What is Liberal Arts College?

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As you face the exciting challenge of choosing a college, you may be wondering just what a liberal arts college is.

The phrase “liberal arts” is an old one that basically points to general skills that benefit culture and society. There are colleges that are strictly liberal arts schools and universities that have a college of liberal arts in addition to other types of colleges, such as engineering.

In deciding what type of college is right for you, it can be important to understand what the liberal arts are and what they are not.

Majors You’ll Likely Find in Liberal Arts

If you are looking into a degree from a college focused on liberal arts, the kinds of majors you will find will likely be in the humanities. These include things such as History, English, Math, Sociology, and Political Science. One way to discover exactly what majors you will encounter is to look up a list of liberal arts schools, such as the one put out by U.S. News and World Report, and spend some time looking at the websites of those schools, reading information from their various academic departments.

In addition to certain subjects, a liberal arts focus is often defined by its approach to learning and its hopes for its graduates. The approach is usually broad and cross-disciplinary, with an understanding that many subjects have things to say to and learn from other subjects. In addition, there is a hope that liberal arts graduates will be well-rounded people with good critical thinking abilities that can help them to thrive in a number of different jobs and careers.

Colleges Besides Liberal Arts

Though you can get an excellent education in liberal arts, it’s not the right path for everyone. Different learning styles and career aspirations might lead you to look into and decide on other types of colleges. Some of those include career and vocational colleges which focus their learning offerings on very specific courses that ready you for a certain profession or career. For instance, you might attend a culinary institute to become a chef, art school to become a photographer, or a vocational school to become a medical technician. Community colleges are another option. They offer a variety of courses (some more vocational, others in liberal arts subjects) but generally provide only a two year associate’s degree which can prepare you to either go into the work force or continue on to a four year college or university.

If you decide to go the liberal arts route, you may still have decisions to make about what type of college to choose. As mentioned, some liberal arts colleges are part of a larger university system. Others are single-gender schools or have affiliations with a given religious tradition. The important thing about choosing a college is to research your options and find one that suits your particular learning aspirations. If the broad-based approach to humanities appeals to you, then you might want to choose a liberal arts college.

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