Study Shows Which Colleges Have the Smartest Students

By Catherine Groux
Posted December 28, 2012 11:00 AM

A new study examines the colleges with the smartest students.
A new study examines the colleges with the smartest students.
When searching for the best college, individuals have access to various rankings that show students' average test scores, the percentage of faculty with terminal degrees and the institution's acceptance rate. However, few of these rankings illustrate which schools actually have the most intelligent students.

For this reason, Lumosity, an online brain exercise program, decided to analyze users' scores in games from each of the site's Brain Areas, including speed, attention, flexibility, memory and problem solving. From there, researchers used players' email addresses and the web domain associated with their IP address to determine which college they attend.

After analyzing the game scores from 89,699 users between the ages of 17 and 25, Lumosity researchers determined that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tends to have the students with the best cognitive abilities, followed closely by Harvard University. Stanford University, Yale University and Northwestern University rounded out the top five.

Colleges Fall to Poor Memory Scores

Daniel Sternberg, a data scientist at Lumosity, told The Harvard Crimson that many colleges he expected to do better on the rankings were brought down by their students' poor scores on the memory portion of the test. For example, top-tier institutions like Brown University, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University failed to earn spots in the top 25 schools in terms of students' memory scores.

Instead, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Cornell College, Northwestern University and Stanford University were ranked as the top five schools when it comes to memory.

Finding a Correlation

To determine how reliable their study was, Lumosity researchers compared schools' median Grand Index Score - or how well their students did on the online brain tests - with their students' average SAT and ACT scores. In doing so, they found that both median SAT scores and median ACT scores for a particular school were strongly correlated with its median Grand Index Score.

Additionally, Lumosity researchers checked their results against 2012 U.S. News and World Report college rankings. They found that of the 200 schools on U.S. News' list of the nation's best colleges, 176 were named in the Lumosity report as institutions with the smartest students. Once again, this proved a strong correlation between brain test results and more traditional measures of student intelligence and school quality.

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