Here Are the Top 10 Liberal Arts Colleges in the US

Every year, hundreds of thousands of prospective freshmen apply to liberal arts colleges in lieu of applying to the mega-large universities so often believed to provide the “classic college experience.”

Why in the world are liberal arts colleges just so absolutely appealing?

Well, there are a few big reasons that stand out.

They are incredibly intimate in their scale. Liberal arts colleges are among the most selective of schools, and because of this, there is usually a greater sense of community among both the student body and the faculty.

Conversely, at a very large university with 45,000+ students, it can sometimes be difficult (though not impossible) to foster an environment in which the students really get to know the teachers outside of the classroom.

Additionally, liberal arts colleges tend to have very low graduate student populations. Schools like Oberlin, Shenandoah, Occidental, and more may have a small population of graduate students, but generally everyone there is between 18 – 22 years old and studying in the undergraduate programs.

What this means is the resources, scholarships, and opportunities are provided almost exclusively to undergraduate students. This is sometimes in contrast to the larger universities, who are very graduate student centric.

Liberal arts colleges also have the benefit of being small, rarely exceeding 2,500 total students. The smaller scale fosters, for some students, a more intimate sense of academic and social excellence.

What are the top liberal arts colleges in the country?

For this list, we looked at 8 of the most widely-read lists profiling the top liberal arts colleges in the college and aggregated them to make this list. You can see our methodology at the end of this article.

Here are 10 of the best liberal arts colleges in the US.

10. College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, MA)

photo by Paul Keleher via Wikimedia Commons

One of the best liberal arts school in the country, Holy Cross is notably the oldest Catholic school in all of New England.

Upon entrance into the school, first-year students experience the Montserrat Program. In Montserrat, a seminar-style of discussion promotes an interdisciplinary approach to learning specifically designed for freshmen. Students choose which seminars to participate in based purely out of interest, not their major.

The school strives to balance the demands of academic and social life. As a result of its efforts, first-year students frequently rate their dorm life higher than students at other schools, making Holy Cross a remarkably “happy” institution.

Widely regarded among the most liberal, left-leaning of Catholic schools, Holy Cross, embracing libertarianism as well as social justice.

Notably, alumni of the school are known for their volunteer work; a high percentage of alumni participate in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

The campus itself is known for its remarkable beauty; a registered arboretum, the school has won awards for its landscape design. In 2010, the Princeton Review ranked it in the top 5 most beautiful colleges.


9. Carleton College (Northfield, MN)

photo by Dogs1337 via Wikimedia Commons

Among the most selective liberal arts colleges in the country, Carleton’s acceptance rate is less than 1-in-4 who apply.

Carleton consistently ranks in the top 10 of major publications. As of this writing in early August 2019, Carleton is #5 on US News, #7 on Times Higher Education, and #8 on Niche.com.

So what makes Carleton widely regarded as a top-10 liberal arts colleges?

One major accomplishment is the quality of their students and alumni. Between 2000 and 2016, Carleton has produced over 300 alumni who have won the most prestigious fellowships, including Fulbrights, Goldwater Scholars, and even 2 Rhodes Scholars.

Additionally, Carleton is one of the leading PhD-producing schools, with an abnormally large percentage of undergraduates eventually seeking the terminal degree in their field.

Enrolling about 2,000 students, the feeling of the close is small, intimate, and studious. However, that doesn’t mean the school is without campus tradition; one of the most beloved traditions at the school is Rotblatt, a campus-wide softball game recognized by Sports Illustrated in 1997.

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