Some parents shy away from the idea of letting their children pursue a liberal arts education. Many want a full service university with a business college or health science curriculum that they feel will lead to a career. However, the reality is that students from liberal arts colleges are getting hired and going on to grad school, and the rate of employment doesn’t differ that much for these grads. So, here are 5 reasons why families should put liberal arts colleges back on their college lists:
1. Small Class Sizes and Professor Access
Instead of being a number in a large lecture hall at a university, liberal arts colleges offer personalized attention. With classes that often range from 10-20 students, there is more opportunity for interactive learning and discussion. Professors are also more accessible with many spending more time on campus with generous office hours and fewer students to see. It’s not unusual at liberal arts colleges for professors to invite groups of students over to their home for dinners and form long lasting mentorships.
2. Grading Curve Perils
Most students are surprised to find out that science courses at large universities tend to be graded on a curve. That means that unlike in high school, only a very limited number of students get A’s or B’s. The majority get C’s, and a certain number are guaranteed D’s or even F’s. Pre-med students learn this the hard way in the notorious “weed out courses” like Organic Chemistry when dozens of students drop the idea of becoming a doctor. You simply can’t get into med school these days with C’s on your transcript in science courses. However, at most liberal arts colleges, science courses are not graded on a curve, and the college is vested in getting as many students into grad school as possible. That is a primary mission of liberal arts colleges—to have students go on to advanced degrees.
3. Professors vs. Teaching Assistants
At large universities, the pressure to achieve tenure and publish or do research often keeps professors out of the classroom. In their place, students find graduate assistants at the front of the classroom. While these are usually very smart individuals, they lack experience in preparing course material and teaching. I had a student this year at an Ivy League university who told me that she struggled with Biology because her TA had a thick accent and was difficult to understand with less-than-perfect English. This was compounded by the fact that he had never taught before and did not know how to respond to questions effectively. Needless to say, her parents were not pleased to be paying $50,000 a year for a marginally qualified TA to be teaching their daughter.
While most of us who went to a large university have friends we stay in touch with from college, grads from smaller colleges seem to have closer knit friend groups and alumni connections. Perhaps it is that they are forced to spend more time together because there are not as many students on campus. Or maybe it’s that smaller colleges have a more defined identity than universities with thousands of varying students. Whatever the reason, graduates of smaller colleges seem to have a camaraderie that is unique.
5. Activities and Leadership Roles
There are certainly lots of clubs and organizations at large universities, but it’s also easier to sit back and not do anything. At smaller colleges, everyone seems to be involved in something. From D3 sports to student government, the arts, music or the Outing Club—in a tight knit community, everyone brings a friend along and participates. And somehow, managing the school newspaper, running for student senate or organizing a group to build housing in Appalachia over spring break, seems more achievable in a small environment.
Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic college counseling, SAT prep and athletic recruiting services www.collegeadvisorsonline.com.