Are you hoping to get into a liberal arts college, but aren’t sure what is required? The following are general expectations of students applying to liberal arts colleges:
Be Well-Rounded Yet Diverse
Liberal arts colleges are more concerned about you as a world-citizen than state colleges seem to be, which means you need to show yourself to be well-rounded. They are usually small colleges with intimate college communities, and they pride themselves on producing graduates who are intent upon making a positive contribution to the world at large. You need to present yourself as an individual who likes to contribute, works well with others and has ambition.
Participate in a sport (even if it’s through a recreational team,) show evidence of interest in literature or communications, list off volunteer activities, and showcase some sort of science or math interest along with the universally desirable academic excellence.
If you interview with a liberal arts college representative, you need to avoid sounding too slanted towards one area. Talk about all of these categories so the representative sees you as a valuable contribution to the campus community.
And, if you represent a “diverse” student, you’ll get more attention. Diversity is much more than race, it is interests, experiences, geography and more. In fact, some of the most selective schools are looking for “geographically exotic” students. This means East Coast schools want students from the South and the West Coast and the opposite is true.
Excel in the Arts
Liberal arts colleges are labeled as such because they focus on humanities—meaning communication, art, literature, social sciences and philosophy. This means you will want to highlight any involvement in charitable work, debate, speech, theater, newspaper, yearbook, student government or the like.
Keep Up Your Grades
Liberal arts colleges value academic excellence. You’ll want to make sure you only take classes you can excel in, and then knock those classes out of the park. It’s better to take lower level classes and get As than to take AP (Advanced Placement) classes and get Cs.
The smaller, less prestigious colleges may be willing to let you in even if you have a low GPA if you meet the needs of the college community in a special way. For example, if the private college needs women basketball players or violinists, and you are a good basketball player or are first chair violin in your orchestra, they might overlook your grades or college entrance exam scores.
Get Involved in the Community
Liberal arts colleges look for a charitable, altruistic attitude. This means you’ll want to pack your junior and senior years of high school with volunteer work. Look for opportunities with organizations like a local tutoring service for less-fortunate students, a Big Brother/Big Sister program or the Humane Society.
Take the Writing Portion of the ACT or Study Up for the Verbal Portion of the SAT
Liberal arts colleges take college entrance exams very seriously. Check to see which exam the colleges of your choice accept, and be sure to prepare for those tests. If you don’t score in the top 50% your first time taking the SAT or ACT, you’ll want to study and take the test again. Only submit your very best scores.
To find out what top-notch liberal arts colleges are looking for (in SAT or ACT scores), you can check out average exam scores and entrance expectations here on this comparison chart that compares schools like Wellesley and Haverford.