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Top 15 Liberal Arts Schools in America

What do you want out of your college education? If you want more than just a job – for example, a lifelong thirst for knowledge or versatile skills like critical thinking and writing – then a liberal arts education might be right for you.

Liberal arts schools offer a number of benefits you won’t find at other colleges. These comparably small schools often feature small class sizes that encourage student discussion and engagement. Some provide graduate-level research opportunities to undergraduate students. Many liberal arts schools have strong international education, study abroad or study away programs that help students develop an understanding of different cultures. Students who graduate from a liberal arts college often go on to earn a master’s or doctoral degree in graduate school, or they can enter the workforce with skills that are in-demand across all industries. Generous financial aid packages make these mostly private institutions affordable for students from all economic backgrounds.

The top 15 liberal arts schools in America are spread out across the nation, accredited by different regional accreditation agencies and offering different academic programs of study. They do have one thing in common, though. Each institution is known for providing an exceptional liberal arts education with the academic breadth and depth to develop skills in thinking, speaking, writing and learning.

1. Williams College

Williams College

IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Topping the list of the best liberal arts schools in the nation is Williams College. The private school dates back to 1793, which makes it among the oldest institutions of higher learning in America.  While small class sizes are a typical selling point of many liberal arts institutions, Williams College has an exceptionally low student to faculty ration of 7:1. Don’t let the $50,070 annual tuition charge scare you away from this highly ranked school. Williams College prides itself on putting a top-notch liberal arts education within reach for students “without regard to their ability to pay.” Half of all students currently enrolled at Williams College are receiving some form of financial aid from the school – and that award can range from $5,400 to $64,000. The school commits to meeting “100 percent of every admitted student’s demonstrated financial need for four years,” which may be one of the factors that contributes to its outstanding 97 percent freshman retention rate.

Do you think choosing a liberal arts school means sacrificing the plentiful academic options you’ll find at other colleges? That’s not the case at Williams College. Despite its classification as a liberal arts school, Williams College offers a number of distinct degree programs that build upon the core liberal arts studies, so students can enjoy a well-rounded education but also prepare for their intended careers. The three dozen major programs of study, plus numerous concentrations, are part of three different academic divisions. Students in the division of languages and the arts can choose from majors like Japanese, Russian, music and theatre. The social sciences division includes majors in sociology and psychology. Science and mathematics offerings include biology, chemistry, geosciences, physics and math. In addition to earning the coveted first-place spot on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best national liberal arts colleges, Williams College is also ranked first among the best colleges for veterans, third among the best value schools in the country and fourth among the best undergraduate teaching programs.

Location: Williamstown, MA

Enrollment: 2,045 students

Tuition: $50,070 

2. Amherst College

Amherst College

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Amherst College has plenty of experience – nearly two centuries, to be exact – in developing students’ skills in critical thinking, writing, speaking and lifelong learning. The private liberal arts college was founded in 1821 and has since been home to America’s first collegiate athletics program, first intercollegiate baseball game and first undergraduate degree program in neuroscience. Notable alumni include former United States President Calvin Coolidge, while past instructors include renowned poet Robert Frost. If you’re anticipating going on to earn an advanced education, Amherst College is an excellent choice. Ninety percent of the school’s graduates go on to attend grad school within five years of earning their bachelor’s degree. With a student-faculty ratio of 8:1 and an average class size of just 16, students at Amherst have plenty of opportunity for individual attention and making personal connections throughout their studies. Amherst College offers generous financial aid packages, with an average award of $50,255 in scholarships and grants – never loans that will have to be paid back. That means students at Amherst can graduate with an excellent education and no student loan debt.

Unlike many liberal arts schools – and, for that matter, many colleges of all varieties – there’s no one-size-fits-all core curriculum that every student must complete. Instead, Amherst College features an open curriculum that allows students the ultimate flexibility in customizing their education. With more than 850 course options available through the college and thousands more offered through partner schools, students can quite literally study any discipline they choose. The result is that double majoring is common, and students who pursue two majors still have the time to delve into other areas of study and develop a well-rounded educational foundation. The 38 majors available at Amherst College range from biochemistry to film and media studies and from neuroscience to classical languages. Students can also choose to create their own interdisciplinary major or Independent Scholar Program instead of, or in addition to, pursuing an existing program of study. The most ambitious students can even get a taste of graduate-level academic work by opting to complete an honors thesis. Amherst College placed second on U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the best liberal arts schools in the nation, but it also took first place among the best value schools and ranked among the top 10 most innovative colleges in America.

Location: Amherst, MA

Enrollment: 1,792 students

Tuition: $50,562 

3. Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College

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Swarthmore College, just 11 miles from Philadelphia, earned the distinction of being one of the first coeducational colleges in America when it was founded in 1864 by the Quakers. Today, the private, nondenominational school emphasizes a combination of intellectual development and ethical behavior. More than 90 percent of the student population lives on campus, where the landscape of lawns, hills, trees, hiking trails and Crum Creek combined to earn Swarthmore the title “the most beautiful campus in America.” Swarthmore’s Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility helps facilitate volunteerism and incorporate service and activism into academic programs through community-based learning. The strong support for service and social responsibility contributes to the school’s impressive volunteerism rate of more than 60 percent. Swarthmore students also participate heavily in study abroad opportunities and the Honors Program. With a student to faculty ration of 8:1, students considering Swarthmore College can expect small class sizes.

Swarthmore College offers upwards of 40 programs of study in subjects ranging from astronomy to medieval studies and from computer science to peace and conflict studies. Students also have the opportunity to design their own majors, an independent path which requires them to take 10 to 12 courses in their specialized areas of study. Of course, with more than 600 courses to choose from each year, students have plenty of options to customize their education. Students in any major must complete a thesis, exam or other “comprehensive requirement” before graduating with their bachelor’s degrees. In addition to offering a traditional liberal arts curriculum, Swarthmore College is also known for its highly rated undergraduate engineering program. The college is also rated among the best value schools, best colleges for veterans, best teaching schools and best undergraduate engineering programs – in addition to the top liberal arts colleges, of course – by U.S. News & World Report.

Location: Swarthmore, PA

Enrollment: 1,542 students

Tuition: $47,442 

4. Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College

IMAGE SOURCE: Copyright Michele Stapleton.

At Bowdoin College, the school’s mission is known as its “offer,” and it encompasses knowledge of art, culture, history, nature and literature. Bowdoin College still stands by that offer today, more than a century after it was written. The school also emphasizes research opportunities, field work experiences and community-based learning. The private school was founded in 1794, at a time when Maine wasn’t even its own state, but instead a district within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. To make a quality liberal arts education affordable today, Bowdoin College has entirely eliminated student loans from its financial aid packages. Almost half of the student body receives grants directly from the college – which is one reason why U.S. News & World Report ranked the institution among the best value schools in the nation. Bowdoin College is known for offering a wealth of extracurricular activities. Among these activities are the Outing Club, a group focused on providing off-campus excursions, and the Peucinian Society, an intellectual society which happens to be among the oldest in the United States.

What exactly is Bowdoin College’s offer? All students begin their studies with a first-year seminar of their choice – and with more than 35 topics to choose from, they really do get to choose the seminar that interests them. Every student must take at least one course in each of five distribution areas: International Perspectives, Visual and Performing Arts, Exploring Social Difference, Inquiry in the Natural Sciences and Mathematical, Computational or Statistical Reasoning before the completion of their sophomore year. At that time, they choose a major from the more than 40 options offered. Some Bowdoin College students take the traditional path and stick with one departmental major, while others double major or pursue a coordinate major, interdisciplinary major or student-designed major. The result is an education that combines the breath of studying each distribution area with the depth of studying a major in the discipline of science, art, language, and the humanities.

Location: Brunswick, ME

Enrollment: 1,805 students

Tuition: $48,212 

5. Middlebury College

Middlebury College

IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Founded in 1800, Middlebury College has more than two centuries of experience educating students in the liberal arts tradition. In fact, Middlebury is among the nation’s oldest liberal arts schools. With more than 2,500 undergraduate students, Middlebury College is among the largest schools to make the list. Fortunately, the school still manages to keep class sizes small by employing hundreds of top-tier instructors. The student to faculty ratio is just 9:1, and the average class has only 16 students. Rather than following a semester-based schedule, Middlebury College embraces what’s called a 4-1-4 academic calendar. Students typically complete four courses during the spring and fall semesters, with an additional one-month course or internship during the winter term in January. Summer programs are also offered, particularly in the school’s many foreign language options. Among the more than 150 extracurricular activities available to Middlebury College students are its 31 NCAA varsity athletics teams and its Harry Potter-inspired International Quidditch Association. The location is also excellent for avid skiers, as the region is home to 17 skiing trails.

A main goal of a liberal arts education is learning to think critically and express one’s thoughts eloquently. At Middlebury College, this objective is accomplished through cross-discipline writing-intensive courses, including a discussion-oriented first-year seminar based on academic themes. To develop a well-rounded academic background, all Middlebury College students must take courses in art, literature, history, science, foreign language, deductive reasoning, social analysis and philosophical and religious studies. They also take four required courses in cultures and civilizations, with each course focusing on a different region or topic. Students choose one (or more) of 44 possible majors – such as international politics, history of art and architecture, Hebrew and molecular biology – to study in-depth. They also have the option to propose their own major through the Independent Scholar Program. In addition to being tied for fourth place on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the top national liberal arts colleges, the school earned top 10 spots among the best colleges for veterans and the best value schools.

Location: Middlebury, VT

Enrollment: 2,533 students

Tuition: $47,828 

6. Pomona College

Pomona College

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Pomona College is a residential school – and proud of it. An overwhelming 94 percent of the student body lives on campus for their entire education, and even the instructors tend to live within a five mile radius of the college. The private Southern California school was founded in 1887 in Pomona, and the first courses were taught in a small house rented by the college’s founders. To say that Pomona College has grown would be an understatement. Though the school kept its original name, it moved to Claremont shortly after. Today, the college occupies 140 acres of land located near the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. With 182 full-time instructors on staff, the student to faculty ration is just 8:1, and the average class size hovers around 10 to 15 students. International studies are popular at Pomona College, where 50 percent of students will complete a study abroad experience during their academic careers.

The tight-knit community atmosphere that characterizes the Pomona College campus reaches into the classroom – and beyond. The small class sizes and campus community activities are a crucial part of Pomona’s liberal arts education. So are the college’s extensive undergraduate research opportunities and its combination of academic programs that cross disciplines. The curriculum at Pomona College includes studies in natural science, social science, humanities and the arts as well as interdisciplinary coursework. Students can choose from 47 major programs of study that range from media studies to science, technology and society. With more than 600 courses offered on campus and thousands more offered through the Claremont Colleges partnership every year, students can explore plenty of study options.  Pomona College requires students to complete general education coursework that includes studies in a foreign language, physical education, mathematical reasoning, history and cultural studies, physical and biological sciences, creative expression and social institutions and human behavior. Freshmen must also take a Critical Inquiry seminar that emphasizes reading, writing and discussion and focuses on an interdisciplinary theme such as the politics of art or the history of rock and roll music.

Location: Claremont, CA

Enrollment: 1,650 students

Tuition: $47,620 

7. Wellesley College

Wellesley College

IMAGE SOURCE: Wellesley College

Wellesley College has offered a strong liberal arts education to female students since its founding in 1870. The private school, located just 12 miles from Boston, remains exclusively a women’s college today. Students at Wellesley College consistently benefit from small class sizes and personal attention, with a student to faculty ratio of just 7:1 and an average of only 17 to 20 students in a class. The school has a robust internship program – in which more than 70 percent of students participate during their academic careers – which includes hundreds of paid internships with stipends provided by the Center for Work and Service. Notable Wellesley College alumni include television journalist Diane Sawyer and political leader Hillary Rodham Clinton. In addition to the usual residence halls and classrooms, the school’s 500 acre campus includes art galleries, a golf course and theatres for motion pictures and live performances. Most students enjoy the campus atmosphere so much that they choose to live in Wellesley College’s residence halls for the duration of their undergraduate education.

To attain a comprehensive liberal arts education, Wellesley College students must complete coursework in the following subject areas:

  • Language and Literature
  • Visual Arts, Music, Theater, Film and Video
  • Social and Behavioral Analysis
  • Epistemology and Cognition
  • Religion, Ethics, and Moral Philosophy
  • Historical Studies
  • Natural and Physical Science
  • Mathematical Modeling and Problem Solving
  • A foreign language (from more than a dozen languages offered)
  • Expository writing
  • Quantitative reasoning
  • Physical education
  • Multicultural studies

In addition to completing these core academic requirements, Wellesley College students choose from dozens of possible majors in the arts, physical and social sciences and humanities. There are more than 20 interdisciplinary major options available to students in addition to the majors traditionally offered by individual departments. Every major requires students to take at least two advanced, 300-level courses, while the school also requires the completion of two additional 300-level classes in any area of study. Wellesley College’s science programs, in particular, are well-respected, and its physics lab happens to be the second oldest in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Location: Wellesley, MA

Enrollment: 2,323students

Tuition: $46,836 

8. Carleton College

Carleton College

IMAGE SOURCE: Carleton College

Carleton College is a private liberal arts school located 40 miles from Minneapolis and St. Paul. Since its founding in 1866, the institution has earned a reputation for providing not just an outstanding liberal arts education, but also a warm and friendly learning environment. About 95 percent of Carleton College students choose to live on campus, even though only freshman are required to do so. Like other schools on the list, Carleton has a low student to faculty ration of just 9:1 and small class sizes, with an average of 18 students per class. In addition to being among the 10 best liberal arts schools in the nation, Carleton College is also among the top 15 schools for studying abroad. About 78 percent of students participate in off-campus study opportunities facilitated by the school, according to U.S. News & World Report. The school uses a trimester, rather than semester-based, academic calendar, which means students complete three 10-week terms per year.

In addition to the 39 majors in which Carleton College students can earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, students can also pursue one (or more) of the 15 concentrations available. Major programs of study range from Asian languages to dance and international relations to mathematics and statistics. Possible academic concentrations include American music, biochemistry, educational studies and archeology. Graduation requirements for students in all majors include coursework such as:

  • A writing-rich first-year Argument and Inquiry (A&I) Seminar
  • An additional writing-rich course that culminates in a writing portfolio
  • At least three courses that involve quantitative reasoning
  • Four to five foreign languages courses
  • A class in international studies
  • A class in intercultural domestic studies
  • Four terms of physical education
  • Six credits in humanistic inquiry
  • Six credits in literary and artistic analysis
  • Six credits in arts practice
  • Six credits in science
  • Six credits in formal or statistical reasoning
  • Six credits in social inquiry

Carleton College meets all students’ financial aid need for all four years of school and charges no application fees, so it’s no wonder the school has earned a place on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Value Schools ranking.

Location: Northfield, MN

Enrollment: 2,057 students

Tuition: $49,263         

9. Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College

IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Compared to other schools on this list, Claremont McKenna College is fairly new, having been founded in 1946 as a men’s school and made coeducational in 1976. In just a few decades, though, the school has built a strong reputation and on coveted spots on rankings like U.S. News & World Report’s National Liberal Arts Colleges, Best Colleges for Veterans and Best Value Schools. The private institution is known for making extensive graduate-level research opportunities to undergraduate students through the campus’s 10 research institutes. Claremont McKenna College happens to be among the most selective schools to make this list, accepting just 10.8 of applicants. For those who make the cut, the institution’s small class sizes, renowned faculty, research opportunities and focus on educating world leaders are well worth the challenge of gaining acceptance. In addition to its Bachelor of Arts programs in liberal arts studies, the school now offers a Master of Arts in Finance program for graduate students.

Claremont McKenna College offers more than 30 academic majors, including government, religious studies, molecular biology and literature. These include film studies and legal studies degree programs, which are offered only as dual major options. The school also offers “3/2 engineering programs” in Economics and Engineering and Management-Engineering, which allow students to combine liberal arts coursework at Claremont McKenna College with an engineering program at a partner school. Students with an interest in finance can also apply to the combined BA/MA program offered through Claremont McKenna’s Robert Day School, which offers the opportunity to earn both an undergraduate and a graduate degree in just four years. Aspiring law school students might be interested in Claremont McKenna College’s involvement in the Accelerated Interdisciplinary Legal Education program, a “3+3 joint degree program” through which students can begin their juris doctor (JD) studies at Columbia University after their junior undergraduate year and graduate with both degrees in just six years. Because the school can only nominate two juniors per year to participate, the program can become highly competitive.

Location: Claremont, CA

Enrollment: 1,324 students

Tuition: $49,045 

10. Davidson College

Davidson College

IMAGE SOURCE: Davidson College

Since 1837, Davidson College has focused on providing a liberal arts education that emphasizes creativity, intellectual discipline and humane behavior. Essential to the Christian school’s unique success is its Honor Code, a pledge to act honestly and honorably in the classroom and beyond. The student to faculty ratio at Davidson College is just 10:1, and the average class contains just 15 students. The school has a strong study abroad program, with 76 percent of students engaging in some form of international studies abroad. Davidson College is an excellent choice for cost-conscious students. Since 2007, all of the school’s financial aid packages have followed a no loan policy – making in the first liberal arts college in the United States to do so, according to U.S. News & World Report. Instead of financing students’ education with loans that could leave them tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt at the end of their college careers, the school provides generous loans through The Davidson Trust.

To earn their Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees, students at Davidson College must complete a set of core liberal arts requirements. These requirements include coursework in cultural diversity, a foreign language and writing as well as at least one class in each of the following:

  • Historical Thought
  • Mathematics and Quantitative Thought
  • Natural Science
  • Social-Scientific Thought
  • Philosophical and Religious Studies
  • Visual and Performing Arts
  • Literary Studies, Creative Writing and Rhetoric

Students can choose from 26 possible academic majors, such as anthropology, environmental studies and political science. A major in interdisciplinary studies is also available, and so are dozens of departmental and interdisciplinary minors, including applied mathematics, dance and experimental physics. Davidson College is also an excellent choice if you’re thinking about grad school. The college offers six pre-professional programs: Pre-Education, Pre-Engineering, Pre-Law, Pre-Medicine, Pre-Ministry and Pre-Military. These academic paths can help prepare you to earn a master’s or doctoral degree.

Location: Davidson, NC

Enrollment: 1,770 students

Tuition: $46,966 

11. United States Naval Academy

 United States Naval Academy

IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

With more than 4,500 undergraduate students enrolled, the United States Naval Academy is by far the largest school to make this list. It’s also the most selective, accepting just 7.9 percent of applicants. The public institution, founded in 1845, is one of just five federal service academies – and it happens to be the second oldest such institution, according to U.S. News & World Report. The school is an excellent choice for aspiring Navy personnel. All students are naval officers in training, also known as midshipmen. Not only is the liberal arts education at the United States Naval Academy excellent, but it’s also tuition-free. The United States Navy covers the cost of students’ education. This way, students can graduate debt-free – and then begin their active-duty service in the U.S. Navy. Since they are bound for the physically demanding work of a Navy midshipman, students must meet strict physical education requirements throughout their education. The Naval Academy has a strong athletics program, including NCAA Division I intercollegiate varsity sports teams in dozens of men’s, women’s and co-ed sports.

Due to its naval focus, the school has a unique set of core course requirements distinct from what you would find at most liberal arts institutions. Students must take coursework in mathematics and science and humanities and the social sciences. However, they also need to take classes in engineering and weapons, seamanship and navigation and leadership education and development. Students at the United States Naval Academy learn about ship performance and propulsion, naval weapons systems, cyber engineering, American Naval history and United States law as it pertains to junior naval officers. Students complete many of these courses during their first year of college studies, also known as the plebe year. The school places a strong emphasis on the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and the majority of its 26 academic majors are in STEM fields. These include aerospace engineering, oceanography, cyber operations, quantitative economics and operations research.

Location: Annapolis, MD

Enrollment: 4,511 students

Tuition: $0

12. Haverford College Haverford College

IMAGE SOURCE: Haverford College

In 1833, Haverford College was founded just 10 miles from Philadelphia by the Quakers. Today, the private college has no religious affiliation, but it does have its own ever-evolving, student-run Honor Code that pertains to both academic and social behavior. The Honor Code permits students to have academic and social freedoms such as take-home exams and dormitory lodgings without the oversight of a resident assistant (RA). Haverford College features a student to faculty ratio of 9:1 and very small class sizes. In fact, more than 78 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students, and nearly 43 percent of classes have fewer than 10 students enrolled. The school’s arboretum campus isn’t just beautiful – for many, it’s home. Not only do 98 percent of Haverford College’s students live on campus, but so does 61 percent of its faculty. Around half of the student population studies abroad during their academic careers, and more than one-third of enrolled students are involved in an intercollegiate sport.

A liberal arts education is all about developing important and versatile skills like critical thinking, writing and speaking, and what better way to cultivate those skills than to invite – even emphasize – discussions and debates in the classroom? Haverford College’s seminar-style courses are known for engaging class discussions that facilitate deep thoughts and big ideas. All Haverford College students take required courses in writing, a foreign language, quantitative reasoning, humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and physical education. As sophomores, students choose a major, the most popular of which include biology, chemistry, economics, English, political science and psychology. In addition to completing in-depth studies into their majors, students are required to develop a Senior Thesis, complete with the kind of original research opportunities that most colleges reserve for graduate students only. As it happens, Haverford College is an excellent choice if you’re planning to go on to graduate school. Its students earn acceptance into professional schools – including medical school and law school – “at rates that are significantly higher than the national average.”

Location: Haverford, PA

Enrollment: 1,194 students

Tuition: $49,098 

13. Vassar College

Vassar College

IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Since 1861, Vassar College in the Hudson Valley region of New York has provided an outstanding liberal arts education. The private college, which was a women’s college until it became coeducational in 1969, is a residential institution that guarantees housing for the full four-year length of the student’s undergraduate education. About 98 percent of students take advantage of that opportunity. Vassar College might have the highest tuition rate of any school on this list, but it also happens to be among the best educational values in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. That’s due in part to the school’s commitment to meeting 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for every enrolled student. Close to 60 percent of Vassar College students receive financial aid, sometimes in amounts as high as $60,000. For students from low-income families who need the most aid, the school works to decrease the amount of loans in the financial aid package – or do away with loans altogether – so that students won’t have to worry about being deep in student loan debts when they graduate.

To earn their Bachelor of Arts degree, Vassar College students must complete a freshman writing seminar, studies in a foreign language, a quantitative reasoning course like math or a laboratory science and “distribution requirements” in the disciplines of social sciences, natural sciences, foreign languages and literatures, and art. Students at Vassar College can choose from more than 50 distinct academic majors. One of those majors, cognitive science, became the very first undergraduate degree program in the subject. The school was also among the first academic institutions in the nation to offer classes in psychology, Russian and drama. Today, more than 1,000 courses run on Vassar College’s campus each year. In addition to choosing a major, students can also pursue a correlate sequence, similar to a minor, to further expand their knowledge base. Vassar College believes strongly in a broad and balanced education, so students are required to spend at least half of their college career engaged in studies outside of their major.

Location: Poughkeepsie, NY

Enrollment: 2,418 students

Tuition: $51,300 

14. Hamilton College

Hamilton College

IMAGE SOURCE: Vickers and Beechler, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons license.

Hamilton College has been educating students in the liberal arts tradition for more than two centuries. The private upstate New York institution is the third oldest college in the state. Named for Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, the school was originally founded in 1793 as the Hamilton-Oneida Academy and subsequently chartered under its current name in1812. Today, Hamilton College has 20,000 alumni, who give back to the school at donation rates that place its alumni loyalty in the top one percent. One hundred percent of Hamilton College’s students live on campus in the school’s 27 residence halls. The 9:1 student to faculty ratio allows for exceptionally small class sizes. In fact, almost 75 percent of all courses contain no more than 19 students, and 30 percent of classes have just nine or fewer students enrolled. In addition to ranking Hamilton College tied for 14th place on its national liberal arts colleges list, U.S. News & World Report also acknowledged the institution as one of the best colleges for veterans and the best value schools in the nation.

Hamilton College students begin their liberal arts education with unique first-year courses that focus on themes like Native American Spiritualities and Adventure Writing, each intended to help students adjust to college-level work. Early on in their academic careers, students must also take foundation courses in writing and quantitative and symbolic reasoning. Throughout their education, students will take classes in cultural analysis, foreign languages, the humanities, social sciences, the arts, mathematics and the sciences while still enjoying the freedom and flexibility of an open curriculum. Students can choose from 51 major areas of study to pursue, including public policy, chemical physics, literature and creative writing and dance and movement studies. Every major includes a Senior Program experience as part of its graduation requirements. The Senior Program requirements vary from one academic concentration to another, but they typically include independent work that culminates in a research project, a comprehensive examination or a research paper and presentation.

Location: Clinton, NY

Enrollment: 1,900 students

Tuition: $49,500

15. Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College

IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Rounding out our list of the top 15 liberal arts schools in America is Harvey Mudd College, named for renowned mining engineer Harvey Seeley Mudd. The private school is the newest institution to make the list, having been founded in 1955. With just 804 undergraduate students, it also happens to be the smallest institution in terms of enrollment. The small enrollment – and, of course, the school’s 9:1 student to faculty ratio – allow for small class sizes. With 99 percent of students living on campus, the residential school has cultivated a close-knit community held together by both shared fun and the Honor Code. U.S. News & World Report ranked Harvey Mudd College tied for first place in the nation among the best undergraduate engineering programs. Almost 40 percent of Harvey Mudd College graduates go on to start graduate school, while those entering the workforce enjoy a high median starting salary of $92,500.

Though it’s known for its remarkable liberal arts education, Harvey Mudd College is a STEM school. All students graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree. The academic majors available consist of chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, engineering, computer science and a few joint majors that combine the disciplines. Every major emphasizes experiential learning, research and innovation for the real world and research opportunities that, at most institutions, would be reserved for graduate students. Despite the STEM focus in academic majors, studies in the arts, social sciences and humanities are also an important – and mandatory – part of the liberal arts education at Harvey Mudd College. The school strongly believes that humanity goes hand in hand with ethical uses of technology, which is why the Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts department is larger even than any of the school’s STEM departments. Regardless of their chosen major, Harvey Mudd College students also complete a common core curriculum which provides a broad view of each STEM discipline as well as a focus on writing and critical thinking.

Location: Claremont, CA
Enrollment: 804 students
Tuition: $48,594

Editor’s Note: 

The schools ranked on this list have been recognized by some of the most credible, authoritative publications and organizations in America, including U.S. News & World Report. While any one of these institutions has the potential to provide an excellent liberal arts education, students need to think about more than just rankings when it comes to selecting a college. This article should be used as a guide to direct your college research, not in place of it. The information expressed in this list comes from the schools’ official websites, which are excellent resources to help prospective students to continue the process of finding the right college for them.

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