The concept of a liberal arts education is foreign to international students coming from regions like South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa because they are used to a different educational framework in their home country. However, there are over 500 liberal arts colleges in the United States alone, so it’s an important concept to become familiar with as you begin your search for universities abroad.

A liberal arts college is similar to a full-fledged four-year higher learning institute such as a university or college, however it provides far more benefits for you as an individual learner. This is because liberal arts colleges are typically smaller in size and structure their academic programs to give you a well-rounded education based on the founding principles of Ivy League colleges such as Harvard and Yale.

While the scope of a traditional four-year university is limited to building a student’s technical and professional skills such as mechanical engineering and finance, liberal arts colleges provide students with higher education skills that will make them leaders in many more industries and fields. This also makes liberal arts colleges better resourced when it comes to faculty, academia and funding because they cater to a comparatively smaller student population.

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You will likely find that a liberal arts college will provide you with the most fruitful and interesting education. This is because a liberal arts college is geared towards an academic experience that provides general knowledge in humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, arts and, oftentimes, computer sciences. Your core curriculum will require that you become comfortable in each of the subjects by taking a minimum number of credits in each subject throughout the course of your academic career. By taking courses that range from Comparative Literature to Marine Biology to Geopolitics of the Middle East, you will explore which academic subjects are your strongest and which courses you’d like to continue taking for your selected major. You will graduate being able to speak eloquently about many different subjects, which you’ll find helpful later in life as you meet new people and work in new places.

As Christopher Segur, Assistant Director of Admissions & Interim Coordinator of International Recruitment at Allegheny College (a member of Colleges That Change Lives), states:

A liberal arts education will expose students to learning across a variety of disciplines, so that upon the completion of their undergraduate studies they will be exceptionally well-rounded individuals with an enhanced capacity to think critically and creatively, communicate effectively both in writing and speaking, and perform successfully as professionals in any number of fields. These skills will make them assets to their employers and coworkers, and it will ultimately prepare them for a lifetime of success.

A vital aspect of the liberal arts education is that you are the one in charge. Liberal arts colleges are student-centered institutions that put your academic, social and professional needs first. Student-centered means that there are more resources available to you on campus so that you can make the most of your four-year college experience. Lawrencea liberal arts college in Appleton, Wisconsin in the United States, says this about its student-centered approach: “Lawrence is a place that helps young people find themselves and then make the best of what they find.”

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At most liberal arts colleges, you will be able to easily join clubs and groups that share your interests, as well as participate in collegiate sports and competitions. College resources will support your every desire.

The hugely successful and influential book, organization and website, “Colleges that Change Lives” (CTCL), explains the value of a liberal arts education, how it can provide a better connection to academia and improve your life forever. CTCL highlights the importance of selecting a college that is right for you, rather than choosing a school based on its name, reputation or prestige. CTCL are colleges that will prepare you for a successful future, and it’s important that each students chooses the college that is right for them and one that will improve their life.

CTCL also highlights how liberal arts schools build a sense of community and trust that promotes equal exchange of ideas and equality in the classroom. Students learn how to voice their opinions and focus on their leadership skills. Both inside and outside of the classroom, students are provided with tools to maximize their leadership potential. At Saint Mary’s College in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area, all undergraduates participate in discussion-based courses that shape the most intellectual and analytical thinkers. By engaging in these courses, they learn how to actively participate in their education and build the confidence needed to be a strong leader. These liberal arts colleges place your needs and development first and foremost.

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You are not just a student ID number on a liberal arts campus, you are given the opportunity to access the best education while developing your personal and professional skills for life outside of college. Saint Mary’s College, also a member of CTCL, was ranked in the top five in the US for “raising your earnings potential” by Forbes magazine. It’s important to note that graduating from a liberal arts college may boost your professional development skills alongside your academic skills, which can ensure an above-average salary upon graduation. These are important rankings to consider as you make your academic investment.

Dr. Hernan Bucheli, Vice Provost for Enrollment and Communications at Saint Mary's College stated:

We believe our rigorous academics, student service learning opportunities, both local and around the globe, and a supportive inclusive community, are among the reasons we were included in the prestigious higher education guidebook Colleges That Changes Lives. But, more than our inclusion among this distinctive roll call of colleges, our greatest pride stems from the achievements of our students, who are encouraged to be anything they want to be, except the person who they were when they first arrived at Saint Mary's College of California.

With that in mind, where do you want to be after you graduate and how will your school ensure that you are employed? A liberal arts college makes the answers to these questions a priority.  

Many liberal arts colleges have extensive networks and programs to ensure that you are connected to quality professional opportunities throughout your education as well. The University of Puget Sound in Washington State has founded an internship program that connects you with thousands of summer internship opportunities in the US. Participating in these opportunities will boost your CV.

It is extremely important to note that liberal arts colleges also prepare you for graduate school. With smaller classes and direct access to your instructors, you will have more time to engage in research with your professors. This experience is highly valued as you apply to graduate schools.

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When searching for a university, it is important to know yourself and the person you want to become after completing four rigorous years of education. If those qualities include being a critical thinker, a leader and prepared for the professional world, then you must go beyond the college rankings and consider a liberal arts college.

Here are five compelling reasons why you should apply to a liberal arts school (parents, be assured this is a wonderful decision for you, too:

  1. The community at a liberal arts college campus feels like a family. You will get to meet, interact with and bond with an inclusive group of people who share the same mindset as you. Parents will feel at ease knowing their child will be taken care of on campus.
  2. Parents can be assured that employers value liberal arts degrees. An employer is more likely to hire a candidate who is able to collaborate as part of a team and has a diverse academic background.
  3. It’s up to you whether or not you submit your ACT and SAT scores. Liberal arts colleges assess your abilities based on more than just your grades and test scores.
  4. Courses are taught and graded by professors, not their teaching assistants. Plus, you will have access to your professors and be able to engage in research with them.
  5. Liberal arts colleges often look beyond your SAT or ACT score and allow you to choose whether or not you’d like to submit those test scores.
  6. Liberal arts colleges participate in Division 1 athletics and perform well.

If you’re interested in exploring your options in terms of liberal arts colleges, SchoolApply can help you find the schools that are right for you and will also support you with your application. Start searching for liberal arts colleges now!