Donald Trump: His Academic Record

Odds & Ends
How smart is Trump? Although his genius as a huckster is unquestioned 1a, skepticism in all other spheres is warranted, given that he has aggressively suppressed information about his academic record (even while calling on his opponents to release theirs) and never addressed the considerable evidence that paints him as deeply unlearned SEE BELOW. To some extent, however, the question of his intelligence does not matter because his overpowering, pathological focus on self steers his decision-making far more than intelligence.
Trump's claims:
  • Earned "the highest grades possibl.e" (1988) 2
  • "I got in quickly and easily" to the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, adding: "It's one of the hardest schools to get into in the country -- always has been." (2015, to the Boston Globe) 2

In reality:

  • In the Trump family home: "... the library, a room without books" 1b
  • In high school even though Trump's sister Maryanne "had been doing his homework for him, she couldn't take his tests, and Donald worried that his grade point average, which put him far from the top of his class, would scuttle his efforts to get accepted" at Penn. So "he enlisted Joe Shapiro, a smart kid with a reputation for being a good test taker, to take his SAT's for him." Trump paid him. 1c
  • Trump also had his brother Fred talk to an admissions officer at Penn, James A. Nolan, whom Fred knew well. 2
  • In Trump's 1960s era "Penn was accepting 40 percent of all applicants, as opposed to its current cutthroat acceptance rate of seven percent." 2
  • Trump did not graduate with honors. Nor did he make the Dean's list (in 1968). 2
  • William T. Kelley, professor for 47 years at Penn, "must have told me that 100 times over the course of 30 years. ... I remember the inflection of his voice when he said it: `Donald Trump was the dumbest goddamn student I ever had!' He would say that [Trump] came to Wharton thinking he already knew everything, that he was arrogant and he wasn't there to learn." 2
  • Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, under oath in 2019: "I'm giving the Committee today copies of a letter I sent at Mr. Trump's direction threatening these schools with civil and criminal actions if Mr. Trump's grades or SAT scores were ever disclosed without his permission. These are Exhibit 6." 2 3
  • "This was a major, major thing with Trump -- that people might think he's stupid," Michael Wolff told me around the time of Siege's publication earlier this summer. "The focus of that for Trump is the college transcripts, which are apparently terrible. I've spoken to friends of Trump from that time, and this was a guy that was obviously not interested in school and possibly never read a book in his life. For everyone that had known him then and years afterward, the assumption was that he had terrible grades, he was a lackluster student at best." 2
Cited Sources
  1. Trump, Mary L. Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man. NY: Simon and Schuster, 2020.
    a  p.103  b  p.94  c  p.72; This is not the Joe Shapiro cited in 2020.

    Comment: This Trump, niece of Donald Trump, is an experienced and well-trained Ph.D. psychologist (see p12).

  2. Valania, Jonathan. Fact-Checking All of the Mysteries Surrounding Donald Trump and Penn. (Published 14 Sept. 2019. Downloaded on 2019-12-13.) Available on the web:
  3. Cohen, Michael. Testimony of Michael D. Cohen. U.S. House Of Representatives. Committee On Oversight And Reform. February 27, 2019.

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