By Tasha, IvyWise College Admissions Counselor and Former Admissions Officer at the University of Southern California
Have you dreamt of an intimate and intellectually rigorous college experience, one where you engage in deep classroom discussions around a single table with your professor and classmates? Seminar style classrooms, like the one described above, is the bread and butter of liberal arts colleges.
The liberal arts model is all about small class size, critical thinking, inspiring classroom discussion, interdisciplinary learning and intellectual curiosity. The kinds of students who should consider liberal arts studies are those who are drawn to any of these elements. Read on for examples of 3 types of students who should consider liberal arts studies.
What is a Liberal Arts Education?
A liberal arts education makes sure that students are exposed to a range of disciplines in the arts and sciences. Most US colleges have a liberal arts curriculum in their general distribution requirements, requiring students to take courses in a variety of subjects and often, making interdisciplinary connections. Students eventually specialize with a major while maintaining a diverse knowledge base.
What Students are a Good Fit for Liberal Arts Studies?
Everyone can benefit from a liberal arts education, but there are some students where this path is the best-fit for their goals and skills. Here are three types of students that should consider pursuing a liberal arts education.
You Like to Make Connections and You Go Down Rabbit Holes
Are you the kind of person that learns about something and then obsesses about it – going into a deep internet rabbit hole? Are you the kind of student who likes to make connections between subjects or new nuggets of knowledge? For example, a liberal arts student in a coastal geology course may become interested in the history of the people who used to live in the place they’re studying. This could lead to a deep dive on the indigenous language of those people and the way it connects to the geography of the place. Sound interesting? This is exactly the kind of interdisciplinary thinking, exploration, and research that a liberal arts education encourages.
Some liberal arts courses, especially discussion-based courses or more advanced courses, may feature very specific topics. For example, rather than take a general course on the history of Latin America, a liberal arts curriculum may offer a specialized course on the social history of Cuba between the Spanish-American war and the Cuban Revolution. Sound specific? That’s because it is! This allows students to delve deeply into particular research topics. This tends to be very appealing to students who fall into rabbit holes when they are interested in a subject. Think of the liberal arts as an invitation to continue to discover new rabbit holes of knowledge throughout your college years.
You Have a Lot of Interests and Are Undecided on Your Major
The liberal arts are generally a great path for students who are very undecided on what they want to major in. Typically, colleges that specialize in or prioritize the liberal arts allow students a ton of wiggle room and space for exploration, especially in their first two years. Most liberal arts course requirements offer students an organic opportunity to experiment and discover their interests. For example, a student may take a general anthropology course and discover their interest in political science or journalism. A different student may take a biology course and discover their interest in environmental science and ecology. That said, some undecided students are often undecided because they already have so many interests. A liberal arts education may help you narrow things down through extensive course catalogs and specific course offerings.
You Really Enjoy Reading and Writing
Though the liberal arts include the hard sciences and social sciences, there is a particular focus on the humanities. A liberal arts seminar might be in history, English, art history – you name it! These kinds of courses will be discussion-based, which means that they will require quite a bit of reading. The discussions will be based on that reading and your written assignments will be based on those readings and those discussions. The quantity of written assignments will vary depending on the class, but in general, liberal arts curricula require quite a bit of writing. Because of this, many colleges require English composition in the first year. Others require first year seminars, which are small, discussion-based courses, typically in the humanities, that focus on making sure students are able to think critically and produce college-level writing that reflects that.
If you go to college in the US, chances are that you will be exposed to the liberal arts in some way. The question is whether you will seek out the liberal arts specifically, either by attending a liberal arts college or by enrolling in a program that focuses on the liberal arts, like the Boston University College of General Studies, for example. If you identified with any of the types of students described, consider learning more about the liberal arts through some of our free resources or by talking with your college counselor.
At IvyWise, we work with students interested in a variety of fields and majors, including those looking to narrow down their interests or pursue a more broad, liberal arts education. Our experienced counselors will help you identify the best-fit schools and courses of study for your interests and goals – no matter how specific or undefined. For more information on our college counseling services and a free College Prep Analysis, contact us today.