Liberal arts colleges challenge students to think broadly, to explore their interests and to take academic risks. No matter what profession you see yourself working in—from education to engineering—you’ll need to be able to think critically and communicate clearly. Here are the top colleges with the best liberal arts degrees.
1. Williams College
All Williams College, small class sizes are the norm. With a student to faculty ratio of 7:1, you can be sure that your professors will know you by name. There are no required courses that students must take, just guidelines to ensure breadth and depth. And students can choose experiential education classes, off-campus study, study abroad, or one of the immersive Special Academic Programs.
2. Pomona College
At Pomona College, students encounter a curriculum rooted in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences—in the context of a close knit residential community. The school has a strong emphasis on undergraduate research, and most classes are taught as seminars—with an average class size of 15. Students also have rich opportunities to study across disciplines.
3. Harvey Mudd College
Harvey Mudd College goes to great lengths to merge the greatest strengths of the arts and the sciences. Each of Mudd’s nine engineering, science, and mathematics-based majors is firmly grounded in a core curriculum which embraces the humanities and social sciences. Students can blend a passion for physics with their love for music or literature—resulting in graduates who are well-rounded and ready to lead.
4. Bowdoin College
At the heart of the Bowdoin College experience lie formative relationships—between students of different backgrounds and dedicated, world-class faculty. Bowdoin College students have freedom to construct an educational plan within breadth and distribution requirements. And they engage with one other in the classroom as well as in state-of-the-art laboratories, field stations, museums, libraries, theaters, art and dance studios, and recital hall.
5. Claremont McKenna College
If your interests lie in the world of business and government, Claremont McKenna College’s unique curriculum will be of interest to you. CMC students experience the best of the small residential college atmosphere—with a student to faculty ratio of 9:1. And the College’s real-world emphasis means that nearly 90% of students take part in internships that prepare them for life after college.
6. Amherst College
A definitive feature of the Amherst College liberal arts experience is their open curriculum. With few required courses outside the students’ chosen major, students encounter an exceptional amount of freedom to experiment with other academic interests. Each student works closely with an academic advisor to construct a program of study that allows them to explore intellectual and creative interests, preparing them for a life of active learning.
7. Swarthmore College
At Swarthmore College, intellectually passionate students from diverse backgrounds come together to collaborate rather than compete. Swarthmore’s mission centers around a rigorous and broad education for the common good—to that end they offer more than 600 undergraduate courses and research opportunities. And a student to faculty ratio of 8:1 means that students have close relationships with their professors.
8. Middlebury College
At Middlebury College, a liberal arts education is meant to be transformative. Middlebury’s curriculum provides both depth through a chosen major and breadth through a set of distribution requirements. And Middlebury has created the Education in Action program to ensure that each undergraduate has at least one experiential opportunity—these include internships, community service opportunities, and self-directed projects.
9. Davidson College
Davidson College’s world-class faculty mentor students through a curriculum which provides in-depth study in one area (a chosen major) as well as breadth of experience across many fields and disciplines. And Davidson is a leader in undergraduate research and creative work. As a student, you’ll engage in extensive exploration of original work through the academic year and during the summer.
10. Colgate University
At Colgate University, faculty-student interaction is the norm—both in and outside the classroom. And with a focus on interdisciplinary knowledge, the core curriculum provides links between majors, providing a shared intellectual foundation for the entire school. To foster breadth of learning, students take six courses from disciplines which range from the humanities to the natural sciences.
11. Wesleyan University
With a faculty of over 400 teacher-scholars, Wesleyan maintains a student to faculty ratio of 8:1. For students, this means small class sizes and the ability to build relationships with professors. Wesleyan offers 45 majors, 17 minors, and 12 certificates—and students, with the guidance of academic advisors, develop their own unique programs of study, which reflect their interests.
12. Carleton College
Carleton College has earned national acclaim for their innovative programs, which are undeniably rigorous, but in a highly supportive environment. Students are encouraged to collaborate, rather than compete—and with an average class size of 18, close connections between students and faculty are the norm.
13. Wellesley College
At Wellesley College, students enjoy state-of-the-art labs, studios, instructional technology, athletic facilities, and a nationally-known museum. And the school offers both breadth and depth in its academic programs—including interdisciplinary majors—as well as research opportunities and international study. There are also special programs like the Writing Program or the Sustainability Program.
14. Bucknell University
Though Bucknell’s undergraduate curriculum is centered around their liberal arts core, the University is divided into three colleges: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering and the College of Management. For their B.S. or B.A. degrees, students can choose from more than 50 majors including professional programs in education, music, engineering, and management.
15. Lafayette College
With over 50 majors to choose from, students at Lafayette College encounter an interdisciplinary curriculum that transcends academic boundaries and gives students the breadth and freedom to take academic risks. Academic opportunities include working closely with faculty through independent studies, honors theses, paid research assistant positions, or even co-authoring a paper.
16. Smith College
A Smith College education is both highly rigorous as well as experimental. As a student, you’ll be challenged to delve deeply into an area of study, taking advantage of opportunities for research and individual scholarship. But you’ll also be pushed to take risks and branch out into new areas. And with a 9:1 student to faculty ratio, you’ll never just be a face in the crowd.
17. College of the Holy Cross
At College of the Holy Cross, academic exploration is fueled by a sense of intellectual adventure. And in the spirit of the Jesuit tradition, the liberal arts at Holy Cross embrace the whole person: intellectual, spiritual, and personal. Students engage in dialogue with each other and faculty in small classes which range from the arts and sciences to pre-professional programs in Education, Law, Business, Health Professions, or Engineering.
18. University of Richmond
The University of Richmond attracts academically and intellectually ambitious students with a thirst for knowledge. The school is centered around a liberal arts core integrated with programs from their Schools of Business, Leadership Studies, Law, and Professional and Continuing Studies. Class sizes are small—and there’s guaranteed funding for summer research or internship for every undergraduate student.
19. Skidmore College
At the heart of a Skidmore College education is the belief that creative thought matters. With an interdisciplinary approach to learning, Skidmore offers 43 majors in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. The College also offers programs in career-specific fields such as business, education, exercise science, and social work. And with a rare student to faculty ratio of 8:1, students enjoy close relationships with their professors.
20. St. Olaf College
The goals of St. Olaf’s liberal arts curriculum are to sharpen minds in an engaged learning environment, to create a global perspective, and to nurture the faith of students. There are 58 areas of study—including, as an homage to the College’s founders, Nordic Studies and Norwegian—as well as a variety of interdisciplinary majors and concentrations.