The 10 Most Intelligent College Towns In America

3. Berkeley, CA

Home to one of the nation’s finest state-funded universities, Berkeley, California is an exceptionally intelligent college town, with nearly ⅖ of the population holding a graduate degree or better. Propelling the economy of this classic college-town is the University of California, Berkeley, which was recently ranked in the top 20 colleges in America by US News and World Report. The city’s primary university, UC-Berkeley, has won a combined 72 Nobel Prizes for its collective faculty, alumni, and researchers, as well as 45 MacArthur Fellowships, 11 Pulitzer Prizes, and even 20 Academy awards. Additionally, UC-Berkeley scientists, in conjunction with the independent Berkeley Lab, have actually discovered, throughout its history, sixteen elements of the periodic table (including the aptly named californium, berkelium, and einsteinium). Known for spending large quantities on research and development, UC Berkeley spent over $650 million in research in 2009 alone.

Outside of pivotal scientific discoveries at the university, the city of Berkeley offers many cultural events and sites to keep even the most varied of intellects engaged, including the Judith L. Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, the Berkeley Jazz Festival, the Berkeley History Center, and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, among a number of other things.


2. Cambridge, MA

massachusetts institute of technology photo

MIT: Photo by InSapphoWeTrust Via Flickr Creative Commons

Home to two of the nation’s very best academic institutions, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge is among the most illustriously intelligent cities in all of America, with close to one-half of the entire population holding a graduate degree or better. Between MIT and Harvard, over 200 Nobel Laureates, 380 Rhodes Scholars, dozens of billionaires, and many more MacArthur fellows have spent time living, teaching, and creating magnificent advances in art, technology, and a number of other fields in Cambridge. Deeply rooted in historic culture, Cambridge is home to a number of museums dedicated to archaeology, natural history, and even contemporary art. It is adjacent to the municipality of Boston and has train-lines connected to nearly every major neighborhood in the city, providing Cambridge residents with convenient travel options to Boston’s myriads of historic cultural and intellectual offerings. With nearly 25% of the Cambridge residents comprised of enrolled academics, Cambridge is among the most student-dense populated college-towns in the entire nation.


1. Ann Arbor, MI

university of michigan ann arbor photo

UM’s Bell Tower: Photo by VasenkaPhotography Via Flickr Creative Commons

Here we are, finally at number 1 on the list, with the most intelligent college town in the nation being Ann Arbor, Michigan, where nearly half of the residents of the entire city boast a graduate degree or better. An economy that is driven by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, the city’s culture is immersed seamlessly into the intellectual climate of the famous academic institution. Indeed, many of the world’s greatest composers, poets, engineers, musicologists, and businessmen who teach at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor also find themselves regularly interacting within the town’s festivities, concert halls, public lectures, and forums, laying the foundation for an intellectual culture in one of the midwest’s most beloved cities. With a number of Nobel Laureates, Rhodes Scholars, and MacArthur fellows to its credit, the University of Michigan has graduated many of the most intelligent alumni of any campus in the entire world, an alumni body that has reached over ½ million total.

Additionally, the city itself is home to a number of vast cultural offerings, including the oldest running experimental film festival in the country, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the “Hands-On Museum,” a science and technology exhibition of over 250 interactive installations, and public art fairs held every July. If you are looking for a college-town of unparalleled intellect seamlessly blended into the rich intellectual offerings of one of the nation’s most important universities, look no further than Ann Arbor, MI.


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Cover Photo by Bernt Rostad Via Flickr Creative Commons

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