Top 20 Smartest US Presidents Judging By Their School Grades

The personality of President of the United States seems more important than any other leading position in the world, particularly to Americans. From emperors to kings and queens and even prime ministers, there is none more prominent to Americans than the first family. With sheer loyalty to the American flag and the promise of steady freedom, Americans come together to elect the newest leader of the free world every four years with the expectations of change, peace, and good fortune. As we make preparations for election season, let’s not forget the past presidents who were smart and certainly contributed relentlessly in helping this country achieve her greatness. Some of them didn’t receive all the big degrees and educational qualifications but they did exceptionally good while others received and made great use of them. And in all, the following are the smartest US presidents ever:

George Washington

  • 1st president of the United States
  • Presidential term: 30 April 1789 – 4 March 1797
  • Party: Independent
  • Estimated IQ: 132
image source

George Washington is among the most clever of our founding fathers even though he is one of the few who never completed college. Washington knew the need to be educated at a very young age. However, he bravely dropped out of school because of the tough choice he was faced with at 11 years old when he lost his father. Shockingly, he had an estimated IQ of 132 even though he only attended elementary school. He was able to play a competent role as a military commander to the Commander-in-Chief. His smartness and composure were things most people don’t get even within the walls of a classroom. The bright president ensured his love and respect for education lived on after he was gone by giving a part of his wealth to three different schools.

Key Takeaway: He had no biological children in his lifetime.

Rutherford B. Hayes

  • 19th president of the United States
  • Presidential term: 4 March 1877 – 4 March 1881
  • Party: Republican
  • Estimated IQ: 146.3
image source

Rutherford B. Hayes probably wasn’t the most loved president of all time, but he had his own fair share of smartness. He was the 19th President of the United States between 1877 and 1881. Even though Hayes is rated in the bottom half of all U.S. Presidents, he was bright and smart. He received education from a good private school in Connecticut which equally tutored students in Latin and Ancient Greek. He didn’t just do well in Languages, he was academically exceptional as well. He schooled in Kenyon College where he earned high honours as valedictorian in 1842. Hayes didn’t end with that, he furthered in Harvard Law School and later opened his own firm in Ohio. His law practice, as well as his interest in politics, prospered within some years after he relocated to Cincinnati. The ex-President due to his commitment to educational reform served on the board of trustees at Ohio State University until his retirement.

Key Takeaway: His election was a messy one and remains one of the toughest in history.

John Quincy Adams

  • 6th President of the United States
  • Presidential Term: 4 March 1825 – 4 March 1829
  • Party: Whig Party
  • Estimated IQ: 169
image source

John Quincy Adams was born to Abigail Adams and John Adams the second U.S. President. The  son of a lawyer and former President was the sixth President of the United States from 1825 to 1829. He gained a stellar education that took him to the presidency. He was already ahead of his years when he registered in Leiden University thanks to private tutors, including his father’s law clerk, who worked with him while he explored the world with his father. He was fluent in at least three languages. Adams interpreted the works of some remarkable philosophers of all time before he enrolled in Harvard College where he received both a Bachelor and Master of Arts. John Quincy Adams walked in the steps of his father and was just as bright.

Key Takeaway: He was made president despite losing popular and electoral votes.

Martin Van Buren

  • 8th president of the United States
  • Presidential term: 4 March 1837 – 4 March 1841
  • Party: Free Soil
  • Estimated IQ: 133
image source

He was the eighth President of the United States from 1833 to 1837 and was among the most intelligent US Presidents ever even though he didn’t finish college. The young Van Buren had Dutch roots but grew up in New York speaking Dutch and Latin until he learned English. As a result, he was the first U.S President who spoke English as a second language. Van Buren proved he was a first order academic before he served as the president. He quit his formal education at 14 in spite of the fact that he was doing great at it and focused on law. He earned admittance to the bar when he was serving as a law apprentice to William P. Van Ness. He served as Senator, Governor, Secretary of State and Vice President because of his remarkable credentials before he finally became the president.

Key Takeaway: He was nicknamed “Old Kinderhook”

Gerald Ford

  • 38th President of the United States
  • Presidential term: 9 August 1974 – 20 January 1977
  • Party: Republican
  • Estimated IQ: 121
image source

Gerald Ford took over the office of the presidency after Richard Nixon resigned in 1974. He was the 38th President of the United States. Even though Ford developed a reputation as a little bit of an oaf, he proved that he was with ease cleverer than his critics both in the academics and on the football field. He gained a football scholarship to the University of Michigan, and was remarkable in the academics, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. He also earned various offers to be a member of the NFL but he chose to register in graduate school at Yale where he also became the assistant football coach. He finished in the top quarter of his class with a Juris Doctor and was later drafted in World War II before he came home and started his historic political career as both Vice President and President.

Key Takeaway: His birth name was Leslie Lynch King Jr.

Franklin Pierce

  • 14th President of the United States
  • Presidential term: 4 March 1853 – 4 March 1857
  • Party: Democratic
  • Estimated IQ: 141
image source

Franklin Pierce was the 14th President of the United States in 1853 after being a Senator and U.S. Attorney. Pierce’s father was cautious about offering the best education to his children, so he enrolled Pierce in a private school. But the young Pierce was not happy with the whole idea and once walked over 12 miles to return home. Pierce’s father fed him and made him return when he got back home which changed his life. He began to love school and later excelled in the field of law at Bowdoin College where he graduated with 13 other students. Since ex-New Hampshire Governor Levi Woodbury was his mentor and source of inspiration, Pierce’s story turned out to motivate and inspire a lot of people. His amazing memory and intuitive nature played a significant part in his successful campaign for President in 1852.

Key Takeaway: Still America’s most obscure president.

William Henry Harrison

  • 9th President of the United States
  • Presidential Term: 4 March 1841 – 4 April 1841
  • Party: Whig
  • Estimated IQ: 133.93
image source

William Henry Harrison is another smart president who broke lots of remarkable records. The echo-making president who didn’t last long in office was the ninth President of the United States and the last President born under British rule. He was also the first American president to die in office, and so his tenure was the shortest. He was named the oldest President to take office for over hundred years until Ronald Reagan outlived and replaced him as he was 68 years and 23 days old when he was officially admitted into office. Young William started college at only 14 years old. He attended the Presbyterian Hampden-Sydney College where he mastered Latin and French. Later on, Harrison registered at the University of Pennsylvania and attended medical school there. He incredibly excelled in his studies until the time when he lost his father and was left without any money. As a result, Harrison quit school to pursue a career in politics which gave rise to the shortest presidential term in history because of his death caused by pneumonia on his 32nd day in office.

Key Takeaway: The first president to die in office, he passed on after 31 days into his term.

John Tyler

  • 10th President of the United States
  • Presidential Term: 1841 to 1845
  • Party: Whig
  • Estimated IQ: 142
image source

John Tyler, the tenth President of the United States follows next in the list of the smartest presidents in the history The United States. After the death of his running mate, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler became president in April 1841 since he was serving as vice president-elect. He served as the President from 1841 until 1845. The notable training he received from his parents throughout his childhood qualified him to become the Vice president until he succeeded Harrison even though many of his colleagues and, even later, historians thought poorly of him. In the face of all the criticisms the bright president saw, he spent most of his life building his own success. He attended a prep school of the prestigious College of William & Mary when he was just 12 years old, and finished five years later. The ambitious young man went further to study law. By the time he was 19, Tyler made an excellent impression on his peers and the judge so much that the judge overlooked his age and admitted him to the bar breaking protocols.

Key Takeaway: He is also the 10th vice president.

Millard Fillmore

  • 13th President of the United States
  • Presidential Term: 9 July 1850 – 4 March 1853
  • Party: Know Nothing
  • Estimated IQ: 143
image source

Millard Fillmore served as the 13th President of the United States (1850–1853) and was the last president not to be officially attached to either the Democratic or Republican parties. The New York native first served as the Vice President under Zachary Taylor and only assumed the office of the Commander-in-Chief after the sudden death of Taylor from stomach issues. Fillmore had a very humble childhood and spent most of it in rural New York acquiring knowledge on the cloth-making trade. Young Fillmore though he was learning the cloth-making trade knew he wasn’t born for just trade work and, at 19 years old, he dumped the cloth-making industry to enrol in New Hope Academy.

His vision was set on a law career so, after his graduation from New Hope Academy, he moved to Buffalo and became a law apprentice. He was then admitted to the bar. Though Fillmore’s educational background is clearly not anywhere close to comprehensive, it evokes admiration given that he contributed in creating the University of Buffalo in 1846. Apart from his great achievement of changing from the cloth-making trade to being the Vice president and eventually the president, he was also the school’s first Chancellor.

Key Takeaway: He grew up a poor farm boy.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • 32nd President of the United States
  • Presidential Term: 4 March 1933 – 12 April 1945
  • Party: Democratic
  • Estimated IQ: 146
image source

Famous for his political success, Franklin is the 32nd President of the United States. He served the longest tenure in the history of the presidents of US, serving four terms and over 12 years (from March 1933 to his death in April 1945). He played a great role in leading the country through the worldwide economic depression and again through World War II. Roosevelt gained huge admiration and praise for the smart role he played during these times. Though many of his teachers regarded him as a smart “but not exceptionally excellent” student, Roosevelt’s success tale started long before he came the president.

Young Franklin attended Harvard College where he studied economics and worked as the editor for the school newspaper. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts in history and furthered his education at Columbia’s Law School for three years only to dump school after he passed the bar exam. Harvard and Columbia later presented him with honorary degrees while he was in office.

Key Takeaway: He was paralyzed from the waist down.

James A. Garfield

  • 20th President of the United States
  • Presidential Term: 4 March 1881 – 19 September 1881
  • Party: Republican
  • Estimated IQ: 148
image source

James A. Garfield is also among the presidents who served the shortest presidential terms. He was the 20th president of The United States. He led America for only six months in 1881 before he was murdered. Prior to being the president, he served more than nine terms in the House of Representatives and was also elected to the Senate. His early life and career made him one of the world’s most respected men of all time not just spurring his political achievement. The distinctive president schooled and excelled at the Geauga Academy. Afterwards, he became a teacher when was still in college at the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute. Garfield got fed up with the school after three years and enrolled in elite Williams College in Massachusetts where he ranked second highest in his class making him the salutatorian of his class in 1856. He came back to Ohio to teach and then served in the Civil War. He joined the political realm immediately he got back and served as a Congressman for 17 years before he won the seat of presidency in 1880. The highly respected president served until his terrible death a year after he was inaugurated.

Key Takeaway: He married one of his students.

Chester A. Arthur

  • 21st President of the United States
  • Presidential Term: 20 September 1881 – 4 March 1885
  • Party: Republican
  • Estimated IQ: 148
image source

Chester A. Arthur was the Vice President when James A. Garfield was in office. He, therefore, became the 21st President of the United States when he took over office after the tragic death of James A. Garfield in 1881. In spite of the numerous wrestle to overcome his early political attachment with the Whig Party, he led a remarkable presidency of which his exceptional education and sound mind contributed a whole lot. Arthur spent much of his early years as both a student and teacher while attending Union College in New York just like his predecessor Garfield. Arthur later became the principal of a school. He graduated from the State and National Law School and relocated. He was admitted to the bar in 1854. His noteworthy career as both a teacher and lawyer in part propelled his interest and career in politics.

Key Takeaway: He was accused of not being a natural/born citizen of the U.S.

Theodore Roosevelt

  • 26th President of the United States
  • Presidential Term: 14 September 1901 – 4 March 1909
  • Party: Republican
  • Estimated IQ: 149
image source

Theodore Roosevelt was known as not only one of the smartest presidents in American history but also one of the toughest. Often called “Teddy”, Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States from 1901 to 1909.  He took office after William McKinley was killed and proved his ability and progressive ideology could succeed under his professional leadership. Without any doubt, his early education and law career contributed to his expert leadership. He spent much of his childhood on home school and trained himself to become an excellent and fully-developed student who enrolled in Harvard with huge experiences in geography, biology and philosophy. He graduated with a distinction obtaining a Bachelor of Arts and then entered Columbia Law School where, in addition to majoring on law, he wrote a book on the War of 1812. Immediately he finished his studies from the law school, he served in both the National Guard and United States army until returning to pursue his career in politics. Theodore is till date regarded as of one of the greatest and smartest U.S presidents of all time.

Key Takeaway: He had an amazing photographic memory.

Jimmy Carter

  • 39th President of the United States
  • Presidential Term: 20 January 1977 – 20 January 1981
  • Party: Democratic
  • Estimated IQ: 153
image source

Jimmy Carter is among the U. S presidents who we can still find their coloured photos. He was the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. After Gerald Ford and preceding Ronald Reagan, Carter was seen as rather dull and simple like his forerunner, which was greatly not justified in terms of his educational background. Carter who is exceedingly studious and a keen reader had an expectation of going to the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland. Following registration in Georgia Southwestern College and taking additional math classes at Georgia Tech, his expectation came alive. He finished from Academy with a Bachelor of Science and joined politics. The once-calm Carter located his voice in politics by climbing the political ladder with remarkable speed. As if being a state Senator wasn’t enough, he became the Governor and then President. Carter also was bestowed with a Nobel Peace Prize like Roosevelt in 2002 for his humanitarian work.

Key Takeaway: Jimmy Carter did an interview with Playboy.

Woodrow Wilson

  • 28th President of the United States
  • Presidential Term: 4 March 1913 – 4 March 1921
  • Party: Democratic
  • Estimated IQ: 152
image source

Woodrow Wilson served as the 28th President of the United States from 1913 to 1921. He was the first and only President with a Ph.D making him the most educated president in the history of America. He was famous as both a politician and an academic with masterly leadership skills thanks to his early career as President of Princeton University and Governor of New Jersey. The scholar schooled at Davidson College and only transferred when he felt sick to Princeton University where he graduated in 1879. He went on with his education attending the University of Virginia and was forced once more to transfer because of sickness. He entered Johns Hopkins University when he was back on his feet and obtained his Ph.D. in political science. He served as a lecturer and University President before going into politics.

Key Takeaway: The only U.S. President buried in Washington, D.C.

James Madison

  • 4th President of the United States
  • Presidential Term: 4 March 1809 – 4 March 1817
  • Party: Democratic-Republican
  • Estimated IQ: 155
image source

James Madison was elected as the fourth President of the United States. Praised as the “Father of the Constitution”, James Madison played a great role in drafting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He was trained by the finest tutors available which gave him a leg up in securing and discharging his role as the country’s leader, heading the country for eight years between 1809 and 1817. Madison went to New Jersey where he enrolled in Princeton University even though he had the big dream of enrolling in the College of William & Mary at 16 years old. Upon graduation in 1771, Madison remained in the area to study political philosophy under the university president. Afterwards, he joined politics and was one of the politicians that established the American Whig Society. He served as a Congressman and finally the Secretary of State under President Thomas Jefferson prior to becoming the President-elect thanks to his smartness.

Key Takeaway: He’s nicknamed Father of the Constitution.

Bill Clinton

  • 42nd President of the United States
  • Presidential Term: 20 January 1993 – 20 January 2001
  • Party: Democratic
  • Estimated IQ: 156
image source

Born William Jefferson Clinton, Bill Clinton served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001 and is among the most recent and smartest presidents the United States can boast of. Clinton’s education in law and his early career in politics was of use in strengthening his ability in leadership and policy throughout his stay in the white house. He had an exceptionally good high school career and received many academic scholarships to school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. where he obtained his Bachelor of Science in Foreign Policy and served as class president. Upon graduation, he was bestowed with a Rhodes Scholarship, the most reputable in the world to University College, Oxford where he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics. However, he left early to enter Yale University because he had switched programs. Obtaining a Juris Doctor from Yale, he got back to Arkansas to pursue his career in politics, becoming the state’s Attorney General and Governor before taking the seat of presidency.

Key Takeaway: He ties with George H.W. Bush on the 4th spot among tallest president at 6 feet 2 inches.

John F. Kennedy

  • 35th President of the United States
  • Presidential Term: 20 January 1961 – 22 November 1963
  • Party: Democratic
  • Estimated IQ: 158
image source

John F. Kennedy was the youngest President of all-time and was strikingly brilliant. He was the 35th President of the United States at 43 years. He was in office from 1961 until his horrendous killing in 1963. He relocated to London after his high school with his family. There, he schooled at the London School of Economics just like his older brother. Sadly, because of his health, Kennedy was forced to come back to the United States where he enrolled in Princeton University until another health scare made him to transfer to Harvard College. When he was over with his health issues, Kennedy made the Dean’s List and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in International Affairs prior to joining Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

Key Takeaway: He used a fake certificate of good health to join the military.

Thomas Jefferson

  • 3rd President of the United States
  • Presidential Term: 4 March 1801 – 4 March 1809
  • Party: Democratic-Republican
  • Estimated IQ: 160
image source

Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States in 1801 and led America until 1809. He is among America’s Founding Fathers and was among the presidents that had the most amazing reputation. Being the author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson’s struggle for democracy and individual rights were partly attributed to his quality education and interests covering arts, architecture, science and politics as evident in his collection of nearly 7,000 books.

The formidable advocate of democracy studied nearly everything under the sun and benefited from both private tutors and schools during his early education. He later registered at the College of William & Mary where he studied higher-level maths, physics and even violin. In the face of his great love for education and dedication, he was never officially a graduate but rather focused on law. A professional in many languages and topics,  with an estimated IQ of 160, America’s forefather proved his love for education when he established the University of Virginia after his retirement from public office.

Key Takeaway: He had a personal library with about 6,500 books.

John Adams

  • 2nd President of the United States
  • Presidential Term: 4 March 1797 – 4 March 1801
  • Party: Federalist
  • Estimated IQ: 173
image source

John Adams was the second president of The United States. The Founding Father didn’t have the slightest interest in politics and rather aspired to be a substantial farmer as he had great hate for education and his teachers. But a new teacher and a new perspective made him have a change of mind. He excelled in school and was able to have a significant spot in American politics. Adams was only 16 years old when he entered Harvard College due to a new value for education. He received both a Bachelor and Master of Arts from the college. He found his strong love for writing which made him more famous as a published diarist with innovative ideas. His brilliance (with an IQ of 173, quite exceptional and striking) also played a great a role in making him a diplomat, leading to his professional negotiations of the treaty that ended the Revolutionary War.

Key Takeaway: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day

Donald Trump’s IQ Is Still A Mystery But Here’s What We Know

One thing is certain, Donald Trump is obsessed with IQs and he prides himself as a very intelligent person, especially since he became president. Notwithstanding, it seems he is yet to take one of those tests to prove he’s actually one of the smartest people to occupy The Oval Office. The 45th president of the United States of American is no doubt well-educated. He has a degree in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania and the school’s Wharton School of Business.

Despite his achievements and savviness in business, no results from the standardized tests that measure IQ have been published on his behalf. This suggests the president has never taken the test and experts in the field confirm this.

According to Snopes, a recent study showing Donald Trump’s IQ score as 156 is “full of logical missteps and factual inaccuracies.” Besides, Simonton’s research on the smartest presidents was carried out before Trump became president. In analyzing how intelligent Trump is, Politico says he speaks like a child in third grade, with his limited vocabulary that he surprisingly used to gain the trust of voters.

But does this make him think less of himself? Definitely not Trump. He apparently still maintains that he has a high IQ and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Amira Daniel
Amira is a personal finance and entertainment writer by trade with several years of experience covering businesses, CEOs, and celebrity profiles, her favourite subjects include business and personal finance, entertainment, celebrities, and travel. When she's not writing, you can find her reading or catching up on any of her favourite series


Featured Today

Related Stories