The 20 Smartest Public Colleges In The United States

Each school’s grade is determined by retention rate, graduation rate, average SAT scores, acceptance rate, as well as other factors. Here are the official rankings, along with reviews from actual students.

20. University of Florida — Gainesville, Florida

Student review: 4/5 “I consider the overall curriculum and studying opportunities available within this institution are some of the best compared to other public universities.”

19. SUNY Geneseo — Geneseo, New York


Student review: 4/5 “This school is very rigorous and hard. However you know that you are getting an amazing education and are being taught by some of the best people. the workload is also tough but its nothing you cant handle as long as you keep on top of your work you will succeed.”

18. New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology — Socorro, New Mexico


Student review: 5/5 “The curriculum is challenging for sure, but still doable. Not all professors or TAs are great, but many are just fantastic. Research opportunities are readily available and the faculty have a wide range of research interests. For science and engineering fields, the academics are top notch, especially considering the low cost of attendance.”

17. California Polytechnic State University — San Luis Obispo, California


Student review: 5/5 “Learn by Doing” You literally learn by doing and it’s the best. I actually remember the things I learn when I applied them in class and labs. It’s awesome. Having to take GE’s sucks, but it always does. Major courses are super awesome.”

16. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — Urbana-Champaign, Illinois


Student review: 4/5 “I really enjoy my classes and teachers although I was hesitant with the large number of students in some lectures. The academics at my university are prestigious and challenging.”

15. University of California, San Diego — San Diego, California


Student review: “At UCSD, there are intelligent people doing amazing things everywhere you look. UCSD has some of the top programs in the nation for sciences, social sciences, theater, and dance. The faculty is made up of world-class professors who rank at the top of their fields. Freshmen who are often at the top of their classes in high school are surprised to be just one of the masses at UCSD, where everyone is just as smart as they are.”

14. University of Wisconsin — Madison, Wisconsin


Student review: 4/5 “Although the workload is rather heavy, everything pays off. I have learned more in a semester and a half than I did in all four years of high school.”

13. Truman State University — Kirksville, Missouri


Student review: 4/5 “After talking to friends attending other schools, the academics at Truman definitely keep students busy but aren’t unmanageable especially with a staff that is, for the most part, open and more than willing in aiding in student success.”

12. University of California, Davis — Davis, California


Student review: “UC Davis offers more than 100 different fields of study for their undergraduates, ranging from exercise biology to textiles and clothing. Even though Davis is one of the top-ranked veterinary schools in the nation and has the reputation for being an agricultural school, it still offers majors with strong programs in the humanities and arts and sciences departments.”

11. Michigan Technological University — Houghton, Michigan


Student review: 4/5 “I am a student in mechanical engineering. Michigan Tech is ranked pretty high in the nation for a graduate offering university. I am quite comfortable knowing I will get a great job when I graduation from this school. As anyone would assume, mechanical engineering has a heavy workload, but nothing that I was not expecting.”

10. University of Maryland, Baltimore County — Baltimore, Maryland


Student review: “The professors seem to heavily encourage discussion but they also assign a lot of work. When they assign all this work they seem to forget that we have other classes to think about as well. That being said the workload is manageable if you plan ahead and get ahead on class assignments (just look at the syllabus). Overall, the professors are nice, approachable and very knowledgeable.”

9. New College of Florida — Sarasota, Florida


Student review: 5/5 “The New College of Florida has unparalleled academic opportunities for those willing to work for them. Unlike most other undergrad programs, New College puts you in direct contact with your professors- who actively encourage you to visit them to talk about the classes and possible projects. If you have a dream, New College will work with you to make it happen.”

8. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — Chapel Hill, North Carolina


Student review: “Simply put, UNC is all about academics. Students who excel here don’t try to take shortcuts. The school itself boasts some of the best facilities in the country as well as the academic talent to match it.”

7. Colorado School of Mines — Golden, Colorado


Student review: 5/5 “Mines is great on the academic side. The work load is difficult but reasonable. The professors are all very invested in your process of learning and provide plenty of help for your success. The curriculum is well known around the country for being one of the best in Engineering.”

6. University of Michigan — Ann Arbor, Michigan


Student review: “As a major research university, the University of Michigan is consistently given high ranks worldwide for its academics, as well as the academic opportunities it provides. The University has a vast variety of majors and programs to choose from, including business, engineering, public policy, and medicine—all ranked remarkably high among other university programs in these respective fields. Michigan offers a unique learning experience that can be geared toward every individual student.”

5. University of California, Los Angeles — Los Angeles, California


Student review: “Because we are a research institution, we are constantly contributing to the development of the field. I do think being at such a huge university takes away the personal relationships with instructors that can be gained at smaller schools, but it also gives you the opportunity to meet a bunch of new people all the time.”

4. University of Virginia — Charlottesville, Virginia


Student review: 5/5 “The academics here are stellar. Brilliant, engaging, helpful professors are the norm. Though I don’t have experience with faculty in every department, my first hand combined with what I’ve heard from friends points towards high quality across the board. Research is generally quite accessible to undergraduates who put in initiative towards getting involved. As an Environmental Science and Economics double major my work load SHOULD be pretty big, but it isn’t at all! I don’t have to spend excessive time on my school work and so have plenty of time to play games with friends, relax and get involved in clubs.”

3. Georgia Institute of Technology — Atlanta, Georgia


Student review: 5/5 “Oh lord. If I had the time to tell you how hard the academics were at this school, I could spend all day. However, it is because the workload is so large and the curriculum is so difficult that students can leave and go anywhere in the world actually being knowledgeable on the topics they studied here. There are so many opportunities to succeed that you can’t blame anyone except yourself on failure.”

2. University of California, Berkeley — Berkeley, California


Studen review: 4/5 “Professors are great very diverse and lovely to see how they vary from colleges. Curriculum is good, intense at times because of the workload and other extra curriculum activities that students usually handle. Registration for my college is well controlled and not too stressing if you do it when your registration phase is happening. You always have some homework to do or something to study for.”

1. College of William & Mary — Williamsburg, Virginia


Student review: “While most students ascertain that some majors are less demanding than others, all students agree that William & Mary is very demanding academically, and that regardless of the class, it is important to understand how to allot enough time toward each subject. The workload has been described as “enormous”, and the grading has been heralded as somewhat severe, but as long as you put forth the work and communicate with a professor when you have difficulty with the curriculum, your grades should reflect the effort made.”