The 10 Best “Hidden Gem” Liberal Arts Colleges

2. Bard College (Annandale-On-Hudson, NY)

photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

Bard is not simply one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country; rather, it is one of the most important cultural institutions in America.

Arts are at the heart of Bard College, exemplified by the school’s own arts festivals. One such festival, Bard SummerScape, is an impressive 7-week event featuring an assortment of music, dance, theatre, art, film, and other genres.

Additionally, the school hosts some of New York’s most important cultural attractions, including the CSS Hessel Museum of Contemporary Art as well as the incredibly impressive Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, an architectural spectacle designed by the great Frank Gehry.

Set within scenic New York a few hours from Manhattan, the school has been under the Presidency of Leon Botstein for over 40 years. During Botstein’s tenure, the student body has increased 400%. Additionally, over 40 centers, affiliated institutes (Such as Bard College at Simon’s Rock), and programs have been created since Botstein became President.

1. Lawrence University (Appleton, WI)

Lawrence University – photo by Shutter Runner via Flickr Creative Commons

A school whose students consistently rave about its excellence, Lawrence is one of the most diverse, unique colleges shaping the futures of its undergraduates.

Unbelievably high student learning and employment outcomes are abundant at Lawrence. In just six months of graduation, an astounding 99% of students at Lawrence are employed, in graduate school, or in a fellowship/service opportunity.

We do not know of any other liberal arts college in the midwest that can boast such extraordinary numbers. Some companies that Lawrence’s graduates are placed six months upon graduation into include Apple, Google, and LinkedIn, among many others.

Lawrence is well-known for its conservatory of music, one of the oldest collegiate music institutions in the country. 25% of the students at Lawrence study at the conservatory, and of those in the conservatory, many choose to dual major with an academic program. For the student interested in both music and academics, Lawrence offers surefire excellence.

An appealing aspect of Lawrence is its small student to faculty ratio – for every 9 students, there is a faculty member. This small environment allows for 1-on-1 attention for every student at the school.

Often regarded as one of the most rigorous colleges in the country, students from over 50 countries are represented at Lawrence, making it one of the most diverse liberal arts campuses in the country.

Here you have it, our take on the 10 best hidden gem liberal arts colleges in the US. Any schools you would like to have seen in here? Share with us below in the comments.


  1. I am a 1962 graduate of St. Olaf College as are two of my daughters. St. Olaf provided me with an excellent academic education in preparation for graduate school and good jobs. Excellent faculty and many opportunities…mine was with the St. Olaf Orchestra….and friendships that have lasted a lifetime.

    • Me too, but a decade later. I was a music major and bass section leader my senior year in the St. Olaf Choir. A formative and life changing experience so sing with that group and go on four tours.

    • Good to see you here, Mary. As a fellow orchestra member I’ve been impressed by the recent awards of that musical group.

    • Possibly because St John’s is not “liberal arts” like the ones listed are. St John’s is a wonderful excellent college, but with one basic major and not a variety of “liberal arts” majors. Just a guess.

  2. So happy and proud that you included Lawrence on your list. I’m working on the planning team for our 40th reunion next June, and we’re all just as passionate about the impact Lawrence has had on our lives as we were in the summer of 1980. Thanks for shining some welcome light on LU!

  3. My son attends Lawrence University and absolutely loves it. I’m so glad ot was #1 on the list a great college in a fantastic city. They also peovide a lot od sports. The stud9are a name not a number. I was skeptical when we firat visited LU but the ref carpet waa layed out for us and my son knew before we left out visit this was his college. Great school. I cant rave enough.

  4. North Park University (Chicago, Illinois) is another hidden gem. At one time, the majority of students came from Covenant Churches. The Covenant was founded by Swedes, and at one time the majority of on campus students were Swedish. There is a great deal of diversity today. When North Park College began adding graduate programs they eventually changed to the title of University. In that there is also North Park Seminary on the same campus, there remains a strong Christian influence.

  5. University of Puget sound in Tacoma is a hidden gem. My husband and I are Austin College alums(6th on the list) & my daughter goes to UPS (very similar to AC but in a prettier setting)

  6. Well deserved praise for Lawrence University! Graduated in 1987 and am grateful each day for all I learned in and out of class. LU’s “light more light!” -Goethe…is what we need more of today. If Lawrence is a good fit for your future college student and they’d like to attend…do all you can to calmly support their decision!

  7. I’m a proud ‘72 graduate of Eckerd College, then Florida Presbyterian College. It is a beautiful campus on Boca Ciega Bay with wonderfully diverse programs. It deserves to be on this list, for sure.
    My niece is at Lees McRae College in Banner Elk, NC. I thought it might make this list.

  8. Eckerd was the most amazing experience. I traveled abroad to London my sophomore year, Morocco my junior year and Bond University in Goldcoast Australia my senior year. I have lifetime friends from Eckerd that are more like family. So proud that Eckerd consistently makes top Liberal Arts school lists.


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