Is a Liberal Arts College education right for you?

By Jonathan Charles Ault

(Admissions Consultant at The Edge Learning Center)

Applicants to universities, especially in the USA, may sometimes encounter the term “Liberal Arts College” in reference to certain schools. In this blog, we’ll explore what a Liberal Arts College (LAC) is, how the education at these schools differs from those at other universities, the pros and cons of LACs, and whether an LAC might be good for you or your child.

What is a Liberal Arts College? 

The main difference between LACs and other undergraduate institutions is that LACs take a broader approach to education. All students are expected to put time, effort, and focus into studying arts, sciences, humanities, and social sciences.

LACs prize problem-solving, critical thinking, communication skills (both spoken and written), and ability to collaborate with others. They are typically smaller (less than 5,000 students), with classrooms focused on student-teacher interaction, and are focused on undergraduates rather than graduate students.

Some of the top Liberal Arts Colleges in the USA include Bowdoin College, Harvey Mudd College, Washington & Lee University, and Amherst College.

What are the advantages of a Liberal Arts College education?

As stated above, students will take a much broader range of courses and will become familiar with a wider variety of subjects. Ideally, they will also graduate with high levels of critical thinking, writing, communication, and problem-solving skills.

One of the greatest advantages of an LAC is the small class sizes. In many LACs, students take classes containing less than 20 students, and often less than 10. This allows for more interaction between students and teachers and classes that are more discussion- than lecture-based. By contrast, larger universities often have classes which contain 100 students or even more.

Another effect of this approach is that LAC students develop closer relationships with their professors. At many larger universities, professors are primarily focused on research within their fields; teaching is very much a secondary concern, with many if not most courses taught by Teaching Assistants (often graduate students). At LACs, professors are expected to teach classes directly and to mentor and guide their undergraduate students.

What are the disadvantages of a Liberal Arts College education?

Since the focus of LACs is on teaching rather than research, their research facilities are much less extensive than at larger universities. Major breakthroughs in human knowledge are typically achieved, then, at the larger universities, where more time, effort, and money are put into research than into teaching undergraduates.

Furthermore, because an LAC education is focused on a diverse range of knowledge and skills, graduating students are less specialized. This can sometimes present an obstacle to employment after graduation, especially for fields in which employers are seeking a high level of specialization and focus on a particular area.

Is a Liberal Arts College education right for you? 

For students who enjoy many different subjects and do not want to limit themselves – or are still exploring possibilities – an LAC can provide a great opportunity to explore a wide variety of subjects rather than slotting a student into a highly focused study of a single major from the beginning of their undergraduate education.

LACs are also great for students who enjoy a classroom environment that focuses on discussion, debate, critical thinking, and exploration, rather than merely absorbing lectures and taking notes. Students who enjoy discussing and learning directly from professors will have more opportunities to do so at LACs than at other school types.

With that said, if you or your child already has a very clear idea of what studies and career they hope to pursue, an LAC may not the best choice. LACs are particularly beneficial for those planning to major in Social Studies, Language, Art, or even Business. Engineering, Mathematics, or Science students may be better served by the larger universities with more research facilities and a more focused program of study.

If you are still uncertain whether a Liberal Arts College education is right for you/your child, simply give us a ring or contact us today to book an initial meeting

About The Edge

Established in 2008, The Edge Learning Center has grown into a premier one-stop provider of educational services for Grade 7 through Grade 12, targeting students who intend to pursue overseas education. Our three departments – Academic Tutoring, Test Preparation, and Admissions Consulting – offer a broad range of educational services spanning from SAT and IB Test Prep to colleges and boarding schools application counseling. The Edge Learning Center operates in multiple regions including Hong Kong, China, and Vietnam.