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A Private College May Be a Liberal Arts College

By Peterson's Staff updated on Monday, January 28, 2013

What is a liberal arts college?

A liberal arts college is a private college that exposes students to a wide variety of courses instead of focusing on a specific course of study, or professional or technical training. At liberal arts colleges, students are often required to take a variety of courses in languages, religion, literature, philosophy, history, mathematics, the arts, the physical sciences, and the social sciences. Students typically explore these multiple lines of study during their first two years at the college before declaring a major.

Liberal arts colleges usually focus on undergraduate students and rarely offer graduate programs; therefore students graduate with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree.

Like private colleges in general, most liberal arts colleges are small, with fewer than 5,000 students, the majority of whom live on campus and attend the school full time. This allows the educational experience of a liberal arts college to be more personal and intimate then a larger public or private university.

Finally, faculty members of a liberal arts college view teaching as their top priority, instead of focusing on their own research and publications. So, students have more interaction with their professors at this type of private college.

Is a liberal arts college right for you?

Ask yourself two key questions to determine if a liberal arts college is right for you.

First, what career do you want to enter after graduation? 

If you are looking for a career as an engineer, a dental hygienist, or some other specific type of professional, then you may want to look into a private college that specializes in your field or find a public university. If you don't know what you want to do after school, then a liberal arts college may be right for you. It will give you time to sample different fields before choosing.

Second, how much interaction do you want with faculty?

If you want faculty who take the time to interact with undergraduates, private colleges are your best bet. At public or private universities, faculty are heavily involved in research, publication, and participation in their field. Private colleges, and especially liberal arts colleges, emphasize the role of faculty as advisers and counselors to undergraduates.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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