What is a Liberal Arts College?

Before making any final decisions in your college search, it is essential that you know what a liberal arts college is and determine whether it would be the ideal learning environment for you. Liberal arts colleges are four-year undergraduate institutions that are focused on providing a well-rounded education to develop useful professional skills within the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and the arts. Unlike universities that emphasize career-focused or research-intensive studies, liberal arts colleges offer a broad curriculum that can serve as the perfect launching pad for various career paths. In order to decide if this college setting is the right fit for your future ambitions, read on to find a comprehensive overview of everything you should know about liberal arts colleges.

All About Liberal Arts Education

Liberal arts are among the oldest higher education subjects in the world and date back to Ancient Greece. While it has been continuously updated throughout history, liberal arts education still maintains the same core mission of developing well-rounded individuals with general knowledge in a range of subject matter and mastery of highly transferable skills. In a modern context, liberal arts education tends to focus on creating global citizens who have the mental capacity to pursue lifelong learning and positively contribute to the community. Liberal arts education today tends to cover interdisciplinary topics including art, literature, philosophy, religion, ethics, music, speech, languages, history, psychology, sociology, political science, economics, business, astronomy, mathematics, statistics, logic, biology, and more.

Unique Features of Liberal Arts Colleges

Liberal arts colleges have several characteristics that distinguish them from other public or private universities and community colleges. First of all, liberal arts colleges are mostly focused on undergraduate education, which means there are a very low number of graduate programs offered. As a result, liberal arts colleges typically only offer four-year Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree programs. Regardless of the major chosen, all students enrolled in liberal arts colleges will be required to complete a liberal core curriculum to build broad pre-professional skills. Most liberal arts colleges have between 1,000 to 2,500 students, so they tend to provide a more intimate learning environment with personalized attention in small class sizes. At liberal arts colleges, teaching is the top priority over research or publishing.

Benefits of Attending a Liberal Arts College

Due to the smaller size of liberal arts colleges, it is impossible for students to hide in the back of a massive lecture hall because there are none. Liberal arts colleges create an ideal learning environment for peer-to-peer and student-to-faculty interaction in intimate class settings. Liberal art students are more likely to write papers, give class presentations, and collaborate with their classmates, which makes them very marketable with employers. In fact, a recent survey found that 74% of America’s CEOs prefer candidates with a liberal arts education to ensure their employees have the skills to adapt to a changing workforce. Liberal arts colleges dominate the list of the top ten institutions that produce the most graduates who eventually earn doctorates in graduate school.

Overall, liberal arts colleges are becoming increasingly popular for providing a student-focused residential learning environment with a well-rounded education that can be applied to virtually any career. Now that you know what a liberal arts college is, you can make the decision about whether this is a college setting in which you would thrive and exceed your future goals. 

For additional questions on differences between learning institutions, please see: What is the Difference Between a College and a University?