Liberal Arts- What does that mean?


While researching college options, you will often hear the phrase "Liberal Arts." We often get questions about what exactly that means. Traditionally, Liberal Arts were defined as subjects such as philosophy, math, and political science. These were the subjects worthy of a “gentleman” for intellectual development rather than vocational training or manual labor.

Today you can find many options for a “liberal arts” education.  Finding an explanation for what that means is an adventure in buzz words and catch phrases: Multi-disciplinary approach to understanding complex issues, developing life-long learners, cultivating a broad base of knowledge and critical thinking skills, or preparing students to meet the rapidly changing and increasingly interconnected world.

So what does it mean in the everyday life of a student?  Here are some specifics:

  • These schools are often small and residential allowing you to build relationships with professors and students
  • Nearly every major can be found as part of a liberal arts college. The emphasis will be beyond the specifics of your major
  • You are required to take classes outside of your major. This means you have room to experiment with other interests.
  • Many of your classes will meld two or more disciplines in the same class. This can create fascinating and unexpected combinations.
  • There will be higher emphasis on your ability to understand and express complex ideas in essays, presentations, and projects.
  • You will likely have smaller classes that require participation and discussion.

Each school has its own take on Liberal Arts. When researching schools, keep looking to find one with a learning environment that is exciting for you.