Top 25 Best Liberal Arts Colleges in the US | 2021 Rankings

Best Liberal Arts Colleges badgeThe Liberal Arts encompass a wide variety of subjects — from English to Business to Psychology. 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 in the US after combing through hundreds of schools. So check out the list below if you’re interested in a liberal arts education!

Top 25 Best Liberal Arts Colleges in the US

Pomona College was founded in 1887 and later on created the Claremont Colleges. Students who attend Pomona have the choice to take up to half their classes at the other four colleges and are free to use the other colleges’ resources. Because of these amazing opportunities, it’s no wonder that Pomona College is incredibly selective, accepting only under 8% of all applicants.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,573
As a liberal arts college, Williams College focuses on interdisciplinary studies and runs on a 4-1-4 schedule. Students can use the winter semester to take an interesting class, focus on their research, or study abroad. Along with their unique academic calendar, students can expect an average class size of six students to every faculty member.
Location Williamstown, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,149
Though Swarthmore College was founded in 1864, the school didn’t hold class until 1869. Swarthmore College is part of the Tri-College Consortium with two other schools -- students attending can register for classes at the other colleges. With such an amazing opportunity, it’s no wonder that Swarthmore is highly selective, with the incoming freshmen class typically scoring between 30 to 34 on the ACT and 1,400 to 1,550 on the SAT.
Location Swarthmore, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,559
As a liberal arts school, Amherst College has adopted an open curriculum, where students aren’t required to take any core classes and lets students create their own interdisciplinary study. Many students at Amherst major in fields such as Economics, Mathematics, and English Language and Literature, just to name a few.
Location Amherst, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,855
Washington and Lee University was founded in 1749, making it the country’s ninth-oldest university. The university has a rich history, from the inception of one of America’s oldest collegiate secret societies in 1880 to the university adopting their famous student-run honor system in 1905. Some of the more popular majors at Washington and Lee University include Business Administration and Management, Accounting and Business/Management, and Economics.
Location Lexington, VA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,223
Harvey Mudd College is part of the Claremont Consortium. Popular majors include Engineering, Computer Science, or Mathematics and Computer Science. Others may choose to do an Independent Program of Study or major in a field offered by one of the other schools, as long as they minor in something at Harvey Mudd.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 902
Claremont McKenna College was originally a men-only school, before transitioning into a coeducational school in 1976. Today, there’s a near-even split of women and men attending. Incoming freshmen, on average, scored between 30 to 34 on the ACT and 1,400 to 1,530 on the SAT.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,327
Wellesley College is a women-only college. Wellesley is also part of the Seven Sisters Colleges. The college is highly selective, only accepting 22% of all applicants. Students who attend the college can expect a typical class size to be around eight students for every one faculty member, and Wellesley boasts a 96% first-year retention rate.
Location Wellesley, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,534
Students at Bowdoin have few core curriculum requirements and can even participate in joint engineering programs with three other universities. Some of the more popular majors students choose at Bowdoin include Political Science and Government, Econometrics and Quantitative Economics, and Biology.
Location Brunswick, ME
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,828
Hamilton College was a men’s school for nearly a century before combining with the women-only Kirkland College and becoming coeducational. Today, there’s a near even split of men and women attending Hamilton College, as well as a near even split of men and women being admitted. Incoming students typically scored between 30 to 34 on the ACT and 1,390 to 1,530 on the SAT.
Location Clinton, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,005
Carleton College was named after William Carleton, who donated $50,000 to the school after seeing its first president survive a carriage and train accident. The school is quite selective, only accepting 20% of all applicants and many attendees are National Merit Scholars. Some of the most popular majors at Carleton include Computer Science, Biology, and International Relations and Affairs.
Location Northfield, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,097
Middlebury College has a long and interesting history. It was the first college to grant a degree to an African-American student, was the first college in New England to become co-ed, and hosts the oldest writers’ conference in America, the prestigious Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Middlebury College’s academic reputation means that the school sees over 9,000 applications every year, though only 1,500 are accepted.
Location Middlebury, VT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,611
Barnard College was originally formed because Columbia University wouldn’t accept women. Today, Barnard College is a prestigious all-women’s college that has an extremely selective acceptance rate. In fact, only 14% of applicants are accepted into Barnard. Students at the college can expect a typical class size to be around 9 students to 1 faculty member, and 95% of freshmen return for their sophomore year.
Location New York City, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,562
VThe second college to join the Seven Sisters Colleges, Vassar College began as a women’s school before becoming coeducational a century later. Vassar College also houses the country’s largest undergraduate library collections, split into eight libraries. Students at Vassar can expect an average class size to be around eight students to one faculty member, and the school boasts a 96% first year retention rate.
Location Poughkeepsie, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,456
Students at Colby College will find themselves in a unique and rich academic environment. The college operates on a 4-1-4 semester schedule Studying abroad is also popular with students, as the college accepts credits from over 200 programs. Some popular majors at Colby College include Economics, Political Science and Government, and Biology.
Location Waterville, ME
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,000
Haverford College is part of the Tri College Consortium and the Quaker Consortium. As a liberal arts college, Haverford requires students to take a wide variety of classes. The school also upholds the Honor Code, run entirely by students. Some of the more popular majors at Haverford include Psychology, Economics, and Political Science and Government.
Location Haverford, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,310
In the 1850’s, Davidson College created the Scholarship Plan, which allowed people to buy a scholarship for $100 and redeem it to cover their tuition until the 1870’s. Today, 63% of students receive some form of grant aid and 63% receive some form of institutional aid. Davidson College has an average class size of 9 students to 1 faculty member, and the college has a 95% first-year retention rate.
Location Davidson, NC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,843
In 1914, Grinnell College offered a Peace Rock to students protesting the abolishment of a favorite tradition. In response, a group of students stole and hid the rock, which wasn’t found until 2017. Grinnell College is need-blind, which means that finances don’t factor into admissions.
Location Grinnell, IA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,716
Colgate University is a highly selective school, accepting only 24% of their applicants. Incoming freshmen have an average ACT score between 30 to 34 and an average SAT score between 1,380 to 1,530. Students and alumni at Colgate consider 13 to be their lucky number and is pervasive throughout their history and college. Every Friday the 13th is “Colgate Day,” where alumni don on clothes representing their school.
Location Hamilton, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,969
Macalester College offers over 30 different majors and students can even create their own. Additionally, Macalester has a partnership with Washington University, where students can take on an accelerated architectural program and receive up to a master’s in architecture. Some of the most popular majors include Econometrics, Biology, and Experimental Psychology.
Location St. Paul, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,174
The University of Richmond is a liberal arts school committed to giving its students a well-rounded education. Students at UR have general education requirements, which includes taking a class from six fields of study, a freshman seminar, and a language class. Students have a variety of majors to choose from. The most popular is Business.
Location Richmond, VA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,002
Scripps, an all-women’s college, is the second-oldest school in the Claremont Colleges. The school is known for its high selectivity, academic resources, and its beautiful campus. In fact, its campus was the first to receive the Getty Campus Heritage Initiative Program, that wanted to record and preserve parts of the campus. Scripps College only accepts 24% of all applicants.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,071
Since the bachelor’s degree is the highest level of education offered, you’ll only find undergraduate students on campus. On average, first-year students score between 27 -- 32 on the ACT and 1280 -- 1450 on the SAT. The College of the Holy Cross has an acceptance rate of 34%. The student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1.
Location Worcester, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,939
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Joss Whedon, and Michael Bay are just a few of the notable alumni of Wesleyan University. Located near the Connecticut River, Wesleyan has an acceptance rate of 16%. Of the 13,260 some applications sent in every year, WU will accept about 2,160 of them. The school has a 96% first-year retention rate and a 4-year graduation rate of 88%.
Location Middletown, CT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,217
Lafayette College is considered both a Hidden and Little Ivy. Beyond its academic offerings, Lafayette is also known for its campus and student culture. Because of everything the school has to offer both academically and socially, it’s not surprising that the school receives over 9,000 applications annually. However, Lafayette is highly selective, only admitting 29% of those who applied.
Location Easton, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,642

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

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.

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