So I google the smartest people in the world. The smartest people on this planet are no doubt the ones with the most creativity, logic, pattern recognition--those who would score the highest on IQ tests. Five names appear.
1. Andrew Wiles, solved Fermat's last theorem (unsolved for 300 years)
2. Edward Witten, mathematical physicist
3. Albert Einstein, physicist
4. Terence Tao, mathematical field medalist
5. John Nash, Nobel prize winning economist
My surprising "wikipedia" conclusion--all came from Princeton. Princeton mathematicians, physicists, and economists have undoubtedly helped history moved forward and can be rightly acknowledged as the world's greatest minds ever set foot on this planet. In fact, Princeton is the institution with the most Field Medalists--the Nobel Prize for mathematics.
But I'm just a high school senior now, and I want the best education possible. And it gets me thinking. Harvard has the prestige, but it also has 22,000 students enrolled. That's a lot of people getting a Harvard degree. Princeton, on the contrary, is still able to win so many fields medals, still able to house so many MacArthur fellows with a mere 6,500 (undergrad+grad) students. During WWII, Princeton mathematicians broke the Japanese Codes, helped save U.S. from destruction. To me, a Princeton degree just seems so much more rare and special.
And then you have the world's greatest geniuses who studied in Princeton. And then it's the #1 university, but I'll neglect USNEWs since it's still very subjective. When it comes down to taking the best of the best from Princeton against the best of the best from Harvard, Princeton, with its ultimate geniuses, will prevail. Even though it only has less than 1/3 of the students at Harvard.
My conclusion: Princeton is pretty damn powerful and sweet. I think if it comes down to it, I'll have to go with Princeton. A once in a life time opportunity to mingle with the greatest minds this world has ever witnessed.
After all, it wouldn't be hard getting one out of those 22,000 seats at Harvard for grad school.