Whenever I start working with a new student, I have them complete an assessment for me. I designed the assessment based on a decade plus of working with students as both an admission counselor and an academic adviser and one section focuses on college attributes: size, location, cost, campus atmosphere, etc. As we break down their answers, the conversation inevitably arrives at the differences between research universities and liberal arts colleges. As I advise my students, here are some of the benefits of liberal arts colleges that any applicant should consider.
Since most liberal arts colleges enroll less than 3,000 students, the resulting class sizes are smaller than what you find at larger, public universities. Instead of passively sitting in a lecture hall with 300 students, you will find yourself in a class with 15-20 students. The classes are more active and revolve around discussion and debate. Professors will know your name and will be more vested in your learning and growth.
Focus On Teaching
Most liberal arts colleges have little to no graduate school population. The key here is that opportunities for research and special projects are therefore readily available for undergraduates. It also means that courses are taught by the professors, not graduate teaching assistants and that you have more access to them to talk about what you are learning and what you want out of your college experience.
A long standing myth is that liberal arts colleges, due to their published cost, are more expensive to attend than public universities. However, liberal arts colleges can cost the same as public colleges due to their ability to award significant merit-based or need-based scholarships. Couple this with the fact that liberal arts colleges do a much better job graduating their students in four years than public universities do, and you could realize significant cost savings.
As much as you may want to attend a public university for a specific pre-professional major (though many liberal arts colleges like Ursinus College do offer pre-professional majors), liberal arts colleges are focused on teaching students to think critically, to analyze problems and to develop solutions to those problems. Show me an employer who doesn’t value that in a candidate.
Networking & Relationships
Because the environment is smaller, the relationships which are formed with other students, professors and staff are often stronger, more intensive and long-lasting. Whether it’s being mentored by a professor or forging relationships with classmates that may provide long-term professional opportunities, liberal arts colleges help you develop what you know as much as they help you grow through who you know.
While a liberal arts college may not be for everyone, there are some key benefits to be had. At the end of the day, you have to spend the time to understand what it is you want out of your college experience so that you can make the best decisions for yourself.
If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.