The 25 Best Liberal Arts Colleges – 2016 University Rankings

25 Best Liberal Arts CollegesLiberal arts colleges offer some of the most unique experiences for students. These schools often emphasize well-rounded educations in a diverse range of topics (although not without direction, as most liberal arts schools offer many of the same undergraduate majors found at research universities).

They’re also incredibly unique in and of themselves. Liberal arts colleges are not all created equal.

Where some may be small and quaint campuses with a heavy emphasis on English, others offer a rigorous science curriculum in the center of a metro urban area.

So, no matter what you’re hoping to get from a liberal arts education, you’re sure to find it somewhere.

In this list, we ranked the top 25 best liberal art schools from across the nation, based on factors like graduation rate, diversity, and selectivity.

Here are the 25 best liberal arts colleges in the country:


25. Macalester College

By Appraiser (self-made Photo by William Wesen) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Appraiser (self-made Photo by William Wesen) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Saint Paul, MN

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,039

Located in the residential section of St. Paul, MN, Macalester College enrolls about 2,000 undergrads. They offer 37 majors and 63 areas of study and boast offerings of more than 800 different courses available to students.

Learn more about Macalester College


24. Bucknell University

Source: Flickr user mason13a.

Source: Flickr user mason13a.

Lewisburg, PA

Undergraduate enrollment: 3,532

With its College of Engineering, College of Arts & Sciences, and School of Management, Bucknell University serves 3,500 undergraduate students. They’re recognized for academic excellence in a number of fields, but possibly best known for their top-ranked Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Electrical Engineering programs.

Learn more about Bucknell University


23. Scripps College

By Lure Photography (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Lure Photography (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Claremont, CA

Undergraduate enrollment: 990

Scripps enrolls about 1,000 undergraduates, of which nearly all are women. Students’ most popular choices of major include Biology, Political Science, and Psychology. Scripps College is a member of the Claremont Colleges consortium, a system of co-located, west-coast colleges that are consistently recognized as being among the best institutions in the country.

Learn more about Scripps College


22. Colorado College

By Mark Lee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Mark Lee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Colorado Springs, CO

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,041

Colorado College is recognized for undertaking many projects to reduce their carbon footprint and use more renewable energy sources. The private liberal arts college is located about 70 miles south of Denver, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Along with breathtaking mountain views, the campus also has an eclectic mix of historic and modern buildings. CC students study just one class at a time with their innovative block plan.

Learn more about Colorado College


21. Colby College

Colby College - Best Small Colleges

Source: Flickr user metimbers2009.

Waterville, ME

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,820

Colby College is a small, private liberal arts college that enrolls about 1,800 undergraduates each year. Although the enrollment is fairly small, the school boasts students from nearly every state and 70 countries worldwide.

Learn more about Colby College


20. Grinnell College

Source: Flickr user silversprite.

Source: Flickr user silversprite.

Grinnell, IA

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,721

Located in central Iowa, Grinnell College enrolls about 1,700 undergrads each year at its small-town campus. The college comprises both historic buildings–some dating nearly back to the college’s founding in 1846–and new, state of the art facilities. Grinnell is recognized as being one of the most socioeconomically diverse colleges in the country.

Learn more about Grinnell College


19. Hamilton College

Hamilton College - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Source: Flickr user chuckthewriter.

Clinton, NY

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,926

Hamilton College is a private liberal arts college that enrolls 1,900 undergrads. Pioneering the “test-optional” movement, Hamilton was one of the first colleges to support removing the SAT requirement for college admissions. The college is also cited for its “open” curriculum, in which students are free to select nearly any combination of courses.

Learn more about Hamilton College


18. Colgate University

Colgate University - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Colgate University Across Taylor Lake” by Balon GreyjoyOwn work. Licensed under CC0 via Commons.

Hamilton, NY

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,890

Colgate University is a medium-sized, private liberal arts college located in rural New York state. The college campus is surrounded by 1,100 acres of undeveloped land and boasts an incredibly scenic lakeside view along with offering an exceptional education in a number of different areas and majors.

Learn more about Colgate University


17. Davidson College

Davidson College - Best Small Colleges

Source: Flickr user melystu.

Davidson, NC

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,788

Davidson College is a private liberal arts college settled in a lakeside college town that shares its name and enrolls about 1,800 undergraduates. The college also offers a College Farm area, where it is committed to producing its own responsibly-grown food, which is served at the campus’ dining halls.

Learn more about Davidson College


16. Harvey Mudd College

By The original uploader was Imagine at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

By The original uploader was Imagine at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Claremont, CA

Undergraduate enrollment: 807

This small liberal arts college is a member of the Claremont Colleges group located in Claremont, CA. Harvey Mudd is known for its excellence in science and engineering arenas. The college enrolls about 800 students, all undergraduates, and most common majors include: General Engineering, Computer Science, and Math.

Learn more about Harvey Mudd College


15. Barnard College

Source: Flickr user eager.

Source: Flickr user eager.

New York, NY

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,489

Barnard College is a private, women’s liberal arts college located in Manhattan. Originally founded when Columbia College of Columbia University was an all-men’s school, Barnard was established to provide women with access to a quality education equal to Columbia and the rest of the Ivy League.

Learn more about Barnard College


14. Wesleyan University

Wesleyan University - Best Medium-sized Colleges

Wesolin” by Original uploader was Ychennay at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Middletown, CT

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,906

Wesleyan University is a private liberal arts college that enrolls 2,900 undergraduate students at its campus in central Connecticut. With 47 majors and 40 academic departments, the college also allows students to build to their own major, completing a customized selection of courses.

Learn more about Wesleyan University


13. Soka University of America

By Beyond My Ken (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Beyond My Ken (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Aliso Viejo, CA

Undergraduate enrollment: 412

Soka is located between Los Angeles and San Diego in Southern California. The college is known for its commitment to the ideals of pacifism and human rights. Soka also boasts the highest endowment per student of any U.S. college or university. All students at Soka study an interdisciplinary curriculum, with no defined majors.

Learn more about Soka University of America


12. Middlebury College

Middlebury College - Best Medium-sized Colleges

Midd wiki 2“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia.

Middlebury, VT

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,495

Middlebury is one of the oldest liberal arts schools in the country, founded in 1800. It was the first college in the nation to offer a major in Environmental Studies and is particularly known for programs focused on conservation and agricultural programs. The private liberal arts college enrolls 2,500 undergrads.

Learn more about Middlebury College


11. Vassar College

Vassar College - Best Liberal Arts Colleges

Thompson Library (Vassar College)” by Noteremote. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Poughkeepsie, NY

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,477

Vassar College has been lauded for its commitment not only to educational excellence, but also inclusion and accessibility for all types of students. Of the 2,400 undergraduate students, the most common majors include English, Economics, and Political Science. The campus in Poughkeepsie is located in central New York state.

Learn more about Vassar College


10. Carleton College

By Dogs1337 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dogs1337 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Northfield, MN

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,045

With 2,000 undergraduates enrolled in its campus south of the Twin Cities, Carleton College is known for providing a particularly well-rounded core curriculum. The school requires students to take courses in international studies, intercultural domestic studies, art performance, reasoning (formal or statistical), and even physical education.

Learn more about Carleton College


9. Haverford College

Haverford, PA

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,187

This small liberal arts college in southeastern Pennsylvania enrolls about 1,200 undergrads and is located just outside of Philadelphia. Haverford is noted as having produced an exceptionally high number of big-name scholars, including 67 Fulbright scholarship recipients, 20 Rhodes scholars, and 3 Nobel Prize recipients.

Learn more about Haverford College


8. Claremont McKenna College

Source: Flickr user campusgrotto.

Source: Flickr user campusgrotto.

Claremont, CA

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,316

Claremont McKenna is part of the seven-member Claremont Colleges Consortium located on a shared campus in southern California. Within this group, Claremont McKenna is positioned for its relative strength in business and social science fields, but students enrolled in any of the 5 undergraduate colleges are able to cross-register for courses offered by any of the schools in the consortium.

Learn more about Claremont McKenna College


7. Washington and Lee University

Lexington, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,855

Among one of the most-respected, rigorous, and selective private liberal arts colleges in the country, Washington and Lee University is home to approximately 2,000 undergrad students. The three most popular undergrad majors are Business Management, Economics, and Accounting. The college’s name stems from the fact that George Washington originally endowed the university and Robert E. Lee served as the college’s president up until his death.

Learn more about Washington and Lee University


6. Bowdoin College

Brunswick, ME

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,795

Bowdoin has commonly been referenced as near-Ivy or Ivy League equivalent among private liberal arts colleges. The school offers a range of majors, but among their most popular and revered are the Government and Legal Studies programs. About 1,800 undergrads are enrolled in the campus near the southern Maine border.

Learn more about Bowdoin College


5. Wellesley College

Wellesley, MA

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,474

Wellesley enrolls 2,500 undergraduate women and offers 32 academic department majors plus 22 interdisciplinary majors. The private liberal arts college offers numerous cross-enrollment agreements that open up students to opportunities at other top-tier colleges such as Harvard, Olin, MIT, Bowdoin, Babson, and others.

Learn more about Wellesley College


4. Amherst College

Amherst College

Source: Flickr user David Brooks.

Amherst, MA

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,785

Amherst College is a private, liberal arts college that enrolls about 1,800 undergraduate students. Students have the freedom to build their own curriculum of interdisciplinary studies. Faculty advisors work with no more than 5 freshmen students each year to help guide them through the process of creating a major.

Learn more about Amherst College


3. Swarthmore College

Swarthmore, PA

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,534

Swarthmore is a liberal arts college located in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Swarthmore’s approximately 1,500 undergraduates have many majors to choose from, but common choices include Political Science, Biology, and Economics.

Learn more about Swarthmore College


2. Williams College

Williams College

Ephtowers” by SERSeanCrane – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.

Williamstown, MA

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,096

Williams College is a private liberal arts school with 2,000 understands and an endowment of more than $2 billion. Undergrads living on campus are organized into four geographically separate “Neighborhoods”, where they live among a mix of lower- and upperclassmen.

Learn more about Williams College


1. Pomona College

Pomona College

Source: Flickr user wlcarchitectsphotography.

Claremont, CA

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,610

Pomona College, one of the Claremont Colleges, is an exclusively-undergraduate, private, liberal arts school that enrolls about 1,600 students per year. Students are required to take at least one class from each of 5 areas: Creative Expression; Social Institutions and Human Behavior; History, Values, Ethics and Cultural Studies; Physical and Biological Sciences; and Mathematical Reasoning.

Learn more about Pomona College

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

View all of the 2016 Best Colleges rankings from College Raptor

2 thoughts on “The 25 Best Liberal Arts Colleges – 2016 University Rankings”

  1. Robert says:

    Williams College is in Massachusetts, not Pennsylvania

    1. Tyler Hakes says:

      You are correct! Thank you for pointing out this mistake. -Tyler

Comments are closed.

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