Nerd Herd: The Nerdiest Colleges

Whip out your calculators, collegiettes, because it’s time to rank the nerdiest colleges in America! From their huge RPGs (Role-Playing Games, obvi) and award-winning robot clubs to intense study-a-thons and prestigious engineering degrees, the students at these schools strike the perfect balance between (geeky) work and play. We love them all the more for it! We have no doubt that someday, they’ll be running the world—while simultaneously crushing it in Legend of Zelda, of course.

10. NEW COLLEGE OF FLORIDA (Sarasota, Florida)


Ahh, dodgeball: the sport (slash form of torture) that struck fear into the hearts of every knock-kneed nerd in middle school. According to The Princeton Review, the New College of Florida is such a “dodgeball targets” college, it’s the nerdiest in the nation. Students love to challenge each other to chess matches on the school’s whimsical giant chessboard. They also go to “Bowling Balls,” dressy events held at the school’s bowling alley (yes, the school truly does have its own bowling alley!).

“We say LET YOUR NERD FLAG FLY!” once cheered the school’s Facebook page. “Finish this sentence: You know you’re a nerd when…” Students and alumni eagerly chimed in, leaving answers such as, “you cheer for Fulbright and Rhodes Scholars but pay no attention to NFL picks!” and “You announce a research project to your friends and they offer to join you!”

Between the school spirit, fun traditions and kooky attendees, we’d say this nerdy school is a haven for those who hold calculus, computers, crunching numbers and coding near and dear to their hearts.

9. WORCESTER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE (Worcester, Massachusetts)


At Worcester Polytechnic, nerdiness is an inherent part of the school’s culture and traditions. Its student handbook is called the Tech Bible, and their fight song is heavy on the math references: “E-I, Radical, Pi, Fight 'em, Fight 'em, WPI!” What’s more, an impressive 13 of WPI’s clubs are devoted to science, technology and gaming, including the Science Fiction Society, the Society for Medieval Arts and Sciences and 15 different engineering-oriented clubs, such as Society of Fire Protection Engineers. The inevitable question remains: what mascot can perfectly embody this eccentric and awesome culture? A goat named Gompei, of course!

8. HARVEY MUDD COLLEGE (Claremont, California)


Grads from this California college are nerdy, and it works for them. We mean that literally: in 2010, a PayScale study found that Harvey Mudd alums have the best mid-career salaries post-graduation in the U.S. (In case you’re wondering, that’s $126,000). How are they hustlin’? The most popular jobs are software engineer, project engineer, aerospace engineer, electrical engineer and mechanical engineer. These students definitely like to keep things consistent.

However, they’re also pretty creative — in a nerdy way, of course. In 2010, students collaborated to build a Rube Goldberg machine, a purposely over-complex device that performs a simple task, like a chain reaction. Their creation spanned eight dorms!

Harvey Mudd’s clubs are delightfully off-the-wall as well. There’s a Nintendo Entertainment System Techmo Super Bowl Club for Students of Harvey Mudd College, endearingly nicknamed NESTSBCSHMC, and the 38-year-old Gonzo Unicycle Madness Club. So if you want to be an extremely well paid, elaborate-device-constructing, video-game-playing, unicycle-riding engineer… we’ve found the school for you.

7. BROWN UNIVERSITY (Providence, Rhode Island)


Brown students have a reputation for being some of the most intellectual of all the Ivy Leaguers—a group that’s obviously already pretty intellectual. “What I like about Brown is that learning transcends the classroom and becomes part of daily conversation with friends and classmates,” says John, a junior. “Everyone is passionate about learning.”

In October 2013, Brown and Wikipedia organized a Wikipedia “Edit-a-thon”; for five and a half hours, participants worked on the Wiki pages of female leaders in the science and technology fields. Plus, the school has a Disney a capella group, and you don’t know nerdy until you’ve seen a group of adults yodeling The Little Mermaid’s “Kiss the Girl” in perfect harmony.

Lastly, our favorite geek ever, Hermione Granger — okay, Emma Watson, as she goes by in the Muggle World — just graduated from Brown with a degree in English literature. She may be gone, but we have a feeling there are plenty of Hermione types walking around in Brown’s colors: seal brown, cardinal red and white.

6. CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)


When Bill Cosby gave his commencement speech at Carnegie Mellon in 2007, he opened with, “Uhhh… Nerds.” What he was lacking in eloquence he made up for in accuracy. For instance, this year CMU held a LAN (Local Area Network) event, which is essentially a huge gaming fest. “Pittsburgh gamers will be welcome to come to CMU’s campus and play their favorite video games!” the event site says. “In the month leading up to the event, online tournaments will be held for League of Legends, StarCraft II and Dota 2. The finals for these will be played live on stage.”

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that John, a former Carnegie Mellon student, says, “Lots of geeks, no question. I knew a lot of hackers, people into the deep web.” Mellon even celebrates Geek Pride Day every year, and can you blame them? These students will one day dominate the world with their smarts and savvy, so they have every reason to be proud!

5. ROCHESTER INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (Rochester, New York)


Each year in the fall and again in the spring, more than 500 students participate in RIT’s “epic” weeklong Humans vs. Zombies game. According to one student, it’s the community’s favorite pastime! They also love their Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival, which features “interactive presentations, hands-on demonstrations, exhibitions and research projects.” Last year’s festival kicked off with the Power Wheels and E-Vehicle Autocross Challenge, a racing competition for electric vehicles. Other highlights included a 3D printer that created customized prosthetics and cyber security presentations. So nerdy — so cool.

Nerdiness is a major source of pride for RIT students, as it should be. In February, when RIT was named the geekiest college in America by ThinkGeek, Ben, an RIT student, wrote, “Honestly, I’m surprised that you’re even having a contest for this. RIT is hands down the nerdiest school in America—if not the world.” We’re not so sure about that, Ben; we’ve found four other colleges that we think are even nerdier. But one thing’s for sure: RIT’s quirky culture definitely earns it a spot in the top five.

4. COOPER UNION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE AND ART (New York City, New York)


We’re in awe of Cooper Union’s quirky geniuses. In 2012, they devised a pulley system out of strings, balloons, weights and hooks to send pizza to another group of students who had barricaded themselves inside the Foundation Building (they were protesting a potential tuition spike). Students know they’re nerdy. In fact, they embrace it! Katie Correll, who graduated from Cooper Union with a mechanical engineering degree, competed to be “King of the Nerds” on a TBS reality show of the same name. Unfortunately, she wasn’t crowned as the victor. However, we have no doubt that another CU student could take home the title.

“The engineering school generally attracts nerds,” says Amber, a Unigo user. “Many students spend their entire four years in the library. It's a popular Saturday night activity.” Hey, at least when they’re tired on Sunday mornings, they’ll feel better knowing they wore themselves out by being productive!

3. FRANKLIN W. OLIN COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING (Needham, MA)


Virtually every student at Olin College studies engineering, a notoriously difficult major. They work for their grades; according to the Huffington Post, Olin students are the second most studious in the nation, falling short only of Caltech in Pasadena. When they’re not snuggling with their science textbooks, Oliners enjoy a “rich geek culture.” They love off-beat activities like spelunking, river rafting, Midnight Math (because what else does one do in the dead of night?), fire juggling, trapeze, unicycling and juggling. Some of the most popular choices for downtime? Video games, Dr. Who marathons and Pokémon club. “It’s a small class — only 350 students — and we’re all pretty nerdy,” Evan, a sophomore, says. “Everybody has such unique passions and interests.” With a kick-butt nerd culture like this one, being just plain “normal” sounds like no fun at all!

2. TUFTS UNIVERSITY (Somerville/Medford, Massachusetts)


This is a school that not only cultivates but also actively seeks out nerds; Tuft’s class of 2016 application essay prompt was “Celebrate your nerdy side”, after all. So what did accepted students write about? Their annual grammar party, their intense Harry Potter obsession and how they love “the way Ticonderoga pencils glide across loose leaf paper like an airplane glides through a patch of cumulus clouds.” They have a female science and technology club called the Nerd Girls (go collegiettes!). Plus, their Quidditch team is one of the most beloved and active organizations on campus; it even has its own Twitter. Perhaps most tellingly, Match.com put Tuft’s hometown, Somerville, as the third best city for finding nerds to date. So ready your broomsticks, collegiettes, and fly on over to Tufts to find a nerdy guy or gal to call your own!

1. MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (Cambridge, Massachusetts)


MIT made our 2013 list of Geekiest Schools, so students probably won’t be too shocked to show up on this list as well; still, we couldn’t help but bump MIT up to the #1 spot this year. After all, on their admissions blog, students call the school “a nerd’s paradise” and a place where almost every student instantly recognizes 1024 is a power of two (If you didn’t already know that, don’t worry; neither did we). Each year on Pi Day, MIT lets its successful applicants know they’ve been accepted to the school. And according to Marilee Jones, dean of admissions, when she asked a group of students what they daydreamed about, one of them replied, “We don’t daydream. There’s no reward, so we don’t do it.” To even out the rough edges, MIT actually started offering “Charm School” classes on table manners, what (and what not) to wear and social grace. Essentially, how not to be awkward.

The university also has a storied tradition of “hacks,” meant to showcase the brilliant and creative spirits of its students. One of the most famous hacks took place in 1999, when the Great Dome was transformed into R2-D2. Another notable prank took place in 2012 when students rigged up the outside of the Green Building, home to the MIT Earth and Planetary Sciences department, to display a game of Tetris. Creativity aside, if you’re walking around campus on non-hack days, you’ll want to have a good head for numbers—because that’s how everything is laid out. Every major, class and building has its own unique numeral. What does that all add up to? 2 nerdy 4 words. 

Check out the rest of Her Campus's 2014 College Rankings here!