Liberal Arts Schools
The philosophy behind liberal arts colleges is that a
college education should be about students and teachers working
closely together in an attitude of openness and communication.
Liberal arts colleges believe that developing critical
learning skills and fostering intellectual curiosity are even more
important than selecting a major.
In fact, some liberal arts colleges don’t even have majors.
Or grades. Or course requirements. And if the thought of a lecture
hall with 400 students learning rote material frightens you, then
you will probably be a good candidate for admission.
The best liberal arts colleges share many characteristics,
including small class sizes, close working relationships with fellow
students and faculty, and an emphasis on developing solid speaking
and writing skills.
What you won’t find at the typical liberal arts college—large
lecture halls, endless multiple choice examinations, and teaching
assistants instead of actual professors—speaks volumes about why these
colleges are popular and effective.
There are more than 200 liberal arts colleges; many are
among the most highly selective schools in the country. Schools
such as Amherst College, Williams College, and Swarthmore College
accept just a small percentage of applicants. There are other good
liberal arts colleges that accept roughly half of applicants, including
Grinnell College in Iowa, Trinity College in Connecticut, and Kenyon College
in Ohio. Other outstanding liberal arts colleges have even higher
acceptance rates. Presbyterian College in South Carolina, Lewis
and Clark College in Oregon, and DePauw University in Indiana accept
the majority of applicants.
The Private Liberal Arts Colleges
Most of the liberal arts colleges are private schools,
and typically small enough so that students are on a first-name
basis with their professors. For example, The College of Wooster
in Ohio is a good example. You can expect personable professors,
small class sizes, high graduation rates, and a challenging yet
The Public Liberal Arts Colleges
Private schools don’t have a monopoly on great liberal
arts colleges. Schools such as Truman State University in Missouri,
St. Ramapo College of New Jersey, and Sonoma State University in
California offer liberal arts education at public-school prices.
Some, such as the College of Charleston and St. Mary’s College of
Maryland, are so highly regarded that they attract significant numbers
of out-of-state students who are willing to pay the higher tuition.
Liberal Arts within Public Universities
Other colleges have embraced the benefits of a liberal
arts education within the setting of a comprehensive university.
As mentioned above, Rutgers College is a good example. Students
who apply to Rutgers College have access to all the same resources
as other Rutgers University students, such as residence halls, library
facilities, and college athletics; however, they have the added
benefits of smaller class sizes and closer interaction with faculty
and other students. Another good example is Fairhaven College, an
interdisciplinary liberal arts school within Western Washington
University. It offers small class sizes and narrative evaluations
instead of letter grades.
Quality of Education
With such small class sizes, liberal arts students will
receive a high quality of education. The most reputable of the liberal
arts colleges attract some of the brightest professors and staff
in the world. Whereas large universities foster a “publish or perish”
environment for their professors, liberal arts college professors
are more able to focus on teaching. Graduates from these schools
will likely tell you that their liberal arts education changed their
lives for the better. If you desire highly interactive classes where
your thoughts and opinions really matter, a liberal arts college
might be what you’re looking for.