When a person announces they are running for the presidency, researchers and fact checkers immediately delve into their background. A huge number of topics are soon unearthed for public consumption; the candidate’s employment history, their personal life, and even their educational experience.
The focus on a prospective president’s educational history is, in truth, a little surprising. After all, most presidents run for office decades after their schooling concluded, but education credentials are still considered to be a key signifier in a person’s fitness for office. Given the obvious importance of education, and a previous penchant for fun presidential facts, below, we’ve done our own sleuthing to unveil a litany of trivia on presidential education…
#1 - Woodrow Wilson was an educational heavyweight
When it comes to education credentials, few POTUS’ can come close to the incredible achievements of Woodrow Wilson in this regard. The 28th president held a Ph.D. in history and political science from Johns Hopkins University; his doctoral dissertation was titled “Congressional Government: A Study In American Politics” - which seems fitting!
#2 - Harvard has the highest number of presidential graduates
Harvard University has graduated the most presidents of any institution. In fact the first president to hold a college degree at all - John Adams - was a Harvard graduate. The trend caught on, and since Adams, seven presidents in total have graduated from Harvard - including, most recently, Barack Obama.
#3 - Donald Trump is the first University of Pennsylvania graduate to become POTUS
After Harvard, the Ivy League schools are relatively well represented in the list of presidential alumni - except for UPenn. It took until the 45th president for a University of Pennsylvania graduate to take office, when Donald Trump’s education at the prestigious institute helped him secure the role of Commander In Chief.
#4 - Majors are split along party lines
While the earlier presidents primarily graduated as either a “Bachelor of Arts” or a “Bachelor of Science”, by the 20th century, majors had become more refined - and interestingly enough, presidential majors split along party lines. Democratic Presidents such as JFK, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama all studied International Affairs, while Republican presidents - including Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, and George H.W. Bush - have tended to favor economics.
#5 - Three Presidents graduated from military academies
Thus far, we’ve primarily focused on conventional academia, but academia is by far the only route to the presidency. Ulysses S Grant and Dwight Eisenhower both graduated from West Point in New York; a fact that is somewhat unsurprisingly given that both were heavily involved with the military during their presidencies. Perhaps less obviously, but no less interesting, is the fact that Jimmy Carter was also educated at a military academy; the 39th President graduated from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1946.
On the whole, the 45 US Presidents have been extremely well-educated - from John Adams onward, every President has had a degree, though their choice of school, major, and depth of study has tended to vary greatly over the years.