One of the important aspects of choosing a college that is “the right fit” is understanding how colleges and universities differ. A liberal arts college focuses on a well-rounded education as opposed to a career-based education. It offers a philosophy of education that goes back to the ancient Greeks, emphasizing ideas and ways of thinking that aren’t specific to a particular job. Liberal arts colleges value communication, critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork--all of which are valuable assets in the work-force and society as a whole.
Liberal Arts in a Technical World?
Liberal arts colleges still offer degrees in science and mathematics as well as the behavioral sciences, arts, and languages. A liberal arts education is an excellent springboard to medical school, graduate school, and the world of work. Even people with technical degrees can benefit from a liberal arts experience. As my engineer friend put it, “Engineers should all have liberal arts educations because the world is full of well-trained people who can solve technological problems. Innovation will come from the people who solve social problems, not technical problems.” He used the iPhone as an example, “The problems that drove its desirability were social problems; the value is what the phone does for you and how you interact with it, not how it is made.” He emphasized, “A person needs both a liberal arts view point and a technical specialty. The former, to have the perspective, persuasion, and critical thinking skills; the latter is to have enough credibility that people will hire and listen to you.” Michael Dickerson, of Etsy summed it up this way, “You need to understand how people think and how people live, and knowing calculus isn’t going to help you with that.” There are many successful CEOs of tech companies that have a liberal arts degree. Having those “soft-skills,” such as communication and problem solving abilities helped position them for success, even when their degree was not related to the company’s product. This article goes into more detail: http://www.inc.com/laura-entis/6-cases-for-the-value-of-a-liberal-arts-education.html Even if you opt for a research institution, getting a liberal arts foundation will be beneficial for any field you choose.
Characteristics of a Liberal Arts College
Another benefit to liberal arts colleges is that they usually offer small class sizes that are taught by professors. Undergraduates are the focus and since graduate programs are limited, if they exist at all, undergrads get to participate in professor lead research as early as their freshman and sophomore years. The professors are there to teach and interact with students. Students will get to know their professors, and more importantly, the professors get to know their students, this enables students to get excellent guidance and recommendations towards career paths or graduate programs.
Isn't a Liberal Arts College Expensive?
While many liberal arts colleges are private, there are also some public liberal arts institutions, which can help manage costs. The west coast includes these budget friendly options: Sonoma State University, Southern Oregon University, Western Oregon University, and The Evergreen State College in Washington. Many private liberal arts colleges have generous merit-base scholarships and have merit money for “B” students, so you shouldn’t count the private option out until you’ve explored the possibilities. The book Colleges that Change Lives, by Loren Pope, is an excellent resource for exploration. Here is a link to the website: http://www.ctcl.org/.
Benefits of a Liberal Arts Education
A liberal arts college might be right for you if you are looking for a college experience that enhances the following:
synthesis of new ideas