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Top 8 Geekiest Colleges in the USA

What is a nerd? A person that throws himself or herself into rigorous academics, stands in the corner at parties and tries to pick up potential mates with a pocket protector? We think not. Modern nerds fit into a more important category: people that pursue what they want with all their heart. They confidently participate in what they love, even if what they love is totally bizarre.

They’re the future Nobel Laureates, astronauts and engineers, but also the champions of bygone eras, the lovers of mustaches, bike-jousting and campus-wide Rube Goldberg machines. From weird traditions (Seventh Annual Nitrogen Day?) to entertaining extracurricular activities (the Mustache Club?), these nerds do it all. Props to these schools for playing host to some of the most important, dynamic, driven young men and women of our generation!

MIT


This school has produced the most famous nerds on the planet: 31 astronauts, 76 Nobel laureates, Robert Metcalfe (the guy that co-invented the Ethernet), Kofi Annan, John M. Deutch (ex-Director of Central Intelligence), and William Reddington Hewitt (co-founder of Hewlett-Packard). But that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the nerdy beast that is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2009 and 2010 MIT made a point of emailing its application decisions to prospective students on Pi Day. For “fun,” MIT students partake in a Mystery Hunt, an annual competition in which students are invited to solve a large number of puzzles in order to find a coin hidden somewhere on campus. Even their pranks are seamless technological extravaganzas. At the Harvard-Yale football game in 1996, the Harvard logos on the scoreboard were hacked from VE-RI-TAS to read HU-GE-EGO instead. The typical MIT applicant is so overscheduled (on average they list 12 extracurricular activities) that, back in 2004, the MIT application was overhauled and a new question was instated: What do you do for fun? Dean of Admissions Marilee Jones said the change was prompted by an interaction with one MIT student in which, upon asking a group of students, “What do you daydream about?” one boy answered: “We don’t daydream. There’s no reward for it, so we don’t do it.”

California Institute of Technology

Okay. So we feel like we’re cheating here and going for the obvious names. But in truth, it is really difficult to out-nerd the students of MIT and CIT. Especially when you put the two together. The MIT-CIT rivalry has been called “the geeky version of working things out on the football field.” In 2005, for example, a group of CIT students ventured to MIT during a prospective student weekend to hand out 400 T-shirts wrapped in plastic that said “MIT” on the front. On the back? “…Because not everyone can go to Caltech.” So great is the rivalry between MIT and CIT that it’s been recounted by Time Magazine and documented in three separate volumes entitled Legends of Caltech by CIT alumni. Other quirky on-campus customs at the school? Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” is played at 7 a.m. each morning during finals week, but playing the piece at any other time is forbidden. Considering the fact that Caltech was ranked 2nd internationally in 2010 by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the best university in the world within the Engineering and Technology Universities category and second best within the Physical Sciences Universities category, we’re pretty impressed that these guys find the time to put their brilliance to use in a more–atypical fashion?

University of Chicago

Having chosen to attend a school whose alumni association includes 85 Nobel laureates, it’s no surprise that UChicago students love their studying and love their labs. There’s so much studying and researching going on at the university that its President allegedly begged students, on several occasions, to go out into the city to relax. But according to one of the coolest and nerdiest studies ever done (by a UC student, of course), her fellow students are 63 percent more likely to be happy than sad. How did the student discover this? She analyzed more than 1,700 pieces of on-campus graffiti by categorizing the scrawl into a handful of topics (think sex, school spirit, advice, etc.). She transcribed and interpreted each piece of graffiti. She converted her findings into spreadsheet data and then, using simple math, crunched the numbers. According to a Chicago Tribune article profiling her findings.

Carnegie Mellon University

In 2009, Bill Cosby opened the Carnegie Mellon commencement speech with two words. “Uhhh…Nerds.” It’s true. Lovers of computer science, engineering and math flock to the school. It’s no wonder it was ranked 1st for graduate studies in computer science in 2010, a position consistently held in the past save for 2009. The annual “Mobot” competition, a portmanteau for “mobile robot,” is one of the campus’s most popular events. According to Cosby’s speech, nerds are a breed that can’t dance, that don’t even know how to “stand in a room and look human.” Why, Cosby muses, would “you want to accept yourselves as being that?” And then he remembers: “Because you have continued on where non-nerds stopped… they said I’m tired, why do I have to know this. You guys continued on… I think it’s very, very brave.” And it’s true. CMU kids care about their causes.

Harvey Mudd College

According to a recent report released by PayScale.com, Harvey Mudd alums will earn a mid-level salary of around $126,000 after graduation, making an undergraduate degree from Harvey Mudd the most profitable degree of 2011. But that certainly doesn’t mean that Mudd students are all work and no play. For example, the engineers of Harvey Mudd recently gained local applause when they developed a Rube Goldberg machine (an elaborately engineered machine that performs a simple task in an extremely complex fashion) that ran the length of the campus. The machine, which was built on a very small budget, was “built in sections by the eight dorms on campus and the sections [were] linked together through inter-dorm collaboration.” Check it out here.

Reed College

In the game of quirkiest traditions, Reed College students win. Always. What other school has a Seventh Annual Nitrogen Day (an annual event that is forever referred to as the Seventh Annual because nitrogen is the seventh element on the periodic table)? Over the course of the day, students celebrate nitrogen (a terribly under-appreciated element) by enjoying live entertainment, free food, and haiku recitation on the porch of the student union. One student reviewer called Reed “Nerd heaven. You will almost always find another weirdo with whom you can babble about semiotics or organic chemistry.” Put more delicately, you can always find another student with more bizarre passions and fascinating quirks. We think Reed sounds awesome in every way.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Okay, so you’d expect some nerdesque traditions to come from a school whose most popular majors are Mechanical Engineering and Robotics Engineering. But my God, WPI takes the cake in nerd pride. Though their official mascot is the goat, their football team is referred to as the Engineers. Their fight song is the ever-inspiring trigonometry-laced battle cry: “E to the x, D-Y D-X, E to the x, D-X.
Cosine, Secant, Tangent, Sine, 3.14159
E-I, Radical, Pi, Fight ‘em, Fight ‘em, WPI!” and one of the most popular clubs on-campus clubs is the Combat Robotics Team, which designs, builds, and competes robots programmed to fight.

Carleton College

In response to the question “What are some stereotypes about Carleton College students?”, one unigo.com student reviewer replied, “We are nerdy, we love frisbee, and we are generally less good-looking.” Are the stereotypes accurate? “Generally,” The student replied, “We have 1.9 frisbees per student, we are definitely nerdy, and we don’t have much time to make ourselves look good.” Offbeat organizations like the Mustache Club–for students who have a mustache or are willing to don a fake one periodically (screw the gender binary!)–exemplify the kind of extra-extracurriculars that Carleton co-eds partake in. Another perfect illustration of the typical Carleton brand of nerdom is “Daft Hands,” a YouTube video made by a student that has received over 50 million hits.

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