Guide to Indian Liberal Arts Schools • Undergraduate

Pursuing Liberal Arts in the US: Your Ultimate Guide

POSTED ON 06/07/2023 BY The Red Pen

College student at study desk with a bunch of books.

The US is known for its liberal arts colleges. It is a degree programme that not only explores non-vocational subjects such as literature, social sciences, philosophy an music, but also allows students to study natural sciences, math and economics. It is characterised by intellectual exploration, critical thinking, and interdisciplinary learning and equips students with a diverse skill set that are valuable not only in their careers but also in their roles as informed and engaged citizens. 

Why choose a US liberal arts college? Here are 8 convincing benefits

US Liberal arts colleges encourage students to examine ideas from multiple points of view, solve problems, adapt, and collaborate. Here are eight benefits to help you decide whether you should apply to a liberal arts college: 

1) Interdisciplinary learning

US liberal arts colleges let you integrate studies that need not be related to your major. As a biology major, you can study music or literature. This combination stimulates you intellectually and lets you view things from multiple perspectives. “I often connect different academic fields. Liberal arts allows me to do that. Schrödinger’s cat from physics and bilingual literature from an upper division Spanish course, along with subjects like political theory and theatre, inspired my first novel,” says April Xu, Pomona College, Class of ‘17. 

2) Close-knit communities

US liberal arts colleges are residential institutions distinguished by their small campuses and emphasis on community. Most of them are set in either suburban or rural areas. “I knew everything about everyone in college–who they were dating, what they ate for breakfast, what jobs they were doing. That was the best part about those tight-knit communities. So many years later, we are still very much in touch,” says Puran Parsani, Grinnell College, Class of ‘04. 

3) Small engaging classes

Typically, classes at US liberal arts colleges are small, with fewer than 30 students. The smaller class sizes enable meaningful engagement and interaction. It’s where you can foster deeper relations. It even allows professors to understand you on a personal level and mentor you better. 

4) Endless possibilities for exploration

Whether it’s community-engaged learning or conducting peer-reviewed research with a professor, US liberal arts college students have multiple opportunities to explore varied interests, take risks and learn new things. 

5) Flexibility in curriculum

US liberal arts students enjoy the freedom to change their course of study at the end of sophomore year and can pursue another interest. “I entered Middlebury College convinced I would be a political science major. After all, in high school, I was the politics guy, and it’s all I ever read, talked about and tweeted. But now, in my third year at Middlebury, I find myself studying film and English, debating Man and Superman, and watching the jaws of my classmates collectively drop as we experience Vertigo,” says Will DiGravio, Middlebury College, Class of ‘19.

6) Inculcates social responsibility: 

Students in US liberal arts colleges are more likely to volunteer than public university students because of a greater emphasis on civic responsibility and several opportunities for community engagements. So, whether it’s a service trip abroad during spring break or a class project with a local non-profit organisation, you will learn and work to improve the world. 

7) Prepares you for futuristic jobs: 

The report by the World Economic Forum predicts that 65 percent of current students will be employed in jobs that haven’t been created yet. In 25 years, today’s college students will be in their mid-40s, working in fields that don’t currently exist, and that’s when liberal arts skills like leadership, critical and creative thinking, collaboration, and cross-cultural knowledge will come into play.

8) Exposes you to skills beyond your area of study: 

The most significant benefit of a liberal arts education is that it arms you with skills, such as critical and analytical thinking, creativity, leadership, and the ability to consider multiple perspectives. The US Bureau of Labor notes employers often rank critical thinking and communication above technical skills

Due to this, most colleges in the US include liberal arts in their core curricula. For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is known for its rigorous technical education, but it requires all students to complete courses in humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS). Brown University offers an open curriculum instead of a core curriculum. But students are expected to demonstrate written English skills, have one academic major and complete 3 courses across several subjects. 

What are the top 10 liberal arts colleges in the US:

There are approximately 200 liberal arts colleges. However, according to the 2023 US News & World Report, here are the  10 best liberal arts colleges that are highly selective and offer a rigorous academic experience: 

Setting School Type UG Enrollment Admit  Rate International Students
Williams College Rural Private 2,129 9.8% 9%
Amherst College Rural Private 1,970 9% 10%
Swarthmore College Suburban Private 1,689 6.7% 11%
Claremont McKenna College Suburban Private 1,383 11% 16%
Pomona College Suburban Private 1,747 7% 12%
Wellesley College Suburban Private 2,383 16% 13%
Hamilton College Rural Private 2,000 17% 7%
Middlebury College Rural Private 2,800 15% 25%
Vassar College Suburban Private 2,500 20% 8.3%
Colgate University Rural Private 3,219 9% 9.1%

Disclaimer: All numbers are subject to change

What is the difference between US universities and US liberal arts colleges?

While many students don’t know the exact difference between a liberal arts college and a regular university, the distinction is important as it can help you create your college shortlist more efficiently. Here are some key differences at a glance: 

US liberal arts colleges  US universities
Emphasis on undergraduate study Emphasis on undergraduate study, academic and professional graduate programmes 
Focus on teaching and engagement  Focus on research
Small enrollment sizes Typically large enrollment sizes
Small discussion-based format Large lecture teaching format
Emphasis on critical thinking and writing skills Pre-professional content knowledge (engineering, architecture) 
NCAA Division III sports NCAA Division I & II & III (highest athletic budgets) 

What careers can you pursue with a liberal arts degree? 

The liberal arts degree lends itself to several careers ranging from corporate communications, advertising and media to teaching, counselling, politics, civil services and more. Here are a few high-paying jobs that you can pursue with a liberal arts degree: 

1) Technical writer and editor:

As a technical writer, you will convert complex ideas into easily understandable written material, such as manuals or guides. Technical writers work in various industries, including finance, technology, and business.

  • Skills required: Research, writing, communication, problem-solving and critical thinking. 
  • Relevant liberal arts subjects: English, creative writing, communication studies, natural sciences, and math. 

2) Human resource manager:

A company’s success heavily relies on the capability of its human resource team to identify and hire talent effectively. Human resource professionals are responsible for scouting and recruiting the best candidates and smoothly onboarding new hires to ensure seamless integration into their roles.

  • Skills required:  Evaluation, critical and analytical thinking, counselling, planning and organisation. 
  • Relevant liberal arts subjects: Psychology, sociology, communication studies, foreign languages, philosophy. 

3) Graphic designer:

Graphic design combines art and technology to create useful, meaningful, and functional visual assets for a company or brand. Graphic designers generate user interfaces on apps and websites, design books, build product packaging, and work on advertisements and video games. 

  • Skills required: Creativity, planning, coordinating, communication, collaboration, and decision-making. 
  • Relevant liberal arts subjects: Art, history, communication, and creative studies.

4) Banking analyst:

 These professionals analyze financial data, market trends, and economic conditions to provide valuable insights to financial institutions. They play a crucial role in making informed investment decisions and managing risk. 

  • Skills required: Analytical thinking, quantitative skills, financial knowledge, attention to detail, and communication. 
  • Relevant liberal arts subjects: Economics, mathematics, statistics, and finance-related coursework.

5) Public relations manager:

Companies need a public relations team to maintain a positive public image and disseminate crucial news or updates related to their operations. Public relations specialists are responsible for crafting a coherent narrative for the company and devising strategies to promote it to the media and the general public.

  • Skills required: Communication, media relations, coordinating, planning, public speaking, diligence, problem-solving and teamwork.
  • Relevant liberal arts subjects: Communication studies, marketing, English, creative writing, and psychology. 

6) Management consultant:

Management consultants work with organizations to identify business problems and recommend strategic solutions. They help improve efficiency, productivity, and profitability by analyzing processes, conducting market research, and implementing changes. 

  • Skills required: Problem-solving, critical thinking, data analysis, communication, and project management. 
  • Relevant liberal arts subjects: Business administration, economics, communication, marketing

7) Counsellor:

Counselling offers guidance on personal, career, lifestyle and relationship matters. A counsellor’s main objective is to enhance clients’ mental health and overall well-being, whether with individuals or groups. 

  • Skills required: Evaluation, empathy, leadership (for group counselling), problem-solving and critical thinking.
  • Relevant liberal arts subjects: Psychology and sociology.

8) Research analyst:

Research analysts gather and analyze data to provide insights and recommendations for various industries and organizations. They play a crucial role in decision-making by offering valuable information and market insights. 

  • Skills required: Research, data analysis, critical thinking, attention to detail, and communication.
  • Relevant liberal arts subjects: Research methodologies, statistics and economics.

9) Legal consultant:

Legal consultants provide legal advice and support to individuals, businesses, or organizations. They assist in navigating complex legal issues by ensuring compliance with laws and regulations.

  • Skills required: Legal knowledge, research, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and attention to detail. 
  • Relevant liberal arts subjects: Pre-law courses, political science, psychology and ethics

A US liberal arts college is an excellent option for students who want a well-rounded education and the opportunity to explore a variety of subjects or future careers. To know more about how technical universities incorporate liberal arts, read this unique perspective on combining a liberal arts education with science and engineering. You may also want to read more about whether a liberal arts education in the US is meant for you.  If you need guidance with finding the right colleges, please get in touch with us. Our undergraduate specialists look forward to assisting you.