Does anyone really know what they want to do with the rest of their life at age 18? Perhaps, but the problem with technical undergraduate degrees is that if you end up changing your mind about a career choice, as many college graduates do, it’s difficult to change career paths easily.
With the broad range of skills that students gain at Liberal Arts Colleges, though, flexibility and success in multiple career fields is abundant. We’ve created a guidebook about the advantages of a Liberal Arts education, both during and after your time at the school, including participating in active learning and minimizing student debt.
|Part I: Active Learning at Liberal Arts Colleges
|Part II: The Value of a Liberal Arts Education
|Ch. 1- What Is Active Learning?
|Ch. 7- Diversity of Opinions and Experiences
|Ch. 2- Liberal Arts Colleges Are Built to Engage Their Students
|Ch. 8- Liberal Arts Colleges Spend More Money on Students
|Ch. 3- Valuable Distribution Requirements
|Ch. 9- Putting the Skills to Work
|Ch.4- Higher Quality of Teaching
|Ch. 10- Minimizing Student Debt
|Ch. 5- Student-Faculty Interaction
|Ch. 11- Maximizing Alumni Satisfaction
|Ch. 6- Cooperation among Students
Part I: Active Learning at Liberal Arts Colleges
With thousands of four-year colleges and universities to choose from in the United States, it can be difficult to narrow down the best options for you. Despite a lot of the discourse about higher education we hear today, degrees Liberal Arts Colleges actually offer something that technical undergraduate degrees don’t. Find out what sets them apart below.
Active learning is meant to engage students in a way that common lecture-style teaching does not. Students participate actively in their learning, through discussion, practice, review, or application. They are able to take away more from the topic, and are able to apply the skills they’ve learned to other areas, academic and otherwise.
- What is active learning and why is it so important?
- Active learning fosters the kinds of skills that employers are looking for, and Liberal Arts Colleges are the best places to find that
- Lecturing isn’t the best way for students to learn, even in science and math fields. Active learning, prevalent at Liberal Arts institutions, facilitates more student success
A Liberal Arts education is unique in that it is built to engage the whole student. Rather than just focusing on building specific technical skills, Liberal Arts Colleges successfully foster individual and intellectual development. A well-rounded education will actually benefit the student in the long run, both in and out of the workplace.
- A liberal arts education mirrors the complexity of the real world. Let’s “move past the false dichotomy that characterizes the current debate over the liberal arts and applied disciplines.”
- Debunking myths about a “useless” liberal arts degree
- At a Liberal Arts College, you will learn practical skills, but you actually get much more than that
The wide range of classes that students take at Liberal Arts Colleges facilitate creative ways of thinking. As opposed to a math major at a technical university who would take mostly math courses, that same student at a Liberal Arts school would also develop critical thinking, writing, reading, and analysis skills to round out their education. This is extremely important because it’s rare for someone to stay on one career path their whole life, and employers look for flexibility and a multitude skills.
- Well rounded employees are in high demand. “tech CEOs across the country agree that liberal arts training—with its emphasis on creativity and critical thinking—is vital to the success of their business.”
- The job market is constantly changing, and Liberal Arts Colleges offer the breadth of training that will help you be ready
At Liberal Arts Colleges, professors are more focused on actually teaching their students, rather than on their own research. In addition, there aren’t graduate students teaching in place of professors at Liberal Arts schools, because these colleges often don’t have graduate programs. With professors motivated by their love of the subject and dedication to teaching, the quality of the education increases monumentally.
- When judging the quality of teaching, it’s important to take into account learning-driven methods that professors use, and why these are better than information-driven methods (that might be found in lecture halls at large universities).
- See our rankings of which schools have the most accessible and approachable professors: it makes a difference.
Average class sizes are typically much smaller at Liberal Arts schools than larger undergraduate universities, allowing for a more personalized approach to education. The amount of time that professors can spend developing close relationships with their students not only improves the students’ engagement with the subject matter, but also expands their opportunities for learning outside the classroom. Not to mention the networking possibilities when you get to know professors who hold the highest degree in their field.
- More opportunities, more flexibility, and individualized attention: why small class sizes in college are ideal
- A big benefit? Intro classes at Liberal Arts Colleges are usually 30 or so students instead of 300
- In small classes, professors can help students develop communication skills and creativity, rather than just spewing factual knowledge
Discussion-based classes at Liberal Arts Colleges encourage cooperation and collaboration between the students. In addition, these schools offer a wide range of classes that can improve collaborative creativity, debate skills, and the ability to successfully communicate ideas.
- Here are just a few of the benefits of interacting with other students in discussion-based classes
- Even in lectures, it’s important to break up and discuss with others (bringing us back to active learning!)
- Employers are looking for collaborative skills in college grads, and Liberal Arts Colleges will prepare you for cooperation in the workplace
- Here’s our list of the Liberal Arts Colleges with the most collaborative (rather than competitive) academic environments
Part II: The Value of a Liberal Arts Education
In part one, we saw the specific aspects of a Liberal Arts education that sets it apart from other technical undergraduate degrees. The practical advantages that translate into success after college are abundant, and below we detail a few of them. Active learning will continue to offer benefits long after you graduate.
At a Liberal Arts College, you’re able to encounter students from a wide range of geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Interacting with these students in both academic and non-academic settings will help to broaden your worldview and expand your learning opportunities.
- Top Liberal Arts schools have students from all over the world: Amherst’s class of 2017 represents over 40 states and 23 foreign countries
“Instruction per student” is higher at Liberal Arts Colleges than at research universities, showing that these Liberal Arts schools focus on their students, rather than putting money towards research outside of the college.
- Research universities spend a lot of their time and energy on research and graduate students. Whereas liberal arts colleges are focused on teaching their undergraduate students.
- Academic departments at large universities often prioritize research
Employers look for the kinds of skills that Liberal Arts Colleges instill in their students. Working successfully in teams, creative problem solving, and efficient prioritizing are all results of an education that promotes active learning.
- The employers have spoken, and here’s what they’re looking for
- Liberal arts grads have better writing and communication skills than their counterparts receiving specialized training (such as engineering or computer science)
- Even tech companies value Liberal Arts students for their ability to view problems from various perspectives
Liberal Arts Colleges have a higher return on investment than other four year universities, and this reflects the value of the well-rounded education that LAC students receive.
- Debunking myths about impossibly expensive Liberal Arts Colleges
- Top Liberal Arts schools have impressively high 4 year graduation rates, which makes them less expensive in the long run, as students accrue less debt than they would spending up to 6 years at a technical undergrad school
- A recent study shows that an undergraduate degree from a Liberal Arts College pays off in the long run – literally
We can present the facts and figures to you all day, but it’s probably most effective to hear the alumni speak for themselves. Despite high sticker prices and myths about useless degrees, Liberal Arts Colleges often come out on top when looking at alumni satisfaction.
- “Students graduate from [Liberal Arts Colleges] feeling positive about their educational experience, the attention from faculty and staff, and their overall development as adults.”
- Alumni from Liberal Arts schools describe the post-grad benefits of their education
- Liberal Arts alumni feel prepared for the challenges of life after college
Have thoughts or comments about the Liberal Arts College experience or the advantages of active learning?
Let us know what you think about this guidebook in the comments below!