Business Insider Ranks Walla Walla Among Smartest U.S. Colleges

October 29, 2014

Of the Seventh-day Adventist colleges and universities in North America, only Walla Walla University* in Southeastern Washington State made Business Insider's list of 600 Smartest Colleges in America. Walla Walla tied with nine other colleges for 600th place.

The rankings, based on SAT score averages of 1,339 U.S. colleges provided to U.S. News, offer a snapshot of aggregate student performance on standardized tests, but exlude other significant factors that determine human intelligence. Standardized test scores, according to the Business Insider report, provide good measures of general cognitive ability. However, a study of twins, led by cognitive and behavioral scientists from Kings College, London, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, demonstrated that broad domains of behavior--personality and psychopathology chief among them--contribute to test score outcomes, along with genetics, in ways that intelligence alone may not predict.

Lead researcher J. Wai anticipated objections to the report's somewhat limited scope:

This ranking of brainpower is the most comprehensive to date, but it still does not include every college or university in the U.S., only those 1,339 schools that reported such data to U.S. News & World Report. Therefore, if a school is not in this ranking but the average SAT or ACT scores are reported elsewhere, this school could easily find their rank in relation to the schools already included.

It is also important to note that the research only included national universities and national liberal arts colleges.

In addition, sample size impacted the findings:

The current ranking also does not account for sample size, which likely impacts the average brainpower of the student body. For example, large state schools, such as UC Berkeley, likely have a group of students in the right tail of the distribution with similar SAT or ACT scores as so me of the top Ivy League
and other elite schools (e.g., see discussion in Pinker, 2014), however, their average is lowered by the large number of students with lower scores which are typically admitted.

Caveats aside, Walla Walla's ranking puts the school in fine company. The list is populated by many much larger insitutions, many of them with significant state funding. The top of the list includes likely suspects: Cal Tech, University of Chicago, Princeton, Harvard and Yale, in that order. Many faith-based institutions made the list as well. The University of Notre Dame tops the list of religious institutions, tied at number 11 overall on the list.

*UPDATE: It has come to our attention that Andrews University also made the list of 600, making it, not Walla Walla University, the highest-ranked Adventist institution. Read more here.

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