• Southwestern University
    Southwestern University
    Southwestern University

Liberal Arts. The term itself conjures up a wide range of definitions - ask 20 people what it means and you’re likely to get 20 different responses.

For some, the term “liberal” is a roadblock they can’t get past. Which is unfortunate, because although it includes the word, not all liberal arts students are liberal in their political views. Some are. Others are ultra-conservative. The rest fall somewhere in between. A liberal arts education is not rooted in politics, but rather the desire to broaden the mind.

Of course, there are others who zero in on the term “arts” and assume that a liberal arts education excludes STEM and business fields. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. Naturally fine arts, including music and theatre, play a major role in a liberal arts education. But so do science, math and computer sciences and many others. In fact, plenty of tech industry leaders have been quoted touting the benefits of a liberal arts education. Turns out developers that can code AND have an eye for visual details – or engineers that can analyze data from multiple points of view – are much better positioned to truly innovate and create real change in their industry.

Benefits of a Liberal Arts Education

A liberal arts education prepares students to examine ideas from multiple points of view, solve problems, adapt, and collaborate. By combining multiple disciplines of study, liberal arts colleges expose students to a wide range of subjects, encouraging them to think outside a narrow focus and contribute to original solutions – all skills that are highly valued by top employers. 

To help outline some of the pros of attending a liberal arts school, here is a list of 12 benefits of a liberal arts education:

1). Interdisciplinary approach to learning – A liberal arts education intentionally integrates different areas of study, exposing students to a wide range of subjects. Business majors will have classes in the arts, while pre-med majors may get a taste of sociology. This broad education prepares students to succeed in whatever career they choose. People that can view things from multiple perspectives, no matter their field, provide greater value to employers.

2). Relatively small size – The majority of liberal arts colleges are small, at least in in comparison to major public universities. In addition to creating a more intimate, “family” feel of camaraderie on campus, the smaller size creates multiple opportunities for personalized, individual learning experiences.

3). Get to know faculty – The professors not only get to know their students’ names, but their strengths, challenges and passions. They provide mentorship in a way faculty at larger institutions can’t always offer due to the sheer volume of students.

4). Interactive classes – The classes at liberal arts colleges provide a huge benefit. Rather than massive lecture halls with 200+ half-dozing students, students are more likely to find themselves in a small, interactive environment. A low student-faculty ratio and small class size allows for deeper connections and true learning. Student engagement is expected and questions are encouraged.

5). Exposure to cool things – Students are constantly exposed to interesting ideas, creative concepts and new experiences. Whether it’s studying abroad, community engaged learning or conducting peer-reviewed research with a professor (an experience often reserved for graduate work at other schools), students continuously have the opportunity to explore, take risks and try new things.  

6). Teaches critical & innovative thinking skills – Through intentional experience and exposure, liberal arts colleges provide students with the all-important problem-solving and critical thinking skills. They focus on how to think, not what to think. Instead of memorizing facts and then forgetting the information at the end of the semester, students learn to examine, think and connect ideas. These valuable skills, practiced and reiterated throughout the entire college experience, are the skills necessary to innovate and create meaningful change in the world.

7). Strong alumni – Liberal arts colleges tend to have very active and involved alumni. While on campus students build lifelong friendships, and they continue to remain involved as mentors, donors and school supporters throughout their careers and life.

8). Financial Aid Opportunities – Liberal arts colleges often have generous financial aid options available for students.

9). Post-Graduation Jobs - Liberal arts colleges have some of the very best job placement rates, and for good reason. Graduates leave armed with the skills that employers value most – critical thinking, communication and the ability to view ideas from multiple perspectives. Best of all, they actively contribute to developing real solutions to real problems.

10). Graduate Program Acceptance - The idea that liberal arts are too, well, “arty” to be taken seriously is long gone. Today liberal arts have higher than average numbers of graduates being accepted into top graduate schools including medical school, law school, vet school and engineering programs. Why? Because the best schools know that liberal arts students are prepared to think, create, connect and come up with original solutions.  

11). Prepares for Jobs Yet to be Created - Perhaps this should have been first on the list, because it’s arguably the most important. Not only do liberal arts colleges prepare students for their first job out of college, but they prepare them for future jobs that aren’t even jobs yet! It’s eye-opening to realize that according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 65% of current students will eventually be employed in jobs that have yet to be created, and 40% of current jobs will soon be a thing of the past. In twenty-five years, many of today’s college students will be in their mid-40s, working in jobs or fields that don’t yet exist. What is going to help them succeed in an ever-changing world? The ability to think, create, collaborate and adapt. These are classic liberal arts skills.

12). Social Responsibility – With an emphasis on civic responsibility and opportunities for community engagement, liberal arts students spend more volunteer hours than those at public universities. They open their eyes to the world around them, and how certain actions affect others. Whether it’s a service trip abroad during spring break or a class project working with a local non-profit, liberal arts students are engaged and committed to making the world a better place.

If you’re considering attending a liberal arts college, it pays to do your research and truly think about the relevant skills for the future. Not just your first job out of college, but the one you’ll have 20 years from now. Ask employers what they look for in employees, or what the most valuable skills are. The list often includes transferable skills such as the ability to collaborate, view things from multiple perspectives, adapt to changing demands and analyze and interpret data.

 

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