Liberal Arts Colleges

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Why the Name of a College Really Doesn’t Matter

King's College

King’s College

Last week I was having breakfast with a friend of mine and the conversation rolled around to his two daughters, one of whom is a corporate mergers attorney and the other a nurse practitioner. Both of them are doing incredibly well in their chosen fields and are happy in their lives.

And yet, neither of them attended a highly ranked, brand-name college as undergraduates. Instead, they both went to small, liberal arts colleges where they stood out as academically talented students, took advantage of research opportunities and also benefitted from the mentorship of faculty.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve talked about the value of liberal arts colleges. Here’s two of the posts in case you missed them:

Why You Should be Considering Liberal Arts Colleges

The Benefits of Applying to Liberal Arts Colleges

And since the media and too many parents obsess over brand name colleges as the only path to success in life, I knew I had to share this story.

Both daughters chose small, liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania – Messiah College and King’s College – and both received outstanding scholarships, one a full-ride, due to their academic strengths. With top grades and strong SAT scores, applicants to schools like this are highly coveted and will receive significant scholarships which can often cut a price-tag in half.

Because of their hard work and willingness to seek out opportunities, both daughters were recognized by professors and invited to participate in research. They were able to work closely with their professors and one of them was able to work through organic chemistry in her first semester because her professor was willing to spend the time with her until it clicked. Both were mentored by professors throughout their four years and were introduced to colleagues at other schools which helped lay the framework for summer research opportunities and graduate school – one to Yale and the other to law school at Boston University.

So while both of them ended up at highly ranked, brand name colleges, they did it when it mattered most – their terminal degree that helped place them in their professional field.

I have no doubt that if either or both of them started out at Boston University or Yale, their lives would have been drastically different. At these two schools, they wouldn’t have stood out among the pack of overachieving students who come from around the world. They wouldn’t have been mentored as closely and the research opportunities would not have been as plentiful. And they most definitely would not have saved the money they did.

But yet, they’re incredibly successful. They’re happy. They’re respected by their peers and doing challenging and rewarding work in their fields.

And it all started at two small liberal arts colleges who most people don’t even know exist. I only wish that more students and families would be as open-minded in their college search as my friend and his daughters were.

Regardless of where you go to college, it’s all about how you use the experience to launch you into your life. If you can save money, create impactful experiences by working closely with your professors and find success in your life, does the name of the school you attend really matter?

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.

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Why You Should Be Considering Liberal Arts Colleges

College admissions

Dickinson College

Several weeks ago I wrote a piece on the benefits of liberal arts colleges where I talked about a few aspects that help these colleges stand out as great places for undergraduate students. If you missed it, here it is:

The Benefits of Applying to Liberal Arts Colleges

Over the past couple weeks I have visited several colleges in Pennsylvania that fit this model: small populations, no graduate students and a focus on combining the liberal arts with pre-professional studies. In other words, these colleges are trying to teach students how to think about what they are learning from multiple perspectives. They are preparing them for a rapidly changing world where life is more of a zig-zag than it is a straight line.

Today, I want to share some examples of what students at these colleges are doing that I feel demonstrates the value of what these colleges have to offer.

At Muhlenberg College I had the pleasure of hearing from a couple students who were really doing some outstanding things in preparation for their future careers. A finance and economics double major had interned at the United Nations through the advice and mentorship of one of his professors from the international studies department and will be interning at Price Waterhouse Cooper’s this coming summer. Another student who chose Muhlenberg over Brandeis University and Boston College due to the focus on undergraduate students and more accessible faculty had interned at Covidien after his first year when most of the other interns were juniors in college.

At Franklin & Marshall College I met a student who was double majoring in economics and international studies. After her first year, she was able to work on a research project where she was analyzing economic development in emerging regions in other countries. She’s planning on studying abroad next year to get more involved in this research.

At Dickinson College art history majors are required to curate their own shows. It’s a standard they are held to so that they can demonstrate everything they’ve learned. As a result, Sotheby’s recruits on campus.

At Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, students are being encouraged to begin research in their first year with nearly 30 students in the biology department having been published in the last decade. One student I met, a rising senior pre-med major, had already completed three separate research projects related to her interests in cognitive development and was going to be spending her summer on campus in a research lab for a fourth time.

While these are just a few examples of what students are doing, I feel they represent some of the tremendous benefits at liberal arts colleges. There’s been a long-standing criticism of liberal arts colleges saying they are too focused on languages, the “soft sciences” and the arts – areas which are perceived as less desirable for employment than the traditional areas of business, engineering, nursing and accounting. Personally, I think the criticism is uninformed nonsense. The students I met at these colleges were working hard, they were having life-changing experiences, they were learning how to attack problems from multiple perspectives to produce outcomes that positively affect different people and, most importantly, they were growing and developing as learners and as people.

I’m not sure what’s not to like about that.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.

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The Benefits Of Applying To Liberal Arts Colleges

Ursinus College

Ursinus College

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.

Smaller Classrooms

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.

Critical Thinking

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.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.

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