Considering a liberal arts college? Here’s a breakdown of just what it means to attend this type of institution.
What Does “Liberal Arts” Mean?
Through the centuries, there have been many definitions of what “liberal arts” involves. In Ancient Greece, liberal arts included public debate and serving on juries. In medieval times, these subjects included arithmetic, geometry, and music. Today, liberal arts education typically refers to the study of:
Liberal Arts Degree Meaning
The idea behind liberal arts is to approach learning with the emphasis of having broad knowledge of the wider world, to know a little bit of everything rather than to be focused on one trade or specialty. The focus is on the breadth of study.
When it comes to curriculum in colleges, typically the liberal arts are divided into three areas:
Liberal Arts Majors
Some examples of liberal arts majors include:
Liberal Arts Careers
One of the benefits of a liberal arts education is its fluidity when it comes to careers. Rather than being trained for one specific trade, a liberal arts education makes it possible for someone majoring in English to enter a number of careers in this field—it’s not just the ability to speak or read English.
Some examples include:
- Lawyer (with further schooling)
- Library science and information science
Students can explore different fields and careers within their majors through internships and direction from academic advisers.
Top 25 Liberal Arts Colleges
This is a look at the top 25 liberal arts colleges based on Niche’s Best Overall ranking.
Liberal Arts Rank
Best Overall ranking
|1||Bowdoin College||Brunswick||ME||1,831||No. 13|
|2||Pomona College||Claremont||CA||1,589||No. 21|
|3||Williams College||Williamstown||MA||2,031||No. 22|
|4||Carleton College||Northfield||MN||2,037||No. 25|
|5||Wesleyan University||Middletown||CT||2,932||No. 29|
|6||Amherst College||Amherst||MA||1,817||No. 34|
|7||Middlebury College||Middlebury||VT||2,493||No. 37|
|8||Washington & Lee University||Lexington||VA||1,835||No. 38|
|9||Wellesley College||Wellesley||MA||2,368||No. 40|
|10||Grinnell College||Grinnell||IA||1,615||No. 44|
|11||Bucknell University||Lewisburg||PA||3,515||No. 46|
|12||Barnard College||New York City||NY||2,466||No. 47|
|13||Swarthmore College||Swarthmore||PA||1,537||No. 49|
|14||Vassar College||Poughkeepsie||NY||2,370||No. 50|
|15||Colgate University||Hamilton||NY||2,850||No. 51|
|16||Hamilton College||Clinton||NY||1,868||No. 52|
|17||Davidson College||Davidson||NC||1,790||No. 53|
|18||Smith College||Northampton||MA||2,643||No. 54|
|19||Colorado College||Colorado Springs||CO||1,983||No. 59|
|20||University of Richmond||Richmond||VA||3,106||No. 60|
|21||Bates College||Lewiston||ME||1,753||No. 63|
|22||Colby College||Waterville||ME||1,863||No. 65|
|23||Macalester College||Saint Paul||MN||2,035||No. 67|
|24||Whitman College||Walla Walla||WA||1,509||No. 70|
|25||Kenyon College||Gambier||OH||1,658||No. 73|
The Bottom Line
Typically, liberal arts colleges are four-year colleges where students can get an undergraduate degree in a field with a broad range of study. Some graduate degrees are occasionally offered, but the schools are generally for undergraduate study.