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Which US College Educated the Most US Presidents?

OCT 12, 2020 • 15 min read

A US 2020 Election Special: Check out which US Presidents attended college at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and more!

Top US College education and the US Presidency seem to go hand in hand.

Throughout the country’s 243 year history, almost all its presidents received a great formal education at a prestigious college. Many presidents have also readily recognized how their top education and network they built at college helped prepare them for the Oval Office. As the tension builds for the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Election, check out which Colleges have had the most graduates go on to become US President:

1. Harvard University - Five Presidents

Harvard Bg

Harvard University takes the top spot when it comes to producing the most presidents in US history, with a staggering 5 Presidents. To put that in perspective, only 44 people have ever served as president, meaning over 10% are graduates from this prestigious university!

Included are John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.

In reaching this achievement, Harvard has history on its side, being the United States’ oldest university. For instance, founding father John Adams graduated at Harvard in 1755 and served as the second US president between 1797 and 1801, well before most other non-Ivy League universities had been founded. Harvard has also gone to great lengths to foster a culture of leadership and excellence, unsurprisingly attracting prospective US presidents and world-leaders over the years.

The legacy of the Presidents who boast Harvard as their alma mater is evident at the University. One of the undergraduate residential Houses at Harvard University is named Adams House, named in honour of John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Theodore Roosevelt was known as being one of the best Harvard boxers of his time, Franklin D. Roosevelt was editor of The Harvard Crimson, and JFK produced his class’ annual "Freshman Smoker" show.

It should also be noted the number of US presidents who attended Harvard Law school for postgraduate study, including Barack Obama. Read about how Barack and Michelle Obama used their top-educations to empower their communities here.

Did you know - Crimson Students are 4x more likely to gain admission to Harvard University? If you would like to understand how likely you are to get into an Ivy League college based on your current scores, use our US College Admissions Calculator!

2. Yale University - Three Presidents

Yale University

Next placed on our list is Yale University, who educated US presidents William Howard Taft, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Each made an impact at Yale during their time at college. Taft graduated from Yale in 1878 second in his class and as the colleges’ heavyweight wrestling champion. George H.W. Bush was first-baseman and captain of Yale’s baseball team in 1947, and George W. Bush played rugby union in the university’s First XV.

Interestingly, all three presidents were also members of the Skull and Bones secret society at Yale University, which is known for its powerful alumni and conspiracy theories. Some believe that the Skull and Bones’ ultimate goal is to create a “new world order” run by Bonesmen, but their secrets are so well-guarded that their real intentions may never be known.

Did you know - Crimson Students are 4x more likely to gain admission to Yale University? If you would like to understand how likely you are to get into an Ivy League college based on your current scores, use our US College Admissions Calculator!

=3. Princeton University - Two Presidents

Princeton Campus

Our next three universities all boast two presidents, including Princeton who educated James Madison and Woodrow Wilson.

Founding Father James Madison is perhaps best known for being one of the key drafters of the US Constitution. Politics students at Princeton may have the opportunity to participate in the Madison Program, a scholarly institute within the Department of Politics "dedicated to exploring enduring questions of American constitutional law and Western political thought."

Woodrow Wilson not only attended Princeton College as a student, but served as president of the university between 1902-1910. However, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, the college has been grappling with the legacy of Woodrow Wilson and his racist views while president of the college. While once the namesake for Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson’s name recently was removed its title. Earlier this week, it was announced that the school will be renamed Hobson College, in honor of influential black finance expert and alma mater, Mellody Hobson.

Did you know - Crimson Students are 4x more likely to gain admission to Princeton University? If you would like to understand how likely you are to get into an Ivy League college based on your current scores, use our US College Admissions Calculator!

=3. The College of William & Mary - Two Presidents

College Of William And Mary

The College of William & Mary produced US Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Tyler.

While perhaps less well-known than Ivy League universities of similar age, The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia is the second-oldest university in the US.

Four signers of the Declaration of Independence graduated from this college (including Thomas Jefferson), earning it the nickname "the Alma Mater of the Nation." It is also the site of many other firsts in US university history, such as the first collegiate fraternity and the oldest law school in the United states.

Nowadays, the college operates as a Public Research University.

=3. United States Military Academy (West Point) - Two Presidents

Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight Eisenhower studied at the US Military Academy in West Point, New York.

Overall, the US Naval Academy seems to be where top college education and military training collide. The academic program grants a bachelor of science degree with a curriculum that grades performance academics, leadership performance, and athletics results. There are forty-five academic majors, and it was the first American college to have an accredited civil engineering program.

Upon graduation, graduates are given the rank of second lieutenant and assigned for duty in the United States Army. Thus, only United States citizens are able to attend, and to be selected students need to be nominated by their representative member of Congress.

Other Universities and Presidents

While the universities above were the only five to have educated multiple Presidents, many universities have educated one, including:

  • Amherst College - Calvin Coolidge
  • Bowdoin College - Franklin Pierce
  • Columbia University - Barack Obama
  • Dickinson College - James Buchanan
  • Eureka College - Ronald Reagan
  • Georgetown University - Bill Clinton
  • Kenyon College - Rutherford B. Hayes
  • Miami University - Benjamin Harrison
  • Ohio Central College - Warren Harding
  • Stanford University - Herbert Hoover
  • Texas State University - Lyndon B. Johnson
  • UNC Chapel Hill - James K. Polk
  • Union College - Chester A. Arthur
  • University of Michigan - Gerald Ford
  • University of Pennsylvania - Donald Trump
  • United States Naval Academy - Jimmy Carter
  • Williams College - James Garfield
  • Whittier College - Richard Nixon

Also, while the universities listed above were each president’s alma mater, that is, the college from which they graduated, some presidents did some shifting around prior to graduating or never graduated at all, for example:

  • JFK spent some time at both the London School of Economics and Princeton University before finally settling on Harvard.
  • Jimmy Carter studied at three different universities, including Georgia Southwestern State University, Georgia Institute of Technology and the US Naval Academy.
  • Before studying at Columbia, Barack Obama studied for a time at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
  • William Henry Harrison studied at the University of Pennsylvania for a time before dropping out and joining the military.

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