Vassar College Thompson Memorial library

With over 1,500 colleges and universities in the United States, there are roughly 200 small to mid-sized liberal arts colleges. Amongst those includes Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore, Wellesley, Emory, Vassar, just to name a few.[1] While you may or may not have heard of these colleges during your college information session at your high school, this article is going to explain to you why you should consider adding them to your Common Application when the cycle opens again in August.

As you first dive into the college application process, one of the first steps is to consolidate your list of colleges on your application. Oftentimes, big universities with renowned research centers and promising graduate programs top the list of many college applicants, making it quite easy to overlook the actual benefits of attending big universities at the undergraduate level. While it is true that many undergraduate students do get to conduct research in labs, oftentimes what they are able to do is limited to one part of the scientific method. In the classroom, lectures are typically conducted in giant auditoriums where one professor attempts to lecture over 500 students. As the world transitions into an era dominated by scientific and technological innovation, it may seem obvious to attend institutions renowned for their scientific research; but here are a few reasons why a liberal arts education can actually be more beneficial at the undergraduate level

1. High faculty to student ratio

What does this mean? This means that rather than being amongst a sea of 500 students in a lecture hall, liberal arts colleges are smaller, meaning classroom sizes are smaller and students are better supported by faculty members. Benefits of this is a more personalized education; rather than the temptation of skipping lectures due to the impersonal education that Universities offer, Professors know their students by name. This allows for more effective office hours visitation and a good chance of actually developing a relation with your Professors; leading to strong Letters of Recommendation, life advice, and potential references for job opportunities. And for those of you thinking about graduate/medical/law school, this also means better support for the application process by the career development office at your school.

2. Research Opportunities

While research in colleges are different from universities with graduate and PhD students, research opportunities at liberal arts colleges oftentimes allow for you to be the main researcher (with the advisory of Professors); from developing your question to carrying out the experimentation, data analysis and presentation of your work. This allows a more personalized experience of the scientific method, and what it means to be an actual scientist. In addition, research laboratories at liberal arts colleges are compatible to those you find at big universities.

3. Open Curriculums (Vassar, Amherst, Grinnell, Hamilton, Smith, Wesleyan)

In colleges, like Vassar College, where they opt for an open curriculum, the benefits are countless, but above all, it allows for you to take charge of your own education. Coming from a student studying at Vassar, given the freedom of choosing my own schedule, I have taken courses from over 15 different disciplines, outside of my major; each enriching the way I perceive that world critically. An open curriculum allows for a well-rounded education and the development of critical thinking; a skill that is increasing sought out for in the job market and is essential for any STEM field.

4. Campus Community and Beyond

Because liberal arts colleges tend to be smaller in size, the sense of community is much stronger. This means stronger relationships and friendships so that when you sit on graduation hill, four years later, you won’t find yourself knowing less than 5 percent of your graduating class. The sense of community and identity is tightly knit at smaller colleges; this also means a stronger alumni network and networking opportunities.

Even for pre-med students, a liberal arts education provides for you a strong foundation to tackle and adapt to any challenge that faces our rapidly changing world. A liberal arts education allows for you to be life-time learner, even after you leave the classroom. It allows for you to build friendships that will last a lifetime, and it allows for you to take charge of your own education. So, when the Common Application opens on August 1st, take some consideration to adding a few liberal arts colleges to your list.