Top 25 Best Liberal Arts Colleges | 2019 Rankings

Liberal Arts and Sciences colleges focus on the education of well-rounded individuals. They aim to impart a broad knowledge and develop critical thinking, in contrast to a niche vocational or technical schools. Many of the US’s best schools are liberal arts colleges.

Here are College Raptor’s picks for the 25 best liberal arts colleges in the United States!

25. Grinnell College

  • Flickr user Ron Cogswell

    Location: Grinnell, IA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,699
  • College Type: Private

Grinnell’s school motto is “Veritas et Humanitas”—”Truth and Humanity.” The five most popular majors on campus are Biology, Computer Science, Economics, Political Science, and English. The school colors are scarlet and black, and the athletic teams are known as the Pioneers. A few famous alumni include Gary Cooper, Robert Noyce, and Kumail Nanjiani.

24. Lafayette College

  • Flickr user drewbee

    Location: Easton, PA

  • Student Enrollment: 2,550
  • College Type: Private

Named after Marquis de Lafayette, this college is often considered a “hidden” or “little” Ivy League school. While many of the students call Pennsylvania their home state, many other students come from New York and California. The school participates in 23 NCAA Division I sports.

23. University of Richmond

  • Flickr user Rob Pongsajapan

    Location: Richmond, VA

  • Student Enrollment: 4,131
  • College Type: Private

At this university, a majority of the students are at the undergraduate level–81% to be precise. 33% of students who apply are accepted into Richmond. Business Administration is by far and away the most studied major on campus. The University of Richmond has a very unique mascot for their sports teams—a spider named Webstur.

22. Colgate University

  • Flickr user Mike Bash

    Location: Hamilton, NY

  • Student Enrollment: 2,890
  • College Type: Private

Economics, Political Science, History, Neuroscience, and Psychology are the top five most popular major at Colgate. Incoming freshmen score an average of 30–33 on the ACT, and 1390–1500 on the SAT. Colgate has a 94% freshman retention rate. Their athletic teams are called the Raiders.

21. United States Air Force Academy

  • Flickr user Wally Gobetz

    Location: USAFA, CO

  • Student Enrollment: 4,237
  • College Type: Public

The motto of USAFA is “Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in All We Do,” a fitting phrase for the cadets at this academy. Blue and silver make up the two school colors. With a 12% acceptance rate, only about 1,200 of the 10,000 applications sent in yearly are accepted. For every 9 students, there’s one faculty member.

20. Claremont McKenna College

  • Flickr user Daniel Crowley

    Location: Claremont, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,347
  • College Type: Private

“Crescit cum commercio civitas” is the Latin motto of Claremont McKenna, and it translates to mean “Civilization prospers with commerce.” With a phrase like that, it comes as no surprise that the most popular major on campus is Economics. The four year graduation rate is 77% but jumps up to 92% at six years.

19. Barnard College

  • Flickr user david basulto

    Location: New York, NY

  • Student Enrollment: 2,510
  • College Type: Private

One of the original Seven Sisters, Barnard is also one of the oldest women’s colleges in the world. It’s located right on the Hudson River. Blue and white are Barnard’s school colors, and their mascot is Millie the Dancing Bear. The acceptance rate is 15%, and Barnard received nearly 8,000 applications last year.

18. United States Military Academy

  • Flickr user mikek7890

    Location: West Point, NY

  • Student Enrollment: 4,389
  • College Type: Public

Known colloquially as “West Point” the US Military Academy sports the colors black and gold. To gain entry, students must apply and be nominated–typically by a Congressmen or Delegate, though students can also be nominated by the President or Vice President of the US. The acceptance rate is 10%.

17. Vassar College

  • Flickr user Yibo Yu

    Location: Poughkeepsie, NY

  • Student Enrollment: 2,424
  • College Type: Private

Vassar was the first degree-granting institute of higher learning in the United States, and was one of the original Seven Sisters. It became coeducational in 1969. Nearly 7,800 applications were sent in last year, and with an acceptance rate of 24%, about 1,850 were accepted. They have almost 400 athletes on campus, a near even split between men and women.

16. Haverford College

  • Flickr user Roger W

    Location: Haverford, PA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,268
  • College Type: Private

“Non doctior, sed meliore doctrina imbutus” is the official school motto of Haverford, meaning “Not more learned, but steeped in a higher learning.” The average ACT score of incoming freshmen is between 30 and 34; for the SAT between 1410 and 1540. Haverford has a six year graduation rate of 90%.

15. Middlebury College

  • Flickr user daiji

    Location: Middlebury, VT

  • Student Enrollment: 2,549
  • College Type: Private

Middlebury is the oldest college in the state of Vermont, founded back in 1800. Economics, Political Science, Environmental Studies, Psychology, and Neuroscience are the five most popular majors on campus. It was the first institute of higher learning in the country to award a Bachelor’s degree to an African-American student—Alexander Twilight, class of 1823.

14. Hamilton College

  • Hamilton College

    Source: Flickr user chuckthewriter.

    Location: Clinton, NY

  • Student Enrollment: 1,883
  • College Type: Private

Named for trustee Alexander Hamilton in 1812, this college is exclusive to undergraduate students. There’s a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio and the most popular major on campus is Economics. Nearly 6,000 applications are sent in every year. Continental blue and buff are the official school colors.

13. Davidson College

  • Flickr user Melinda Stuart

    Location: Davidson, NC

  • Student Enrollment: 1,796
  • College Type: Private

“Alenda Lux Ubi Orta Libertas” is the motto of Davidson, meaning “Let learning be cherished where liberty has arisen.” The school has a 90% 4 year graduation rate and an acceptance rate of 20%. There is a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Davidson College’s school colors are black and red.

12. Colby College

  • Flickr user Roman Boed

    Location: Waterville, ME

  • Student Enrollment: 1,879
  • College Type: Private

Of the over 11,000 applications sent in, Colby will accept around 1,800 of them given the 16% acceptance rate. There is a 91% four year graduation rate. Colby has two unique official school colors, Colby blue and priscilla. The athletic teams are known as the Mules. The most popular major on campus is Economics.

11. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

  • Flickr user Dan DeLuca

    Location: New York, NY

  • Student Enrollment: 964
  • College Type: Private

With its small student body and prestigious art program, it’s no surprise that Cooper Union’s acceptance rate is quite selective–13%. The most popular majors are Fine / Studio Arts, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Architecture. For every 9 students, there’s 1 faculty member.

10. Carleton College

  • Flickr user Willy Lee

    Location: Northfield, MN

  • Student Enrollment: 2,105
  • College Type: Private

Blue and maize are the bold colors for the the Carleton Knights. The most popular majors on campus are Computer Science, Biology, Economics, International Relations / Affairs, and Chemistry. The average ACT scores for incoming freshmen are between 30–34; for the SAT it’s between 1410 and 1540.

9. Washington and Lee University

  • Flickr user Robert of Fairfax

    Location: Lexington, VA

  • Student Enrollment: 2,160
  • College Type: Private

The motto Non Incautus Futuri” translates to “Not unmindful of the future,” an apt phrase since the school was partially named after a very forward thinking historical figure: George Washington. The second part of this school’s name comes from Robert E. Lee, who was president of the school for 5 years.

8. Soka University of America

  • Flickr user Mark Weston

    Location: Aliso Viejo, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 430
  • College Type: Private

SUA has quite the noble school motto: “Be philosophers of a renaissance of life; Be world citizens in solidarity for peace; Be the pioneers of a global civilization.” Soka has an elder sister school in Tokyo, Japan. With a small student body, this university has a 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

7. Wellesley College

A member of the original Seven Sisters Colleges, Wellesley is a women’s school that was chartered back in 1870 (though classes didn’t start until five years later). For every 7 students, Wellesley has 1 faculty member. Economics and Biology are the two most popular majors on campus.

6. Harvey Mudd College

  • Flickr user CampusGrotto.

    Location: Claremont, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 842
  • College Type: Private

Though small in size, Harvey Mudd has a strong reputation for academic excellence. They have a 92% six year graduation rate, and a first year retention rate of 98%. Engineering, Computer Science, and Mathematics are the top three most popular majors on campus. Black and gold are the colors worn by the Stags and Athenas—the men’s and women’s sports teams.

5. Amherst College

  • Flickr user Henry

    Location: Amherst, MA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,849
  • College Type: Private

Established initially as a men’s college, Amherst opened its doors to women in 1975. Nowadays there’s a nearly even split between men and women, at 49.9% and 50.1% respectively. Incoming freshman score, on average, 32–34 on the ACT and 1450–1550 on the SAT. Amherst sports purple and white as their school colors.

4. Swarthmore College

  • Flickr user Simon

    Location: Swarthmore, PA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,543
  • College Type: Private

“Mind the Light” is the motto of Swarthmore, where the school colors are garnet and grey. While a small school, this college sees nearly 9,500 applications a year, though just over 1,000 are accepted. Economics, Biology, and Engineering are among the most popular majors on campus, followed by Computer Science and Experimental Psychology.

3. Williams College

  • Flickr user Peter Rintels.

    Location: Williamstown, MA

  • Student Enrollment: 2,150
  • College Type: Private

The purple and gold-wearing athletic teams at Williams College are cheered on by an interesting mascot—the Purple Cow. On average, incoming freshmen score between 31 and 35 on the ACT, and between 1420 and 1570 on the SAT. With an acceptance rate of 15%, Williams College admits nearly 1,300 students annually.

2. United States Naval Academy

  • Flickr user Butch Dalisay.

    Location: Annapolis, MD

  • Student Enrollment: 4,528
  • College Type: Public

“Ex Scientia Tridens” translated to “From knowledge, seapower” is an apt school motto for this naval academy. Around 1,300 students are admitted each year. Several different engineering fields are popular majors on campus, including System Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Ocean Engineering, and Aerospace / Aeronautical / Astronautical Engineering.

1. Pomona College

  • Flickr user Dave & Margie Hill

    Location: Claremont, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,563
  • College Type: Private

Over 9,000 applications are sent in each year to Pomona College, and with an acceptance rate of just 8%, only about 720 apps are accepted. Pomona’s sports teams wear blue and gold and are cheered on by mascot Cecil Sagehen. This prestigious college has an impressive 4 year graduation rate of 91%.

About our methodology

Colleges are ranked based on a combination of factors, including graduation rates, campus diversity, endowment per student, and other data as reported via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the most recently-available enrollment year. Some colleges may have been excluded from rankings based on certain criteria, including specialization and classification. Learn about our full methodology.

Interested in any of these schools? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to see if they’re a good fit for you!

College Raptor Staff

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