Liberal arts colleges aim to produce well-rounded students who are prepared for everything and anything after graduation. That means encouraging students to explore subjects outside of their major and have a truly holistic education. Liberal arts colleges also typically have smaller student bodies, which means students will find a tight-knit community and unique campus culture.
We put together the top 25 best liberal arts colleges from around the US after combing through hundreds of schools. These are the cream of the crop. So check out the list below if you’re interested in a liberal arts education!
Williams College is the second oldest college of Massachusetts. One of the school’s traditions involves a mountain. On a Friday in October, the college’s president declares the day to be Mountain Day and cancels all classes. Students will then go to Stony Ledge and enjoy snacks and singing performances.
Pomona is a college of diversity, with students from all over the US and from 63 countries. The college moved from Pomona to Claremont in 1889. It has built an academic reputation rivaling the Ivy Leagues since. Any student at Pomona also has the option to take over half of their classes at any of the Claremont Colleges.
Founded in 1864 and as one of the first coeducational schools in the country, Swarthmore is used to setting an example. The school even played a role in the formation of American football. Today, the school is home to nearly 430 varsity athletes. Common varsity sports include soccer, lacrosse, and basketball.
Washington and Lee University has an acceptance rate of 21%, a pretty selective rate. This school requires that students live on-campus. The average ACT and SAT scores of admitted students are between 31--34 and 1,348--1,490 respectively. W&L is named after George Washington and Robert E. Lee.
Harvey Mudd College holds a focus in engineering and science and is a part of the Claremont Colleges. The average ACT and SAT scores for accepted applicants is between 34--35 and 1,490--1,560 respectively. The men’s athletic teams compete as the Stags, while the women are called the Athenas.
Amherst College is a strictly undergraduate institution, located in Massachusetts. The college is a part of the Five College Consortium, giving students the chance to attend class at any one of the five colleges included in the group. Amherst has a historic rivalry with both Williams College and Wesleyan University.
At Claremont McKenna College, 93% of students graduate within 6 years. The school has fairly small class sizes, with 8 students for every 1 faculty member. The school’s football team competes at the NCAA Division III level. Legendary actor Robin Williams attended Claremont McKenna, but did not graduate.
This women’s college, located just north of Lake Wabash, is regarded as having the largest network of women alumni in the world. Notable alumni include: Nora Ephron, Hillary Clinton, and Diane Sawyer. The college does not impose an application fee. It’s a very selective school, with only 20% of applicants admitted in.
Unlike many colleges, Carleton follows a trimester system, running on a 10-week term. Between 2000 and 2016, the school has been home to 122 National Science Graduate Fellows. Computer Science, Biology, Economics, International Relations, and Chemistry are the top five most popular majors.
On average, Haverford College has 8 students to 1 faculty member on campus. Incoming freshmen score, on average, between 32 and 34 on the ACT, and for the SAT between 1370 and 1530. Biology, Economics, English, Political Science, and Psychology are the top five most popular majors. The college has an acceptance rate of 19%.
Founded in 1793, Hamilton College became co-educational in 1978. The college is named after Alexander Hamilton, who was a member of the Board of Trustees. Hamilton has graduated some influential names---like B.F. Skinner. Bernie Sanders lectured Political Science at Hamilton.
Vassar College was founded as a women’s college---the second of its kind in the US. It became coeducational in 1969. Vassar’s school colors are rose and gray. Student athletes are known as the Brewers. The most popular majors at Vassar include Economics, Political Science, and Biology.
In addition to the college’s location in Brunswick, Bowdoin also possesses a coastal studies center near Casco Bay. The college stresses a well-rounded academic plan, with requirements in various subjects, including a heavy writing course required during a student’s first year. They have a highly selective acceptance rate of 10%.
Barnard is a women’s college, founded in 1889. It’s one of the Seven Sisters liberal arts colleges for women. The campus is located right on the Hudson River in Manhattan. Popular majors at the college include Psychology, Economics, and Political Science. Their motto---Hepomene toi logismoi---means “Following the Way of Reason.”
Colby College is home to Morty the Mule, beloved mascot of the Mules sports teams. The average ACT and SAT scores of incoming students ranges between 31--33 and 1,350--1,510. Approximately 48% of students receive grant aid. Colby has a six year graduation rate of 90%.
Middlebury College is historic for being the very first college in the US to graduate an African-American student---Alexander Twilight in 1823. This college has an acceptance rate of 17%. 46% of the student body receive grant aid. Middlebury has a four year graduation rate of 83%.
Alenda Lux Ubi Orta Libertas is the school motto of Davidson, translating to mean “Let Learning Be Cherished Where Liberty Has Arisen.” Davidson’s most popular majors are Biology, Political Science and Government, and Economics. 63% of students receive grant aid. Nearly 80% of students study abroad during their college career.
First called Madison University, Colgate University’s motto in English translates to “For God and For Truth.” There are 9 students for every 1 faculty member. The university’s six year graduation rate is 89% and the four year rate is 84%. Colgate’s school colors are maroon and white, and they compete as the Raiders.
Macalester college has quite the Scottish influence. From its name, to its sports team (he Scots) to the mascot (Mac). The average ACT and SAT results of admitted students are 29--33 and 1,310--1,500 respectively. Notable alumni include actress Danai Gurira and former VP Walter Mondale.
“Word of life and the light of knowledge” is the motto of the University of Richmond. UR has both interestingly named school colors---UR blue and UR red---and a mascot---WebstUR the Spider. A whopping 82% of the student body study is at the undergraduate level. The campus is wrapped around Westhampton Lake.
Unlike many colleges, Grinnell does not require students to pay an application fee. The average ACT and SAT scores are between 30--34 and 1,370--1,530 respectively. Grinnell has graduated a number of notable people---including comedian Kumail Nanjiani, actor Gary Cooper, and musician Herbie Hancock.
Scripps has school colors of green and white. The college also possesses a unique mascot named Athena, called Athena La Semeuse, which means “She who sows.” The mascot is fitting to the school, as Scripps has always had a focus on educating women to prepare them for the professional world.
Lafayette College’s campus is 70 miles west of New York City, right on the Delaware River. It has an acceptance rate of 29%, with around 2,600 students admitted out of about 9,200 applicants. Lafayette’s student body is made up of only undergraduate students, as a bachelor’s is the highest degree offered.
Bryn Mawr is historically known to be the first women's college to offer graduate level education, including a PhD. The college is affiliated with multiple other organizations and colleges, including Oberlin College and the Seven Sisters, a group of elite women’s colleges. The school’s colors are yellow and white.
As a women’s school, Smith College has an all female population, accepting over 1,500 students out of approximately 5,800 applicants. The selectivity of the school may explain the small class sizes, with about 9 students for every 1 faculty member. The top 5 most popular majors include Experimental Psychology, Economics, Political Science, Biology, and Engineering.
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.
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