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What are liberal arts and science colleges in the U.S.?

Posted on May 26, 2020
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Liberal arts and science college in the U.S.

Liberal arts colleges are a unique feature of American higher education, but the model has spread to other countries around the world. At liberal arts colleges there is an emphasis on undergraduate study that includes a wide range of subjects, from science to humanities.

A liberal arts college is a four-year institution of higher education with a focus on undergraduate programs of study that lead to a bachelor’s degree. Students take courses in the humanities, arts, sciences, and social sciences. The four years are known as,

Freshman -1st year

Sophomore- 2nd year

Junior- 3rd year

Senior- 4th year

By definition, liberal arts colleges provide students an overview of the arts, humanities, mathematics, natural sciences, and social sciences. In addition, liberal arts colleges tend to give students more freedom with their studies.

How is Liberal Arts and Science college important for undergrad students in the USA?

A bachelor’s degree in liberal arts means that the courses you take will be in general areas of study such as philosophy, mathematics, literature, art history, or languages, rather than in applied or specialized fields. A liberal arts degree is not meant to prepare you for a specific job, but instead prepare you for general employment opportunities by providing you with broad skills, including the ability to:

  • think for yourself
  • communicate effectively
  • have capacity for lifelong learning
  • Study Liberal Arts

An education in liberal arts is broad and diverse, rather than narrow and specialized. You will be allowed to choose courses from a variety of disciplines, giving you a broad and useful education. In your first year, you will likely take a number of introductory courses, which will give you a wide knowledge of a variety of subjects, as well as help you choose specific areas for further study. You will be encouraged to take courses in some of the major categories within the liberal arts:

  • Humanities – English Literature, Modern Languages, History, and Philosophy
  • Social Sciences – Anthropology, Economics, Geography, Political Science, and Sociology
  • Creative Arts – Fine Art, Theatre, Speech, and Creative Writing
  • Sciences – Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics

You will also be encouraged to develop a degree of specialization in a Major discipline or in a group of thematically-linked courses.

Why liberal Arts and Science for undergrad students?

There are many reasons to study liberal arts. Studying liberal arts will provide you with the necessary skill set to succeed in the working world. These “employability skills” include reading, writing, speaking effectively, knowledge of language, critical thinking, problem solving, basic numeracy, information literacy, and the ability to continue to learn for life.

Another reason for studying liberal arts is to prepare for graduate school. Many students assume that medical schools only accept students who’ve majored in sciences, or law schools are only looking for political science majors, but in reality, these schools are looking for students who have a broad base of knowledge. Liberal arts can equip you with that base.

Benefits of a Liberal Arts Education

A liberal arts education prepares students to examine ideas from multiple points of view, solve problems, adapt, and collaborate.

1) Interdisciplinary approach to learning – A liberal arts education intentionally integrates different areas of study, exposing students to a wide range of subjects. Business majors will have classes in the arts, while pre-med majors may get a taste of sociology. This broad education prepares students to succeed in whatever career they choose

2) Relatively small size – The majority of liberal arts colleges are small, at least in in comparison to major public universities. In addition to creating a more intimate, “family” feel of camaraderie on campus, the smaller size creates multiple opportunities for personalized, individual learning experiences.

3) Get to know faculty – The professors not only get to know their students’ names, but their strengths, challenges and passions. They provide mentorship in a way faculty at larger institutions can’t always offer due to the sheer volume of students.

4) Interactive classes – The classes at liberal arts colleges provide a huge benefit. Rather than massive lecture halls with 200+ half-dozing students, students are more likely to find themselves in a small, interactive environment. A low student-faculty ratio and small class size allows for deeper connections and true learning. Student engagement is expected and questions are encouraged.

5) Exposure to cool things – Students are constantly exposed to interesting ideas, creative concepts and new experiences.

6) Teaches critical & innovative thinking skills – Through intentional experience and exposure, liberal arts colleges provide students with the all-important problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

7) Strong alumni – Liberal arts colleges tend to have very active and involved alumni. While on campus students build lifelong friendships, and they continue to remain involved as mentors, donors and school supporters throughout their careers and life.

8) Financial Aid Opportunities – Liberal arts colleges often have generous financial aid options available for students.

9) Post-Graduation Jobs – Liberal arts colleges have some of the very best job placement rates, and for good reason. Graduates leave armed with the skills that employer’s value most – critical thinking, communication and the ability to view ideas from multiple perspectives

10) Graduate Program Acceptance – Today liberal arts have higher than average numbers of graduates being accepted into top graduate schools including medical school, law school, vet school and engineering programs.

11) Prepares for Jobs Yet to be Created -. Not only do liberal arts colleges prepare students for their first job out of college, but they prepare them for future jobs. What is going to help them succeed in an ever-changing world is the ability to think, create, collaborate and adapt. These are classic liberal arts skills.

12) Social Responsibility – With an emphasis on civic responsibility and opportunities for community engagement, liberal arts students spend more volunteer hours than those at public universities.

Some of the liberal arts and Science colleges in the U.S.

  • Williams College
  • Amherst College
  • Swarthmore College
  • Wellesley College
  • Pomona College
  • Bowdoin College
  • Carleton College
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Middle burry college
  • Washington and Lee University
  • Colby College
  • Haverford College
  • Smith College
  • Grinnell College
  • Hamilton College
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • Barnard College
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