. News is the University of Chicago, where the personal attention given to students undoubtedly has contributed to its strong academic rating. Over 77% of the University's classes have fewer than 20 students, and another 17% have between 20 and 49. Tuition and fees top those of Stanford, though, at more than $46,000 per year.

College of Wooster, Ohio
Of the five schools on this list, College of Wooster is probably the least well known. This college is, not surprisingly, quite a bit smaller than either Stanford or the University of Chicago, though it rates only an A- in academics  by Niche contributors. Still, students note that faculty treat them less formally, and despite the fact that the student to faculty ratio of 12 to 1 is double that of the two universities, students like the easy camaraderie and community spirit that permeates the college.

College of William and Mary, Virginia
A venerable institution founded in 1693, the College of William and Mary is a public school, which makes its price tag a bit more platable: Out-of-state students pay just under $38,000 in tuition and fees annually, while those who reside in-state face a much smaller bill, just over $15,000. Students feel affection and loyalty toward the college, professors, and each other, and most say they would choose William and Mary again, if they had the opportunity.

Smith College, Massachusetts
This private college in western Massachusetts has its own brand of cachet, perhaps due to its continuing status of being a women-only institution – though its graduate programs are available to men, as well. Smith's yearly tuition is comparable to Stanford's at approximately $43,000.

The overall perception of Smith by its students is that its appeal is somewhat limited, but that it offers a stellar academic experience. Especially attractive is the school's willingness to allow undergraduates a taste of graduate work, such as independent study and research with the college's faculty.

While there are many factors involved in choosing where to pursue your college degree, knowing that you will be taking instruction from the cream of the crop is no small thing, and is definitely worthy of your consideration.

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  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 11:15 PM, heroldpohl wrote:

    That's what I like about William and Mary, that its price tag is platable. That makes it stand out from those whose price tags are only palatable.

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2014, at 11:21 PM, AtariHero wrote:

    What a terrible ranking based on meaningless numbers. How smart the students think their professors are? Wooster? Are you kidding me?

    It's like - if we can put anything into a list. It will get clicked on, because people like top 10 lists. Just like in 4th grade where you ranked the cutest girls in the school.

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2014, at 12:01 AM, kac92 wrote:

    Of course it comes from US News...their college rankings are terrible because they put more weight on how much money alumni give as compared to what is actually accomplished, employability and success of its students. Stanford, Harvard, etc...private schools where who your parents are, if your parents went to that school carry weight on getting into those schools, and a fair amount of these people come from money and go into the business of making money.

    How about which schools have the most Nobel Prize winners...say for the sciences.

    My husband works for a rather successful biotech company, located in the Bay Area and THE ONLY STANFORD grads that work there are in law and HR...NOT ONE researcher, scientist...not even an intern! An employee there got his undergrad at Davis and has been there for about 25 yrs; 10 yrs ago he went and got his MS from Stanford and his OWN employer wouldn't give him a position in his MS area! They hired from outside, from Cal.

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2014, at 2:04 AM, MmK wrote:

    Professors' intelligence as perceived by students has little to do with professors' actual relative intelligence or achievements, since the students being polled don't get to compare their professors to those of other schools.

    The results are kind of fascinating, but not for what they tell us about professors' intelligence (=not much). They're an interesting insight into student attitudes and the type of students different colleges attract. I teach at an Ivy League school and can tell you exactly why my institution doesn't make the list: students here are hard to impress, and a certain subset of them would be hard pressed to admit that anyone--including their professors--might be as smart as they are. It makes sense that liberal arts colleges dominate the list, as they attract students who want small classes and one-on-one mentoring opportunities. In other words, students who admire professors.

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2014, at 2:15 AM, ok1 wrote:

    The Country’s Smartest Professors Work at These 5 Colleges.

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2014, at 10:20 AM, fredmacmurray wrote:


    This list did not come from US News. The article mentions that Stanford is ranked #5 by US News but this list was compiled by some outfit called "Niche".

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2014, at 10:31 AM, MichA wrote:

    How about Caltech? The emphasis on teaching undergraduates is outstanding. Many researchers are required to do a good job teaching (unlike Stanford, or Harvard). There are not that many Caltech graduates (the senior class is somewhere between 350 and 400, up from around 300 some 30 years ago...), but one can find them in key engineering and science positions in industry and academia, much more so than Stanford, Wooster, or Smith College graduates...

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2014, at 11:43 AM, AllenElliott wrote:

    It to bad they measure intelligence in rote memorable instead of knowing a little truth to go along with it.

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2014, at 11:45 AM, AllenElliott wrote:

    rote memory

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2014, at 1:28 PM, delta4ce1 wrote:

    "Smartest" according to whom?

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2014, at 1:50 PM, klcb wrote:

    Aww, someone's upset his school didn't get picked. I have a kid who graduated with honors from one of the highest ranked engineering schools in the country. I have another at Wooster. Wooster is a special place -- but you'd have to open your mind (something they preach at Wooster but you don't see so much at those Ivies).

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2014, at 3:45 PM, amwert6 wrote:

    I take any "top college" list with a grain of salt. But as a Wooster grad, I can an confirm - the relationship with profs, opportunity for research and independent study programs are incredible - especially for those that choose to go "all in". I've attended top grad programs in US and Europe and value my time, opportunities and quality of education at Wooster above the others. Our daughter chose Smith - and opportunities available to her have been truly fantastic there as well.

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2014, at 4:25 PM, chiac31 wrote:

    Obviously, AtariHero knows nothing about the College of Wooster...

  • Report this Comment On April 04, 2014, at 11:32 AM, cafercr wrote:

    "Obviously, AtariHero knows nothing about the College of Wooster..."

    Well with a name like AtariHero I don't think that's much of a surprise. Too many 3pm pitchers of Miller Lite at Leroy's will do that to you.

    Couldn't agree more - Wooster is very special school, primarily because the education doesn't hit you in the face or tout itself. I imagine that's why the school is on this list. With some perspective under their belts the students recognize how exceptional their instructors are.

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