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.

Characteristics

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.

Selectivity

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 rewarding curriculum.

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.

 
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