fbpx

The Top 12 Liberal Arts Colleges in 2021

April 1, 2021 | Staff Writers

Liberal Arts Colleges
Degree Finder
BestValueSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

In simple terms, a liberal arts college focuses on providing a well-rounded education instead of being highly career-focused. These schools will prepare you for life. You’ll gain knowledge in a wide variety of subjects, and learn more about who you are as a person. These schools are an excellent place to get a degree and discover your place in the world.

Liberal arts colleges provide what’s known as a classical education. The term liberal originated from liberales, which means worthy of a free person. Education was seen as something of great value that should be taught to those who were worthy of the knowledge. In this time period, these subjects included grammar, rhetoric, and logic. Over time, more core subjects were added. This includes mathematics, art, literature, and social sciences.

Even though the subjects taught expanded, the core sentiment has stayed the same through the ages. Liberal arts colleges prioritize free thinking and knowledge over career skills.

Liberal Arts Colleges vs Universities

Liberal arts colleges are different than universities. They are both types of colleges, but there are some significant differences between them. Choosing a college is a life-changing decision, and it can be overwhelming. You have to choose your major, the type of degree you are seeking, and even the type of college you wish to attend before you begin looking at specific schools.

School and class size are one of the most obvious differences between them. Universities generally have larger campuses, students, and class sizes than liberal arts colleges. The smaller class size means liberal arts colleges provide closer relationships between students and faculty, and classroom discussions are a common occurrence. Universities are less personal, with learning often occurring from lectures with little student discussion.

The size also means that universities provide more anonymity. On a small campus, rumors spread fast because everyone knows everyone. Universities have a greater focus on career preparation and research. while liberal colleges focus on providing a solid educational foundation. Liberal arts schools typically only offer undergraduate degrees. Universities often offer Masters, Doctorates, and Ph.D.’s in addition to undergraduate degrees.

Rank School Location
1Harvey Mudd College Claremont, California
2Pomona CollegeClaremont, California
3Amherst CollegeAmherst, Massachusetts
4Kenyon CollegeGambier, Ohio
5United States Military AcademyWest Point, New York

Best Liberal Arts Colleges

1

Harvey Mudd College

  • Claremont, California
  • Graduation Rate: 93%

Harvey Mudd College is an undergraduate science and engineering college. It’s part of a group of colleges known as Claremont Colleges. Their are 5 colleges in total. They have adjoining colleges and share some facilities, but each college is independently staffed and managed. This unique approach gives students the resources of a larger college with the benefits of a small liberal arts college.

It has approximately 900 students, with 99% living on campus for the duration of their attendance at the college. Harvey Mudd views the residential experience to be a key part of the overall educational experience. Emphasis is placed on a well-rounded education, with a liberal arts approach to the focus of science, technology, engineering, and math. Majors include Biology, Computer Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Physics.

School Overview

Acceptance rate: 14%
Tuition: $33,000 after aid
Visit School Website
2

Pomona College

  • Claremont, California
  • Graduation Rate: 97%

The majority of liberal arts colleges are found on the east coast, but Congregationalists in the late 1800s saw the need for one on the west coast. Pomona College was founded in the late 1800s by Congregationalists who desired a “New England” type college in California. It went on to become the Founding school of the Claremont College Consortium.

There are approximately 1,7000 students attending the college. It offers 48 majors and 600 courses on campus. However, students can also choose from over 2,000 courses at other Claremont colleges. Admissions are extremely selective. In fact, it has the lowest acceptance rate of any liberal arts college in the U.S. Students may also create their own Major with guidance from faculty.

A high value is placed on teacher-student interaction. The student to teacher ratio is 8:1, and nearly all classes are 30 students or under. Core liberal arts courses are a requirement. Abroad study is also highly encouraged, with nearly 50% of students spending part of their enrollment studying abroad. The college has 62 programs in 34 countries. Students that wish to study an outside program can petition for approval.

School Overview

Acceptance rate: 8%
Tuition: $14,000
Visit School Website
3

Amherst College

  • Amherst, Massachusetts
  • Graduation Rate: 93%

Amherst College is the third oldest college in Massachusetts, founded in 1821. It was originally a men’s college, but it became co-ed in 1975. In 2018, there was 1,855 students enrolled in the college. Alumni include five Nobel Prize laureates, which is the most of any undergraduate institution worldwide. Other notable alumni include Pulitzer Prize winners, a President of the United States, and numerous well-known writers, entertainers, political figures, and business executives.

Amherst College offers a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree in over 40 Majors. Students may create their own interdisciplinary major or independent study as well. Majors include Law, History, Neuroscience, Classics, Economics, and Film and Media Studies.

As part of the Five College Consortium, Amherst has a fully open curriculum. Students choose their courses, with no core curriculum or distribution requirements. The college offers over 850 courses, with thousands more available at other colleges in the Consortium.

School Overview

Acceptance rate: 13%
Tuition: $25,000
Visit School Website
4

Kenyon College

  • Gambier, Ohio
  • Graduation Rate: 90%

Kenyon College is a liberal arts college with approximately 1,700 students and a 1,000-acre campus. The Brown Family Environmental Center is part of the campus. It hosts 7 diverse ecosystems in a 380-acre area. Alumni include 6 Rhodes Scholars, a former U.S. President, well-known actors and writers.

Kenyon has four Academic Divisions, and students are required to take courses from each Division for a well-rounded liberal arts education. Divisions include Fine Arts, Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences. The college has over 50 Majors and Minors. Students may also Double Major or choose their own Major. Majors include American Studies, Classical Civilization, Middle Eastern Studies, Mathematics and Statistics, and Psychology.

School Overview

Acceptance rate: 36%
Tuition: $29,000 after aid
Visit School Website
5

United States Military Academy

  • West Point, New York
  • Graduation Rate: 86%

West Point was established over 200 years ago. It’s high standards and philosophy have influenced many other colleges around the nation. Like other liberal arts colleges, it focuses on providing a well-rounded education. The school places emphasis on leadership, and graduates go on to be Officers in the Army. There’s also a competitive athletics program. Graduates earn a Bachelor of Science degree. Departments include Behavioral Science, Chemistry and Life Science, English and Philosophy, and Law.

School Overview

Acceptance: 11%
Tuition: Paid by Army in exchange for service
Visit School Website

Need help finding the right college?

We can help you find the right school based on the program you select.

Search Colleges

Find the best online and offline colleges for your degree

Best Value Schools is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
6

Colgate University

  • Hamilton, New York
  • Graduation Rate: 90%

Colgate University is a liberal arts college with approximately 3,000 students. It offers 56 Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree programs. It is known for its high academic standards, beautiful classic campus, and loyal alumni. It has a student-teacher ratio of 9:1, which makes it ideal for those who prefer close interaction with professors and a personalized experience.

The core curriculum takes an interdisciplinary approach with the goal of preparing students for the world. Knowledge rarely fits neatly into the categorized boxes, and knowledge of different disciplines gives students an advantage when they enter the professional world. Core studies connect to all Majors, and encourages discussion and free-thinking. Majors and Minors span four Divisions. These include Arts and Humanities, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Social Sciences, and University Studies.

School Overview

Acceptance rate: 25%
Tuition: $26,000 after aid
Visit School Website
7

Haverford College

  • Haverford, Pennsylvania
  • Graduation Rate: 90%

Haverford College is a private liberal arts college. It was originally very small, with under 300 students. Enrollment in 2018 was 1,353. The size of the school isn’t the only thing that has changed over the years. It was originally a Quaker college and open only to men. It no longer has a religious affiliation, but the Quaker philosophy still influences the campus culture and values. The school become co-ed in 1970. Now women make up a little over half of the student body.

Haverford offers a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree and a Bachelor of Science degree. It offers 31 majors in social science, natural science, and the humanities. In addition to the study required for their Major, all students must take courses in all three departments for a well-rounded education. Haverford is a member of the Tri-College Consortium and the Quaker Consortium.

School Overview

Acceptance rate: 19%
Tuition: $29,000 after aid
Visit School Website
8

Smith College

  • Northampton, Massachusetts
  • Graduation Rate: 89%

Smith College is a private women’s liberal arts college that was opened in 1875. It is a member of Seven Sisters Colleges and the Five College Consortium. It offers more than 50 programs in Arts, Language, Literature, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, and Social Science and History.

The college takes a unique approach. Instead of strict course requirements, the curriculum is open. There are basic requirements for earning a Bachelor of Liberal Arts, but the specific courses are largely left up to the student. This provides flexibility and allows students greater control of their education. Students are strongly encouraged to choose courses from the seven major fields of knowledge, which are designed to provide a perspective on humanity’s past, present, and future.

School Overview

Acceptance rate: 31%
Tuition: $28,000 after aid
Visit School Website
9

Vassar College

  • Poughkeepsie, New York
  • Graduation Rate: 91%

Vassar College is a private liberal arts college that was founded in 1861. It was the second women’s university in the United States. It is one of the Seven Sisters Colleges and has a close affiliation with Yale University. A merger was considered, but both institutions became co-ed, negating the need for a merger. It has around 2,500 students and a campus that spans more than 1,000 acres.

The college offers Bachelor of Liberal Arts degrees in over 50 Majors. It has a long history of innovation, being among the first to offer Drama, Psychology, and Russian. It was also an early adopter of an interdisciplinary approach. It has over 0 departments and a total of 18 interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary programs. There’s also a strong focus on research. Each summer, Vassar offers a research program in Science, Humanities, and the Arts. Students spend 10 weeks working in one of the 3 research programs and working one on one with a faculty member.

School Overview

Acceptance rate: 25%
Tuition: $28,000 after aid
Visit School Website
10

DePauw University

  • Greencastle, Indiana
  • Graduation Rate: 85%

DePauw University is the top-ranked college in Indiana. It is a member of the Great Lakes Colleges Association and North Coast Athletic Conference. The school calendar is divided into a 4-1-4-1 term. s. Autumn and Spring semesters are 15 weeks, similar to a traditional academic calendar. Summer and Winter terms are 4 weeks, and offer unique opportunities. Students take one course during these terms, which can be used to pursue an area of interest or to engage in an internship domestically or abroad. Past internships include ABC News and Eli Whitney. Study and Service projects include a study at Galapagos Island and building an internet facility in El Salvador.

The student to faculty ratio is 9:1 and class sizes do not exceed 35 students. DePauw offers a wide variety of Majors including Biology, Psychology, Computer Science, and Pre-Engineering. There are several languages and cultural majors. These programs teach the language, history, and culture of the Country. Russian, Chinese, French, and Hispanic are some of the programs offered.

School Overview

Acceptance rate: 63%
Tuition: $24,000 after aid
Visit School Website
11

Maryville College

  • Maryville, Tennessee
  • Graduation Rate: 54%

Maryville College takes a student-centered approach. The school’s mission is to prepare students to be leaders and good citizens. It challenges students to seek the truth, gain wisdom, and seek justice. Maryville students complete 2,000 hours of community service weekly. The fall 2020 enrollment was 1,072, and all students are eligible for financial aid.

The college offers a surprising amount of degree options, including over 60 majors programs and 7 pre-professional programs. Courses of study include Accounting, Criminal Justice, Appalachian Studies, Biochemistry, Nonprofit Leadership, and Nursing. The core curriculum totals 51 hours. Core courses include Composition and Speech, Second Language, Creative Arts, Mathematical Reasoning, and Ethical Citizenship Around the World.

School Overview

Acceptance rate: 54%
Tuition: $18,000 after aid
Visit School Website
12

Spring Arbor University

  • Spring Arbor, Michigan
  • Graduation Rate: 54%

Spring Arbor University was originally an elementary and secondary school founded by members of the Free Methodist Church. A Junior college was added to the school in

1923. In 1930, elementary and secondary classes were discontinued. In 1963, they became a four-year University after getting accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools in 1960.

Spring Arbor offers more than 70 undergraduate majors. These include Accounting, Computer Science, Language Arts, Engineering, and Theological studies. It differs from most liberal arts colleges, because it also offers Master’s degrees including Business, Family Studies, and Education. It also offers Adult Bachelors and Professionals programs. These include Human Services, Organizational Management, Nursing, and Social Work.

Spring Arbor offers courses on campus or online in several formats. They also provide flexibility for those who wish to live on campus. Halls are divided into female and male, and lower and upperclassmen. They also provide family housing apartments for married students and those with children.

School Overview

Acceptance rate: 71%
Tuition: $20,000 after aid
Visit School Website

How We Rank Schools?

Schools are ranked based on graduation rate, how exclusive acceptance is, tuition, curriculum, class size, and reputation. We also consider prestige, alumni performance, and the campus and culture of the school. We aim to provide the best schools for high academic achievement as well as schools that offer a wide range of affordability and academic requirements. The best school varies based on the specific needs of the student, so we provide a diverse list to benefit all types of student.

For more programs check out our online Bachelor’s of Liberal Arts degree page.

Disagree With Our Ranking?

If you are affiliated with one of the schools listed and notice a mistake or disagree with your ranking, don’t hesitate to contact us. We aim to provide accurate and up to date information to provide the guidance students need when selecting a liberal arts college.

Scroll to Top