So you want to be a Rhodes Scholar. Why wouldn’t you? Former President Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar, as were seven other heads of state and myriad more successful lawyers, authors, ambassadors, and scientists, to name but a few. For those with grand ambitions of winning a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, studying at University of Oxford, and going on to change the world for the better, it makes sense to consider which colleges have produced the most Rhodes scholarship recipients. After all, only 32 college students are chosen from the United States each year. That’s where we come in. Below, we’ve highlighted the 30 best colleges for future Rhodes scholars.
Providence, Rhode Island
Considering Newsweek ranked Brown University as the 5th best university in the country, it should come as no surprise that the private Ivy League research university makes the list of the best schools for future Rhodes Scholars. Indeed, Brown has produced a whopping 56 Rhodes Scholarship winners to date. Brown is highly selective and is known for its top-ranked degree programs in subjects such as engineering, medicine, and public affairs, among others. In addition to its 56 Rhodes Scholars, Brown’s alumni include 23 Pulitzer Prize winners, 52 Gates Cambridge Scholars, four U.S. Secretaries of State, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and eight billionaires.
New York, New York
Columbia University is another Ivy League school which has produced an outstanding number of Rhodes Scholars. Twenty-seven, to be exact. Columbia’s 5.1% acceptance rate makes it the second most selective university in the United States, behind Harvard. Still, those who manage to gain acceptance and to excel within their degree programs join a special group of alumni which includes — besides said Rhodes Scholars — five Founding Fathers, 29 foreign heads of state, three former U.S. presidents, 10 Supreme Court justices, 96 Nobel Laureates, 38 living billionaires, 39 Academy Award winners, 125 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 11 Olympic medalists.
Ithaca, New York
Appropriately, Cornell University was originally founded in 1865 in order “to teach and make contributions in all fields of knowledge — from the classics to the science, and from the theoretical to the applied.” In short, Cornell’s mission has always been to produce exactly the type of student for which the Rhodes Scholarship was intended. It’s no wonder, then, that Cornell has produced a whopping 30 Rhodes Scholars to date. Cornell is no stranger to national university rankings. Forbes ranked Cornell the 13th best school in the nation, while U.S. News & World Report declared it the 16th best.
Hanover, New Hampshire
An incredible 79 Rhodes Scholars are counted amongst Dartmouth College’s alumni, making the Ivy League research university one of the best choices of college for future Rhodes Scholarship winners. As the ninth-oldest institution of higher education in the country, Dartmouth offers its students a liberal arts curriculum strong in literature, history, and the sciences. It offers 57 different undergraduate degree programs, but allows students to design their own specialized concentrations, too. Besides its 79 Rhodes Scholars, Dartmouth has produced 170 members of Congress, 24 United States governors, 10 billionaires, three Nobel Prize laureates, 13 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 26 Marshall Scholars, among countless other successes.
Durham, North Carolina
Duke University is a selective private research university located in Durham, North Carolina. The school is a strong draw for ambitious students, and receives upwards of 41,000 applications each year. For the 7% of applicants who are admitted, Duke offers 46 different undergraduate degree programs, plus 52 minors and 24 certificate programs. Duke University has a number of great successes among its alumni. These include 40 Rhodes Scholars, 25 Churchill Scholars, 13 Nobel Laureates, and three Turing Award winners.
Washington, District of Columbia
Located in the historic Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., Georgetown University is the alma mater of perhaps the best known Rhodes Scholar: former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Twenty-two other Rhodes Scholarship winners have also graduated from Georgetown, as have 21 Marshall Scholars, 26 Truman Scholars, and more Foreign Service Officers than any other university. Georgetown offers 48 different undergraduate majors, plus the opportunity for students to design their own major.
Get this: Harvard University has produced a whopping 359 Rhodes Scholars! This easily makes it an excellent choice of college for anyone hoping to win a Rhodes Scholarship. In fact, this also makes Harvard the all-time leader in number of Rhodes Scholars. Of course, one has to be admitted to Harvard first. This famed university has a 5.2% admissions rate, making it one of the “more selective” schools. Besides its Rhodes Scholarship winners, Harvard has produced eight U.S. presidents, at least 30 foreign heads of state, 242 Marshall Scholars, and 158 Nobel laureates. Collectively, its alumni have also won 108 Olympic medals, 48 Pulitzer Prizes, and 10 Academy Awards. Whew.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
For students interested in science, technology, and mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is almost certainly on the radar! The prestigious research university is no stranger to high rankings. In fact, the Academic Ranking of World Universities, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, and Washington Monthly all rank MIT in the top five of American universities. QS World University Rankings even declares MIT is the #1 university in the world! Surely these incredible rankings have something to do with the success of MIT’s alumni. To date, the university has produced 93 Nobel laureates, 58 National Medal of Science recipients, 20 National Medals of Technology and Innovation recipients, and 45 Rhodes Scholars.
Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton University is practically synonymous with excellence. Located in Princeton, New Jersey, this Ivy League private school was founded way back in 1746. Since then, it’s produced a whopping 209 Rhodes Scholars, 65 Nobel laureates, two U.S. presidents, and more billionaires and foreign heads of state than most universities can ever dream of. No wonder U.S. News & World Report typically ranks Princeton as the #1 university in the country! Princeton’s undergraduates have myriad degree programs from which to choose, including a number of especially popular majors in the humanities, natural sciences, engineering, and social sciences.
Located in Portland, Oregon, Reed College is a small, private liberal arts school known for its Tudor-Gothic-style architecture, nature-like campus, and rigorous academics. Indeed, Reed boasts an unusually high proportion of graduates who go on to earn doctorates and other postgraduate degrees. All students are required to take a humanities course their freshman year, while all seniors complete an obligatory senior thesis. To date, Reed has produced 32 Rhodes Scholars, the second-highest of any liberal arts college.
Sewanee: The University of the South
For some, Sewanee might be a surprising addition to our list of the best colleges for future Rhodes Scholars. However, it shouldn’t be. The University of the South, located on 13,000 mountainous acres, is a private liberal arts college that is well known for instilling in its students a sense of excellence. U.S. News & World Report ranks Sewanee the 41st best liberal arts college in America, while Forbes ranks it the 94th best college overall. An incredible 26 Rhodes Scholarship winners have come from Sewanee — the fourth most of any liberal arts college.
Stanford University is one of the world’s top-ranked universities, and it isn’t too hard to see why. Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Stanford is known worldwide for its excellent and rigorous academics, outstanding wealth, and close relationship with the tech companies of Silicon Valley. To date, Stanford has produced 116 winners of the Rhodes Scholarship, plus 17 Nobel laureates, four Pulitzer Prize winners, and 31 MacArthur Fellows, among myriad other successes.
Liberal arts colleges tend to have an excellent reputation when it comes to producing the type of student for which the Rhodes Scholarship decision committee looks. One example of such a college is Swarthmore. Located in Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College offers students more than 40 areas of study and 600 different classes. Its Honors Program is actually inspired by the tutorial setup of classes at Oxford and Cambridge, allowing students to work one-on-one, or in groups of two or three, with a professor. To date, Swarthmore is the alma mater of 30 Rhodes Scholars (not to mention five Nobel Prize winners, 27 Truman Scholars, 201 Fulbright Scholars, and 49 members of the prestigious National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine).
United States Air Force Academy
Air Force Academy, Colorado
The United States Air Force Academy has graduated 39 Rhodes Scholarship winners. That’s pretty impressive, but probably not too surprising. The Academy’s mission is to “educate, train, and inspire men and women to become leaders of character, motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation.” Admission to the Academy is extremely competitive, with only about 1,200 cadets being admitted each year. In addition to the Rhodes Scholars, alumni of the U.S. Air Force Academy include 9 Marshall Scholars, 13 Truman Scholars, 403 general officers, two combat aces, and one Medal of Honor recipient.
University of Chicago
Located in Chicago’s beautiful Hyde Park neighborhood, University of Chicago is well known as an academic powerhouse. It offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and has top-ranked business, medicine, and law departments. Interestingly, University of Chicago faculty and graduates have greatly contributed to the shaping of a number of academic disciplines, including sociology, literary criticism, and behavioralism within the field of political science. To date, University of Chicago boasts 54 Rhodes Scholars amongst its alumni.
University of Kansas
University of Kansas is one of the Midwest’s top-ranked public research universities. It is classified by the Association of American Universities as an “R-1: Doctoral Universities — Highest Research Activity.” Thus, Kansas tends to attract bright students with ambitions in medicine, healthcare, and other scientific fields. Still, more than 345 degree programs are offered, including a number of subjects within the liberal arts. Interestingly, U.S. News & World Report ranks Kansas’s urban policy program as the #1 program of its kind in the nation. With such rankings, it is no wonder University of Kansas is one of the best choices of college for future Rhodes Scholars. To date, Kansas counts 27 Rhodes Scholarship winners among its alumni.
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Among its nearly half a million living alumni, University of Michigan counts an impressive 26 Rhodes Scholars. This puts Ann Arbor’s large public research university squarely on the list of the best colleges for future Rhodes Scholars. Various STEM fields lead the list of Michigan’s most popular degree programs, as do business, public health, and dentistry. Besides the aforementioned Rhodes Scholarship winners, Michigan has graduated 25 Nobel laureates, 50 MacArthur Fellows, and six winners of the Turing Award.
University of Mississippi
Mississippi’s largest university also graduates the state’s largest number of Rhodes Scholarship winners. Twenty-five Rhodes Scholars have graduated from University of Mississippi, as have 10 Goldwater Scholars, 18 Fulbright Scholars, 19 Boren Scholars, and seven Truman Scholars. The University offers a number of degree programs from which its undergraduate students may choose, the most popular of which include communications, elementary education, marketing, and pharmacy. University of Mississippi is also home to a variety of special programs which attract the brightest and most ambitious of students. These special programs include the Center for Intelligence and Security Studies, the Chinese Language Flagship Program, and the Lott Leadership Institute, to name but a few.
University of Montana
Located in Missoula, the University of Montana is a large public school which aims to provide its students with a unique blend of both sciences and the liberal arts. Not surprisingly, this focus on a well-rounded curriculum produces well-rounded students. This has apparently caught the attention of the Rhodes Scholarship decision makers, as the university has graduated 28 Rhodes Scholars. With such a high number of scholarship winners, University of Montana ranks as the 5th public university for producing Rhodes Scholars.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Not only is University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill one of the very best public universities in the United States, it is actually the oldest public university in the United States. Since its founding in 1795, UNC has graduated a U.S. president, a U.S. vice president, 38 state governors, 98 members of Congress, three astronauts, and 23 Pulitzer Prize winners. Oh, and an impressive 49 Rhodes Scholars. Interestingly, 29 of those Rhodes Scholarship winners have been recipients of UNC’s Morehead-Cain Scholarship. This unique scholarship program provides students with full tuition, room and board, and books and supplies, and is awarded purely on merit based on a nomination.
University of Oklahoma
University of Oklahoma has been around longer than even the state from which it hails. Established in 1890, the university offers 152 majors, including rarer programs such as aviation, meteorology, geology, and petroleum engineering. Oklahoma also has a top-ranked Honors College and enrolls more National Merit Scholars per capita than any other public university in America. To date, 28 University of Oklahoma graduates have gone on to receive a Rhodes Scholarship.
University of Texas at Austin
Future Rhodes Scholars intent on attending college in Texas or the South would do well to look at University of Texas at Austin. This large public research university and the flagship of the University of Texas system has produced 26 Rhodes Scholarship recipients. The university is considered a Public Ivy, and as such, is no stranger to the national rankings systems. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT-Austin as the 15th best public school in the nation, while the Academic Ranking of World Universities named it the 44th best university in the world. In addition to the aforementioned Rhodes Scholars, University of Texas at Austin counts amongst its alumni 11 Nobel Prize winners, two Fields medalists, two winners of the Turing Award, 26 Truman Scholars, and 20 Marshall Scholars.
University of Virginia
University of Virginia has had 53 Rhodes Scholarship winners. That’s the most of any college or university in the South, the eighth most of any school overall, and the third most of any non-Ivy League university. Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, University of Virginia was founded in 1819 by none other than Thomas Jefferson (James Madison and James Monroe were both on the original governing Board of Visitors). The top-ranked university offers 48 undergraduate degree programs, 94 master’s degree programs, 55 doctoral programs, and two pre-professional degrees. Interestingly, all degrees bestowed by University of Virginia are earned; the school has never handed out an honorary degree.
University of Washington
On a list of universities by their number of Rhodes Scholars, University of Washington is the highest ranked public institution located on the West Coast (only the private Stanford is ranked higher). Washington has 37 Rhodes Scholarship winners amongst its alumni, plus 136 Fulbright Scholars, seven Marshall Scholars, and four Gates Cambridge Scholars. Of course, University of Washington tends to rank highly in just about every category. The Academic Ranking of World Universities has named Washington the 14th best university in the world, while U.S. News & World Report ranked it 10th on its list of the best global universities.
University of Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin is another Public Ivy — that is, a public university known to provide an education comparable to an Ivy League school — that ranks among the best colleges for future Rhodes Scholars. Thirty-two Rhodes Scholarship winners have graduated from Wisconsin, along with 25 Nobel laureates and 14 current Fortune 500 CEOs — the most of any other university in America. Wisconsin offers myriad choices of majors for undergraduates, including nursing, music, pharmacy, library and information studies, and public health.
Founded in 1873, Vanderbilt University has long held the reputation of being an outstanding place for learning and achievement. Vanderbilt is ranked the 60th best university in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities. Closer to home, U.S. News & World Report has Vandy ranked as the 14th best school in the country, while The Wall Street Journal declares it the 19th best. Take a look at the long list of Vanderbilt’s successful alumni, and you’ll certainly gather a sense of excellence. Twenty-six Rhodes Scholarship winners have graduated from Vanderbilt, as have 45 members of Congress, 17 U.S. Ambassadors, 13 state governors, two vice presidents, two Supreme Court Justices, and seven Nobel laureates.
Washington University in St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
Twenty-nine Rhodes Scholars have graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, a top-ranked private school located in Missouri. Surely, this has a little something to do with WashU’s excellence as a university. Nearly all undergraduates study within The College of Arts & Sciences, where they learn from more than 330 faculty members and over 100 research scientists, artists and residents, and visiting professors. The average class size is 18, while nearly half of undergraduate courses consist of fewer than 10 students. Besides the aforementioned Rhodes Scholars, WashU alumni include 24 Nobel laureates and myriad politicians, actors and filmmakers, company founders, and writers.
West Virginia University
Morgantown, West Virginia
West Virginia University is a research-intensive university known for excellence in the STEM fields. Thus, the university tends to attract ambitious students eager for hands-on opportunities, rigorous academics, and a wide selection of degree programs. More than 350 different majors are available at the bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and professional levels. This includes degree programs in Forensics and Investigative Science which were originally created by the FBI and still act as a top choice for those interested in ultimately working in forensics. In addition to the 25 Rhodes Scholars who have graduated from West Virginia, the list of alumni includes 45 Goldwater Scholars, 24 Truman Scholars, and 64 Fulbright Scholars.
Williams College is a private liberal arts college located in Massachusetts. Founded way back in 1793, it has a long history of excellence. The college spent 15 consecutive years in the #1 spot on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best liberal arts schools. In 2018, Forbes also ranked Williams the best liberal arts college in the country. Undergraduate students study a comprehensive core curriculum which ensures they graduate with a well-rounded education in the humanities, arts, social sciences, and natural sciences. Williams College has produced 39 Rhodes Scholars, plus eight Pulitzer Prize winners, 71 members of Congress, 22 state governors, four Cabinet secretaries, one U.S. president, three prime ministers, and a slew of other successful folk.
New Haven, Connecticut
Only one other university has produced more Rhodes Scholarship winners than Yale University. On Yale’s long list of successful alumni, there are a whopping 247 Rhodes Scholars, plus 61 Nobel laureates, 31 living billionaires, five United States presidents, 19 Supreme Court Justices, and countless other political leaders. Not surprisingly, Yale typically tops the national and international rankings. The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, and Forbes all rank Yale in the top three national universities, while Academic Ranking of World Universities has named Yale the 12th best university in the world.
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