So, you’ve made the choice to pursue higher education and your bachelor’s degree. The next, and even more important, decision is that of where to do it. In the US, you’ll see that in addition to the university education that most of us are familiar with, you could also attend the liberal arts college instead, a highly popular option for many. But what exactly is a liberal arts college, how is it more beneficial than going to a college, and who should apply? Let’s take a closer look.
What is the difference between universities and liberal arts colleges?
The first noticeable differences are those of size and scope: liberal arts colleges tend to be smaller, privately-run institutions, and focused entirely on undergraduate education. A university, in comparison, is usually much larger, with further levels of degrees (beyond the bachelor’s), such as masters and doctoral offered.
These differences also affect the teaching structure. At a university, professors will teach both postgraduates and undergraduates. While lectures will be taught by professors, group discussion and lab work will be supervised by teaching assistants or graduate students. Due to the liberal arts colleges' prioritization of the bachelor degree, however, every undergraduate class will be taught and supervised by the professors in liberal arts colleges who make up the teaching staff of the college, rather than teaching assistants or graduate students.
When it comes to the programs available, liberal arts colleges offer more generalized majors consisting of interdisciplinary study, rather than skills specific to a particular profession or trade. Hence, while liberal arts colleges provide a broad program of arts, humanities and scientific studies, universities teach a wide range of academic and professional programs with narrower focus, looking to set their students on specific career paths.
Finally, when it comes to cost, liberal arts colleges are considered the more expensive option, since they are privately run and have a more intimate and dedicated teaching approach to their students. Certainly this is not true in every instance, especially when comparing between in-state and out-of-state tuition, or public vs private universities, together with the different financial aid on offer between all of the above.
What are the benefits of going to liberal arts college rather than universities?
The biggest benefit is derived from their size. A liberal arts college represent a smaller, more cohesive and intimate learning environment, where students tend to receive greater access to professors, more personalized feedback, and a wider scope for personal growth. Whereas class sizes might be say forty students at a public university, a liberal arts college will have fewer than half of that.
It’s not just the class sizes that are smaller either: a typical liberal arts college might have four hundred to five hundred in a year group, when a public university could see as many as eighteen hundred in comparison. On a community level, and in terms of your everyday student experience, you could see far closer bonds being made with your fellow peers at liberal arts college, arguably making the alumni experience a far stronger network.
The curriculum on offer has its advantages too. Students can find that being exposed to a broader spectrum of subjects will be a far more academically enriching experience rather than specializing in one specific area, as it provides a more rounded education with its diverse selection of topics.
With the emphasis on undergraduate studies, you will also find greater resources in pursuing your bachelor’s degree - especially when taking into account the fact that the entirety of your program will be taught by a professor, rather than teaching assistants or graduate students.
What type of applicants should be applying for liberal arts?
As you can see, liberal arts college is appealing to prospective undergraduates for a number of reasons. You should apply for liberal arts college if:
You are looking for a more personalized approach to your undergraduate degree, and where you feel like getting the most relevant feedback will be of particular help in your academic development.
You are undecided about the career path you want to seek after your bachelor’s. The courses taught at liberal arts college will give you an interdisciplinary study-program that will not only help you decide where you might want to specialize later, but also covers a wider range of career options, giving you the flexibility to pursue the path that you want, when you’re sure about it.
You flourish in a smaller, more intimate learning environment, and are worried about getting “lost in the crowd” of a bigger public university setting. Many find their confidence and character thrives more at a liberal arts college because of this, resulting in greater personal development than they might have achieved at university.