Liberal arts colleges aren’t usually household names, so it’s no surprise that they tend to get much less attention in college searches than their big-name university counterparts. But if you haven’t yet considered adding a few liberal arts colleges to your college list, maybe you should.
Keep reading to learn whether a liberal arts college might be right for you.
You want a great student experience.
Since most liberal arts colleges only offer undergraduate programs, they aren’t focused on research or graduate programs. Instead, everything focuses on the student experience.
Liberal arts colleges tend to encourage campus-wide engagement to a much greater degree than most larger universities do. For example, Middlebury College is particularly well-known for its campus-wide engagement events. During Fall Frenzy, students enjoy a weekend of free concerts and picnics prepared by professional chefs. Later, the Winter Carnival offers a weekend of bonfires, fireworks, concerts, and ice shows capped off by the Winter Carnival Ball. And then there’s The Hunt, an epic three-day-long scavenger hunt. If Southern California life is more your speed, look at Pomona College. For more than 20 years, Pomona has hosted Ski-Beach Day, taking students to a ski resort and the beach in a single day.
What’s more, liberal arts colleges often offer a pampered and picturesque college experience. Consider, for example, the renowned dining options at schools like Pomona College, Bowdoin College, and Middlebury College, all of which have brought on professional chefs to curate gourmet dining plans. More concerned about where you would live than what you would eat? Look no further than Bryn Mawr College, where the dorms are quite literally palaces, complete with fireplaces, stained glass windows, and castle-like towers.
Financial aid is important to you.
The sticker prices of most liberal arts colleges can be off-putting. The average tuition at top liberal arts colleges is over $50,000, but liberal arts colleges are known for generous financial aid packages. Most liberal arts schools offer a combination of need-based and merit-based aid, often resulting in a net price that is comparable to the tuition at public universities. Net price calculators and discussions with financial aid offices can help you decide if the financial aid potential at liberal arts colleges meets your needs.
You want the opportunity to explore outside your chosen field.
The nature of a liberal arts education encourages broad intellectual inquiry. Most liberal arts colleges require a range of courses outside of a student’s major to establish an educational foundation that emphasizes reasoning, critical thought, and synthesis. At a liberal arts college, students can often expect to find flexibility in their academics. For example, at Colorado College, students follow a block semester in which they take a single class every few weeks, allowing for more experiential learning opportunities, flexibility in schedules, build-your-own-degree programs, and down time to pursue passions like community service or research projects.
You’re not 100% sure what you want to do after college.
The broad nature of a liberal arts education means that you have the freedom for intellectual exploration. Liberal arts graduates earn valuable knowledge and skills that are applicable to any number of potential post-graduate journeys. In fact, the skills gained through a liberal arts education are highly valued by employers. A survey of CEOs has found that 74% believe that a liberal arts education leads to a more dynamic workforce, in large part because the critical thinking and analysis skills gained through a liberal arts education allow graduates to pursue a wide array of professional opportunities.
You want to attend graduate school (including medical school or law school).
Liberal arts colleges constitute seven of the ten postsecondary institutions that graduate the highest percentage of eventual PhDs. Many liberal arts colleges have graduate school acceptance rates of 90% or more. Because most liberal arts colleges are on the small side, students can expect highly personal guidance throughout their undergraduate years, allowing them to take steps that will improve their chances of acceptance at the graduate schools of their choice.
You plan to study a STEM field.
Most people tend to think of liberal arts colleges as havens of non-scientific thought—but this is not true! In fact, a liberal arts college can offer STEM students opportunities that they would have difficulty accessing at a school better known for its STEM programs. Most liberal arts colleges have well-established relationships with other regional colleges and universities to allow access to a broad array of academic resources. For example, Wellesley students can take courses, conduct research, and even earn a dual degree at MIT. Reed College, a small liberal arts school in Oregon, is home to the only undergraduate-run nuclear reactor in the world.
Career opportunities are important to you.
Jonathan Veitch, the president of Occidental College in California, says, “I think a liberal arts college takes seriously the notion that a job isn’t a job, it’s a vocation, so it better bring meaning to your life and help you think through what that might look like.” Perhaps it is this perspective that makes the graduates of liberal arts colleges so very successful in their careers. In fact, almost one-third of Fortune 1000 CEOs hold liberal arts degrees, and the return on investment for liberal arts colleges is among the best of all schools, including business and engineering schools.
You want a unique educational experience.
Liberal arts colleges are typically on the small side, which allows for much smaller class sizes with far more personal support. If you thrive in a discussion-based setting rather than a lecture-based setting, then a liberal arts college could be a great option for you.
Beyond that, liberal arts colleges are home to some of the most creative approaches to education. For example, Hampshire College offers no “off-the-shelf” majors. Instead, students are encouraged to create their own unique programs of study based on their interests and goals. Babson College focuses on its unique Entrepreneurial Thought and Action methodology, which marries experimentation and creativity with business principles to create well-rounded leaders. And Agnes Scott’s SUMMIT program allows students to build an interdisciplinary foundation in the liberal arts while focusing on Leadership Development or Global Learning. All students take part in an immersive retreat and a travel course in their first year, helping them to decide on their focus and build an integrated curriculum throughout their four years.
When building your college list, explore all of your options.
Building a college list is a highly personalized process. It’s important to explore all of your options so that you truly find the school that best fits your needs and goals. For more help in building your college list, check out our webinar Building a College List: The First Step on Your College Journey