Why choose a liberal arts college?

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Liberal arts colleges are a small group of well-regarded academic institutions that educate about 3% of the nation’s graduates. The primary goal of a liberal arts college is to educate the student as a whole through a dynamic and broad course of study which enables students to be knowledgeable about a range of subjects.

With this unique teaching philosophy, liberal arts colleges have a long historical reputation of success. However, a liberal arts college is not for everybody. Deciding whether or not a liberal arts college is the right choice for you is a simple matter of self-examination and reflection. Answering the following questions should help you sift through your reservations, and assist you in deciding if a liberal arts college is the right college for you:  
 
What type of degree do you want to study? Classes at liberal arts colleges focus on a breadth of courses in the humanities, arts, sciences, social sciences and mathematics. If you happen to be interested in liberal studies, of course, a liberal arts college will be a perfect fit for you. If you wish to study a technical degree with a career focus like engineering, accounting, or computer science, a liberal arts college is not recommended. If you are a high school student and do not yet know which degree you want to pursue, a liberal arts college may be a good option for you as well. A liberal arts college will educate you on a wide range of subjects that can help you take your career in many different directions after graduation. 
 
What is your ideal college experience?  The characteristics of a liberal arts college are very unique.  Liberal arts colleges purposefully choose to enroll a small student body and commit themselves to a broad liberal arts education. These features are the two most obvious differences that separate a liberal arts college from a large public institution. Classes at liberal arts colleges are typically small in number with average classes having no more than 30 students enrolled. As a result, student-to-teacher ratios are very small, giving students more personal attention with their professors. Also, liberal arts colleges tend to be very undergraduate focused with the majority of the small student body living on campus. This smaller and more intimate college setting typically allows for more opportunities to meet friends and establish long-lasting relationships.
 
This contrasts drastically with technical colleges and large public universities that often have a very large student body population. Due to this large population, classes at technical colleges and public universities have been known to enroll hundreds of students in one classroom. 
 
Have you prepared yourself for admission? Liberal arts institutions strive to enroll the best students possible. As a result, enrollment for liberal arts colleges is very strict. In order to be competitive for admissions, it is recommended that high school students complete at least 3 to 4 years of study in both English and math courses. Admissions requirements usually require letters of recommendation, a good GPA, and good scores on standardized tests like the SAT or ACT. Another important factor of the admissions process is an essay requirement. Strong writing abilities are a much sought after skill at liberal arts institutions. Therefore, writing a well-crafted essay for the admissions process is highly recommended.
 
What are you career goals?  According to a survey conducted by Junior Achievement USA and the ING Foundation, 71% of teens who know what career they want to pursue, would consider giving up their dream job in pursuit of a higher salary. These statistics reveal the somber truth that not many teenagers are 100% sure what careers they will pursue later in life. If they do happen to know which career they want to pursue, they’re intelligent enough to know that plans often change. Furthermore, the nature of technology and the state of the economy have made some industries flourish while others have become obsolete. When you graduate college there is no telling what state the economy will be in, or if the job you have trained for will still be in demand.  
 
For this very reason, it would seem that the best education is an education that provides the widest breadth of knowledge with the most sought after skills. Communication skills, analytical skills, and teamwork skills will always be in demand with employers. These are the exact skills that a liberal arts college provides it students. At a liberal arts college students are highly challenged to think outside the box and propose innovative ideas and interesting discussion. This contrasts drastically with large public schools that encourage passive learning through lecture.   
 
Do you want to challenge yourself? Liberal arts colleges have a long history of success in the United States. In fact, liberal arts colleges like Amherst, Bowdoin and Williams College are often ranked as being one of the top colleges in the U.S. Needless to say, enrollment into a liberal arts college is competitive and the courses at liberal arts colleges are challenging. As a result, liberal arts colleges have a proven record of success.   
 
Although liberal arts colleges educate only 3% of U.S. graduates, the alumni of liberal arts colleges account for 20% of all U.S. Presidents. Liberal arts colleges are also responsible for educating 20% of Pulitzer Prize winners from 1960 to 1998, and one in twelve of the nation’s wealthiest CEOs. There is no doubt that the successful Americans that have graduated from liberal arts colleges can largely credit their success to their personal ambitions as well as the excellent education they received at the liberal arts college they attended.
 
The bottom line.  Overall, an education at a liberal arts college is an exciting and challenging academic adventure that is highly valued and well-regarded throughout the academic community. With this in mind, answering the questions put forth in this article should help you determine if a liberal arts college is the right fit for you.

Resources:
 
1. Lang, Eugene M. “Distinctly American: The Liberal Arts College.” Retrieved 7 Jan 2013, from www.projectpericles.org/projectpericles/about/history/attachment.pdf
 
2. “Liberal art education.” Retrieved 7 Jan 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_arts_education
 
3. “The Socratic Method.” Retrieved 7 Jan 2013, from http://www.thomasaquinas.edu/a-liberating-education/socratic-method
 
4. Liberal Arts College. The New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved 10 Jan 2013, from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Liberal_arts_college
 

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