The Best 25 Schools for Brainiacs


We all know which schools attract the kids with the best grades and highest test scores, but who produces the world's best minds  after college? We measured which schools draw the most competitive students and which produce the most intellectually high-achieving graduates using recent data on which colleges' and universities' graduates  go on to become Nobel laureates, MacArthur "geniuses," or Guggenheim fellows. We also looked at the number of graduates who become Rhodes, Fulbright, Marshall, Mitchell, Truman, or Gates-Cambridge scholars. Finally, we measured how many students get their doctoral degrees. All the Ivies are well represented here, of course, but Swarthmore's placement among the top five may come as a surprise. An uncommonly large number of graduates of this small school near Philadelphia--which was founded by Quakers--go on to get their Ph.D.s

About the Rankings:  
Researchers Peter Bernstein and Courtney Kennedy drew dozens of sources to compile these rankings including information from the National Center for Education Statistics, The Washington Monthly, and College Prowler.  A portion of the data they used is at the end of this slideshow, but for the full methodologies, see our FAQ here. And if you're not a rankings fan, take a look at this piece by Colin Diver, the president of Reed College,  about why schools dislike rankings and how students can use them wisely as part of their college decision-making process. 

yale-university-ed10 Courtesy of Yale University

Yale University--the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States--continues to attract the best and the brightest from across the globe. Whether you're a brainiac, future power broker, or a jock there's probably something for you at Yale.  
Located on 250 acres in downtown New Haven, Connecticut, Yale ranked No. 2 on Newsweek's list of most desirable schools. But it's not easy to get in: Yale only accepts 10 percent of its applicants, and 96 percent of enrolling students graduated in the top 10 percent of their high-school class. Those standards may help explain why Yale, No. 1 on Newsweek's list of brainiac schools, has produced 17 Rhodes Scholars and 6 Nobel Prize winners over the last decade or so. Five U.S. presidents, 15 senators, and 16 billionaires also spent their undergraduate years at Yale, helping to propel the Ivy into the No. 2 slot on Newsweek's list of best schools for future powerbrokers.  
The Yale Bulldogs also made the top ten in Newsweek's list of colleges stocked with jocks. In fact, 16 percent of Yalies play on the school's 30 varsity sports teams, and the college offers nearly 79 intramural sports. With its largely Collegial Gothic architecture, Yale also took the No. 2 spot on Newsweek's list of most desirable urban schools. To spend the 2010-2011 year in this multi-honored place, students can expect to pay $49,800 in tuition, room, and board.

harvard-university-ed10 Rose Lincoln / Courtesy of Harvard News Office-Harvard University

Just in case Harvard University hasn't earned enough distinctions since its founding as the first institution of higher learning in the United States in the mid-1600s, Newsweek adds a few more to America's preeminent university, chief among them the school's rank as the number one most desirable school in the country.   
The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based university also earns top billing as the most desirable urban school and the most desirable large school.  With eight presidents, 24 senators, and 43 billionaires among its alumni, it's no wonder the school lands squarely on the No. 1 spot for future powerbrokers.  It comes in at No. 2 for brainiacs with 17 Nobel Prize winners and 24 students going on to become Rhodes Scholars over the last decade or so.  And of course graduates were no slouches when they arrived on the prestigious campus either, averaging 35 on the ACT and 1580 on the SATs.  Lending credence to the theory that strong bodies go with strong minds, the school earns the 25th spot for jocks.   
It's no surprise that the school only accepts about 8 percent of applicants. Of the school's more than 26,000 students, about 10,000 are undergrads, and the school boasts a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio.  
Tuition and fees for the 2009-2010 academic year were roughly $37,000, which is an increase of about 2 percent from the previous year.  Sixty-two percent of students received financial aid. The school's student body is more than half female, 15 percent Asian, 7 percent black and 6 percent Hispanic.

california-inst-technology-ed10 Courtesy of California Institute of Technology

A lot of big brains have passed through this small university dedicated to science, technology and engineering studies, including 3 Nobel Prize winners, 54 National Medal of Science winners and 6 Crafoord Prize recipients, which earns the California Institute of Technology the No. 3 spot on Newsweek's list of brainiac schools.
The private Pasadena, California-based research college offers a 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio that lands it at No. 3 on Newsweek's Most Desirable Small Schools list, No. 7 on the Most Desirable Urban Schools list and the twelfth most desirable school overall. Its favorable SoCal climate (the 124-acre campus rests northeast of downtown Los Angeles) might have something to do with its impressive 98 percent student-retention rate and is definitely responsible for the school's No. 3 spot on Newsweek's Great Education, Great Tan list.
As promised in its mission statement, the California Institute of Technology "investigates the most challenging, fundamental problems in science and technology in a singularly collegial, interdisciplinary atmosphere, while educating outstanding students to become creative members of society."  Good if you can get it -- only 17 percent of applicants do.

princeton-university-ed10 Courtesy of Princeton University, Office of Communications

Founded in 1746, Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, is the fourth-oldest college in the United States (Harvard, founded in 1636, is the oldest, followed by the College of William & Mary and Yale, respectively).
The Ivy finds itself on a slew of Newsweek's "best of" lists, ranking among the best schools for diversity (No. 9),  among the best gay-friendly schools (No. 10), most desirable overall (No. 4), as well as the second most desirable suburban school in the country. Its output of two presidents, three senators and eight billionaires lands it at No. 5 for future powerbrokers, and with 20 percent of its student body on varsity teams, Princeton earns 14th place on schools for jocks.   
Princeton admitted just 10.1 percent of students who applied in 2009, 95 percent of whom were in the top 10 percent of their high-school class.  No wonder it comes in at No. 4 for brainiacs. The school currently has 5,047 undergraduates and boasts a 5:1 student-to-faculty ratio. American minorities make up roughly 32 percent of the undergraduate student body. Men only have a slight edge over women when it comes to enrollment numbers.
Tuition for the 2009-2010 school year was $50,620. Currently, 58 percent of Princeton's students receive financial aid, with aid grant for the class of 2013 averaging $35,309.

swarthmore-college-ed10 Jim Graham / Courtesy of Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College's numerous accolades belie its small size, as the private college, located just outside of Philadelphia, appeared on several of Newsweek's "best of" lists, ranking eighth among small schools, ninth among suburban schools, and fifth among schools for brainiacs.  With women slightly outnumbering men and more than a third of its student body represented by ethnic minorities, Swarthmore is the fourth most diverse school on Newsweek's list. If that weren't enough, the school was also ranked by Newsweek as the 16th on the best of the gay-friendly schools in the country and the 21st most desirable school overall.  
It's clear why: For academics, the college claims that 87 percent of its students ranked in the top 10 percent at their high schools, averaging 33 on the ACT and 1520 on the SAT. For those seeking an intimate setting, Swarthmore's 399-acre campus is home to fewer than 1,500 undergrads and its 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio keeps class sizes small.  
If that weren't enough to attract students, its $1 billion endowment gives the college the 14th largest per-student endowment among all U.S. colleges and universities, affording Swarthmore the opportunity to admit students regardless of their financial need. No surprise it's a competitive school, accepting only 16 percent of applicants.

stanford-ed10 Linda A. Cicero / Courtesy of Stanford University News-Stanford University

Stanford University, already a power player among the nation's top universities, can now add some more accolades to its roster. The private liberal arts Ivy in Stanford, California, which claims fearless inquiry and action as its mission, has landed spots on seven of Newsweek's college ranking roundups: most desirable overall (No. 3), most desirable suburban school (No. 1), most diverse (No. 16), best for powerbrokers (No. 4), best for brainiacs (No. 6), best gay-friendly (No. 11) and the most favorable climate amongst intellectual power houses (No. 2).

The school had 30,429 students apply for a spot on "The Farm", a nickname for Stanford's campus, and Stanford admitted just 9 percent of those applicants to the class of 2013, enrolling 1,694 freshmen for fall 2010. Females made up 49 percent of the freshman class. While all 50 states are represented in the class of 2013, nearly 40 percent of students hail from California.
Asian-Americans make up 23 percent of Stanford's diverse student body, followed by Mexican-Americans and other Hispanic (12 percent), African-Americans (10 percent), international students (10%) and American Indians or Alaskan Natives (2 percent).
Tuition at Stanford is currently around $37,000 per year, and 80 percent of students in the 2008-2009 school year (the most recent year data was available) received aid. Perhaps a wise investment--27 of its alumns are billionaires.

mit-ed10 Courtesy of Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Internationally known by three simple letters, the Cambridge-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology gains a host of distinctions from Newsweek, including fifth most desirable school in the nation and third most desirable urban school.  
It's no surprise that MIT is also seventh for brainiacs (of the only 12 percent of applicants accepted, they averaged a 34 on the ACT and 1560 on the SAT and the school boasts 11 Nobel Prize-winning graduates over the last decade or so) and No. 14 for future powerbrokers (alumn include four members of the House, four Fortune 100 CEOs and six billionaires). What may be surprising is that Newsweek also places the school at No. 15 for athletes (22 percent of students participate at the varsity level and 53 intramural sports are played).   
MIT is packed with a diverse student body (No. 10 on the list), which is 37 percent white, 25 percent Asian, 8 percent black and 12 percent Hispanic. Though its nearly $38,000 tuition isn't cheap, and even grew close to 4 percent for the most recent academic year, more than 60 percent of MIT students received financial aid. The school has just over 4,000 undergraduates and a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1.

university-of-chicago-ed10 Jason Smith / Courtesy of University of Chicago

The University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, finds itself on five of Newsweek's "best of" lists: At No. 12, the private institution is one of the nation's 25 most desirable urban colleges; ten Rhodes scholars and four Nobel Prize winners put it in the top 10 (No. 8) of colleges for the super-smart. The university comes in at the No. 13 spot on the list of most diverse colleges and No. 25 for gay friendliness; and finally, with seven senators and ten billionaires among its alumni, the school is tenth on the list of colleges best for future powerbrokers.
The university has just over 5,000 undergraduates--99 percent are age 24 or younger. The student body is evenly split between men and women, and 45 percent of those students are Caucasian, 14 percent Asian or Pacific Islander, 9 percent Hispanic, and 6 percent African-American. The school, which sees 92 percent of its students graduate, retains 98 percent of its first-year students.  
Tuition for the 2009-2010 school year was $56,630. About 71 percent of students at the University of Chicago receive some form of financial aid.

Brown-University-ed10 Courtesy of Brown University

Founded in 1764, stalwart Brown University is still considered one of the nation's elite institutions of higher learning. This Ivy gains several distinctions in Newsweek's rankings, including tenth most desirable school in the country and sixth most desirable urban school.  And with 92 percent of its students coming from the top 10 percent of their high-school class, Brown is ranked No. 9 for brainiacs.    
Established even before the United States, the school was the first in the nation to accept students regardless of their religious background, and the tradition of diversity carries on today--it's No. 2 on Newsweek's list of diverse schools--as only about 45 percent of the school's students are white, with 16 percent of Asian heritage, 7 percent African-American and 8 percent Latino or Hispanic. The student body is 52 percent female.  Brown is also fourteenth on Newsweek's list of the best gay-friendly schools.  
Yet, getting through the doors of this citadel of intellect and broad-mindedness is an elusive quest; only around 14 percent of those who apply are accepted. The school's 6,000 undergrads on average scored a 33 on the ACT and 1540 on the SAT. The Providence, Rhode Island-based school charged about $39,000 for full-time undergraduate tuition and fees during the 2009-2010 academic year, according to U.S. Department of Education estimates.

williams-college-ed10 Courtesy of Williams College

Along with Wesleyan University and Amherst College, Williams College is part of the "Little Three," the small-liberal-arts-school version of the "Big Three" that consists of Harvard, Princeton and Yale.  And Williams shares the limelight with its Big and Little counterparts on several of Newsweek's lists: It's No. 17 for future powerbrokers, No. 16 on Most Desirable Schools overall, No. 2 on Most Desirable Rural Schools, No. 4 on Most Desirable Small Schools and No. 10 for brainiacs.    
Undergraduate enrollment at Williams College is roughly 2,000, with the majority of students pursuing a degree in economics, followed by English. If that sounds like a student body of polar opposites, consider this: Approximately 50 percent of all Williams College students participate in varsity sports, putting it eighth on Newsweek's list of colleges stocked with jocks.  
Another unusual aspect of Williams College is an academic year that operates on two four-course semesters, plus a one-course January term. An all-male college until 1970, Williams began to phase out fraternities in 1962.  During the 2009-2010 school year, students paid $49,880 for tuition, fees, and room and board.

amherst-ed10 Courtesy of Amherst College

Amherst, No. 5 on Newsweek's list of most desirable small schools, can offer students a lot of individualized attention. With a faculty-to-student ratio of 1:8, this private liberal arts school in New England boasts an average class size of 16. In fact, 90 percent of Amherst courses have fewer than 30 students. "We believe in teaching as conversation because the best teaching is conversation," Tom Gerety, the president of Amherst from 1994-2003, once said.
Situated on a scenic 1,000-acre campus near the center of the town of Amherst, Massachusetts, the college also made the top 3 in Newsweek's list of most desirable rural schools. Indeed, Amherst comes in as the 17th most desirable school overall. Along with Wesleyan University and Williams College, Amherst College is part of the "Little Three," the small-liberal-arts-school version of the "Big Three" that consists of Harvard, Princeton and Yale.
Despite its small size (roughly 1,700 undergraduates total), Amherst boasts many accomplished alumni, including U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and Supreme Court Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, which lands the school the 20th rank in Newsweek's list for future powerbrokers and 11th for brainiacs. And the $48,400 in comprehensive fees that students paid in the 2009-2010 school year just might turn out to be a good financial investment: Amherst has also produced two billionaires.

columbia-university-ed10 Eileen Barroso / Courtesy of Columbia University

Columbia University has sealed its position as a "best value" school, thanks to strong value rankings in US News, Kiplinger, Princeton Review and Forbes, which have cast the school as offering high-quality academics at a reasonable price.   
Located in New York City's Upper West Side, Columbia University was established by royal charter in 1754 as King's College and remains one of the premier schools in the United States. Newsweek plants it at No. 6 on the Most Desirable Schools list as well as the fourth most desirable urban school.  Twelfth on Newsweek's schools for brainiacs, The Ivy League school is highly selective, with only 11 percent of applicants admitted as students. The fewer than 8,000 undergrads that enroll enjoy a student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1.   
All that individual attention seems to pay off--third on the list for future powerbrokers, Columbia produces alums who frequently find themselves in illustrious positions. With a gay-friendly culture (No. 12 on the list) and non-whites representing more than one-third of its students, Columbia is the 17th most diverse school in Newsweek's rankings.    
Though the school's tuition and fees for the 2009-2010 academic year totaled more than $41,000, more than half of Columbia's student population receives financial aid, many of them institutional grants. The school's endowment neared $6 billion in 2009.

dartmouth-ed10 Joseph Mehling / Courtesy of Dartmouth College

Ranking No. 1 on Newsweek's list of most desirable rural schools and the eighth most desirable school in the country, it's no wonder that only about 15 percent of the applicants are invited to matriculate at this sought-after Hanover, New Hampshire, gem. The student population, totaling almost 6,000 students, more than 4,000 of which are undergraduates, is offered a low student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1, contributing to Dartmouth College's No. 1 ranking on U.S. News & World Report's list of schools with a "Strong Commitment to Teaching."
With a student body that is 55 percent white, 14 percent Asian, 8 percent black and 7 percent Hispanic and an ongoing commitment to Native American education (in the past 40 years, more than 700 Native Americans have attended Dartmouth) this Ivy is the 24th most diverse school on Newsweek's list.    
Influential alums earn Dartmouth 11th place for powerbrokers. Its nearly 25 percent participation in varsity sports positions the Big Green at No. 13 for athletics.   With 3 Rhodes scholars in just the last decade or so, a sizable number of students going on to get Ph.D.s, an average incoming student scores of 34 on the ACT and 1550 on the SAT it's not a surprise that Dartmouth ranks 13th on Newsweek's brainiacs list.
Taking advantage of these accolades isn't cheap, however.  According to U.S. Department of Education estimates, tuition and fees were almost $39,000 for the 2009-2010 academic year, nearly five percent more than the previous year.

duke-university-ed10 Les Todd / Courtesy of Duke University

Adding to numerous accolades since its founding in 1838, Newsweek counts Duke University as the 22nd most desirable school in the country and the ninth most desirable urban school. Newsweek also ranks Duke among its brainiac schools, at No. 14--its students averaged a 34 on the ACT and a 1540 on the SAT and 90 percent come from the top 10 percent of their high-school class.  
With African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians accounting for nearly 40percentof its student body and an appearance on The Advocate's gay-friendly list, Duke takes eighth place among the most diverse schools in the nation and 17th among the best gay-friendly schools. Counting billionaires, Fortune 100 CEOs and high-ranking politicians among its alumni ranks makes Duke the seventh best school for future powerbrokers.
Located in Durham, North Carolina, about half of its 14,000-strong student body is comprised of undergraduates, and the school has a student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1.
Tuition and fees for the 2009-2010 academic year was nearly $39,000, a nearly 4 percent increase from the previous year, and only about 22 percent of applicants are admitted.

pomona-college-ed10 Philip Channing / Courtesy of Pomona College

Small in size, Pomona College is big on diversity, bright students and kudos--it has consistently ranked among the top ten American liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report, has similarly been granted high marks from Forbes, and now places 11th among Newsweek's most desirable schools, fourth most desirable suburban school and second most desirable small school.   
The Claremont, California-based private college has only 1,500 undergrads; they major in the arts, humanities, social sciences or natural sciences in a desert setting within an hour of the Pacific Ocean, the Mojave Desert, the San Gabriel Mountains and Los Angeles. Unsurprisingly, Pomona was No. 5 for Newsweek's list of academically rigorous schools with terrific weather. Though its Southern California location is a world away from the ivied East Coast universities its founders emulated, the school prides itself on its 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio, intimate classes and overall academic excellence. Only 16 percent of applicants are accepted (averaging ACT scores of 34 and SAT scores of 1560), which helps explain why Pomona College is No. 15 on the list of schools for brainiacs.   
Its 50/50 gender breakdown, gay-friendly atmosphere, and racially, geographically and socioeconomically mixed student body makes Pomona the 20th most diverse school and the thirteenth among the best gay-friendly schools on Newsweek's lists.

georgetown-university-ed10 Courtesy of Georgetown University

Founded in 1789 by a priest, Georgetown University is the oldest Catholic university in the United States. Deemed the 14th most desirable urban school, Georgetown is renowned for its academic excellence: Students posted an average score of 32 on the ACT and 1460 on the SAT, and three-quarters of students graduated in the top 10 of their high school classes. Coming in at No. 16 on Newsweek's list of schools for brainiacs, Georgetown University has produced four Rhodes Scholars, among many other distinguished award winners. Gaining eighth place on Newsweek's list of best power-broker colleges, Georgetown counts among graduates 20 members of the House, two presidents, six senators, one Fortune 100 CEO and one billionaire.
Its melting-pot hometown of Washington, DC, might contribute to the school's all-inclusive atmosphere.  Georgetown comes in at No. 23 on Newsweek's list of most diverse schools, and No. 24 on the nation's best gay-friendly colleges.  
The school's 7,000 undergraduates make up just less than half of the student body and attend one of four undergraduate schools, spread across three campuses. The school offers an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Students paid on average $39,000 to attend for the 2009-2010 academic year, a 3 percent increase from the previous year, according to U.S. Department of Education data.

john-hopkins-ed10 Courtesy of John Hopkins University

Since it opened its doors in 1876, Johns Hopkins University has gained renown for its research, academics and influence, and Newsweek throws a few more bravos at the school, naming it the 17th best school for brainiacs and the 18th most desirable urban school in the country.  
The school has graduated five members of the House, one U.S. senator, one U.S. president, one Fortune 100 CEO and three billionaires, as ranked by Forbes. Students spent just over $39,000 to attend the private Baltimore, Maryland-based research university during the 2009-2010 academic year, a nearly 4 percent increase from the previous year.  
About a third of the school's nearly 20,000 students are undergraduates, who on average scored a 33 on the ACT and 1510 on the SAT. The school is selective, as only about a quarter of applicants are accepted. The school's student-to-faculty ratio is 11:1, and popular majors include biology and other health-related fields, engineering and social sciences.

university-penn-ed10 Courtesy of University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania, a private Ivy League college in Philadelphia is on seven of Newsweek's "best of" lists, ranking 13th on our list of most desirable colleges; eighth on the list of most desirable urban colleges; second for most desirable large campus; sixth in schools best for future powerbrokers; first for gay-friendliness and diversity; and finally, 18th among the 25 best colleges for the super-smart.  
Admission is competitive, with just 17 percent of the 22,718 applicants for the class of 2013 receiving acceptance letters. Additionally, 96 percent of the students admitted for the fall 2009 school year were from the top 10 percent of their graduating high-school class and scored an average of 1520 on the SAT. Penn retains 95 percent of its students each year, and data shows that 88 percent of students graduate from the school in four years.  
The undergraduate population at the school is 10,337, with 84 percent of students coming from outside Pennsylvania. The campus consists of 51 percent women and minorities make up 39.6 percent: After Caucasians at 37 percent, Asian-Americans are the next populous at 16 percent, followed by African-Americans at 7 percent and Hispanics at 5 percent. The student-to-faculty ratio is 6 to 1.  
Tuition for the 2009-2010 school year was $53,250 with 61 percent of students receiving some form of financial aid.

washington-university-ed10 Whitney Curtis / Courtesy of Washington University in St. Louis

With approximately 6,000 undergraduate students, Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, is a medium-size, private university. It lands in the 11th spot on Newsweek's list of best urban campuses and 19th on the list of colleges for the super-smart.  
Named for George Washington, the school was founded in 1853 thanks in part to poet T.S. Eliot's grandfather, who was a Unitarian minister concerned with the lack of higher education opportunities in the Midwest. Today admission to the university is competitive; the school admitted just 22 percent of its 23,105 applicants last year.  
Washington University offers its students a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a four-year graduation rate of 84 percent. The campus makeup is 50 percent male, 50 percent female and 59 percent of students are Caucasian, 13 percent Asian-American, 10 percent African-American and 3 percent Hispanic.  
Tuition for the 2009-2010 school year was $54,533 and 66 percent of students received some form of financial aid that year.

rice-university-ed10jpg Courtesy of Rice University

If Newsweek had a list for colleges with the most intriguing provenance, Rice University in Houston, Texas, would most certainly be on it. In 1900, William Marsh Rice, a wealthy investor, was murdered for his money by his lawyer and valet. Luckily, they were found out before they could abscond with the dough, and the funds eventually helped establish the institution that now bears the murdered man's name. Rice University opened September 23, 1912, on the anniversary of Rice's death, with just 77 students and about a dozen faculty.  
While there isn't an "intriguing provenance" list, there are several other lists upon which Rice University appears. It made Newsweek's roundup of most desirable colleges overall (No. 25), most desirable urban schools (No. 10), best for brainiacs (No. 20), and best gay-friendly schools (No. 18).
Rice University prides itself on its 5 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio and its tuition--$31,430 in 2009--which it says is "substantially less" than what's charged at "comparable private institutions." In 2009, the school had 3,279 undergraduates, about half of who were from Texas. The male-to-female ratio was nearly even, and these students were predominantly white, followed by Asian-American, Hispanic, multi-racial, African-American and Native American.

haveford-college-ed10 Courtesy of Haverford College

Founded by Quakers in 1833, Haverford College continues to extol the values of individual dignity, academic strength and tolerance, regarding its campus as an "atmosphere of mutual respect and collaboration among students, faculty and staff." That environment has helped place the college among the most desirable suburban schools in the nation (No. 11).    
With its students averaging 1480 on the SAT, Haverford College is the 21st most attractive college for brainiacs, according to Newsweek. Its intimate student body of fewer than 1,200 undergrads and an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio help put the school on our list of the best small colleges, where it ranks 13th.  
Haverford's campus, itself an arboretum, holds 200 acres of award-winning landscapes and architecture, 400 species of trees and shrubs, a large duck pond, gardens and wooded areas. Still, its placement just outside of Philadelphia leaves the campus a stone's throw away from urban culture.

wellesey-ed10 Courtesy of Wellesley College

Wellesley College's aim is "to provide an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world," and quite a few of its graduates have made good on that mission statement, including Hilary Rodham Clinton, Madeleine Albright and Diane Sawyer.  
One of the original "Seven Sisters" colleges, Wellesley College is among the most elite all-women liberal arts schools in the country, and its standing as one of Newsweek's most desirable small colleges (No. 17) most desirable suburban schools (No. 14) and best schools for brainiacs (No. 22) are just three of the many accolades regularly bestowed on the school, which was recently named one of U.S. News & World Report's top five liberal arts colleges in the nation.  
Just west of Boston and situated in a town of the same name, Wellesley offers baccalaureate degrees to some 2,300 undergrads every year. Just over a third of applicants are accepted, and Wellesley undergrads averaged a 32 on the ACT and 1465 on the SAT.

northwestern-university-ed10 Courtesy of Northwestern University

Northwestern University has come a long way since its first building opened in 1855, providing a learning space for just 10 students and two faculty members. Today, Northwestern has 16,337 students, more than half of them undergraduates, and 2,500 full-time faculty members. The university spans three campuses: two on Lake Michigan in Evanston, Illinois, and one in Chicago. U.S. News & World Report continues to rank the school's undergraduate program as one of the best in the country, and now, it's also on Newsweek's list of colleges for brainiacs, at No. 23.  
The school also ranks 18th for future powerbrokers, having graduated no less than nine billionaires and three Fortune 100 CEOs. Not bad for a school whose annual tuition and fees for 2009-2010 were $25,392.  And with high marks from, the school is deemed the 22nd most gay-friendly in the country.
Northwestern admitted 27 percent of its 25,369 applicants to be part of the class of 2013. That class ended up with a near-even split of male and female students, 22 percent of whom are Asian-American, seven percent Hispanic, six percent African-American and less than one percent American Indian. Based on past figures, one could expect 86 percent of those students to graduate within four years.

claremont-mckenna-college-ed10 Courtesy of Claremont McKenna College

Talk about a well-rounded applicant. One of seven of The Claremont Colleges, which its founders modeled after England's Oxford University, Claremont McKenna casts itself as an intellectually stimulating and socially fulfilling, yet intimate, school, given its roughly 1,200 undergraduates. It places at No. 20 on Newsweek's Most Desirable Schools list (No. 8 on Most Desirable Suburban Schools and No. 7 on Most Desirable Small Schools). Perhaps that desirability is tied into its sunny California locale--the school is 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles--since it takes seventh place on that list as well.
Claremont McKenna College is one of the most selective liberal-arts colleges in the nation, accepting only 19 percent of its applicants. While its academic programs, competitive application process and high test scores propel it to No. 24 among best colleges for brainiacs, the school also offers a robust sports program with 46 intramural sports leagues and 19 varsity sports, making it No. 17 in colleges stocked with jocks.
Emphasizing education in economics, government and international relations, Claremont McKenna is the starting point for many careers in law, business, government and public policy. Founded in 1946 as Claremont Men's College, the private school went co-ed in 1976.

cornell-college-ed10 Lindsay France / Courtesy of Cornell University

In addition to being named by Newsweek as the 24th most desirable school in the country and the third most desirable large school, Cornell University ranks 25th for brainiacs. This well-rounded package also comes in at No. 11 for athletes and No. 20 for gay-friendliness.  
The school has more than 20,000 students, nearly 14,000 of them undergraduates. To be counted among the 21percentof accepted applicants, you'll need an average 33 on the ACT and 1500 on the SAT. Notable alumni include one U.S. senator, two fortune 100 CEOs and eight billionaires, as ranked by Forbes.
About 9 percent of students play on one of 30 varsity sports teams at this Ithaca, New York-based school. The school also has about 90 intramural sports.  
Co-founder Ezra Cornell's mission to establish in 1865 an institution "where any person can find instruction in any study" is maintained today with a diverse student body that is 49 percent white, 16 percent Asian, 5 percent black and 6 percent Hispanic. The school is among the best for women in science, counting among its graduates five "women of NASA" and six eminent female physicists.
Tuition and fees neared $38,000 for the 2009-2010 academic year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.