If you are thinking about applying to the US, then you have probably heard or read about Liberal Arts College, even if a little bit. If you haven’t, do not worry, we are here to explain that to you. International students often wonder about the differences between the Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities, and most often the Liberal Arts Colleges get overlooked. Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities follow different modes of education. A student who fits well in a Liberal Arts College may not be a fit for the University Education.

Your choice among the Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities depends on your personal preferences, interests, educational needs, and career prospects. Here we have prepared a list of 5 questions that you should ask yourself and carefully analyze your responses in order to choose among the Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities.

The questions are:

  • What things interest you?
  • What do you expect from a US College or a University?
  • How strong or weak is your financial status?
  • Do you want to just complete your bachelors or want to study Master’s or higher level?
  • Are you interested in working in the US or any other country after you graduate?

These questions were meant to help you choose between the Liberal Arts Colleges or Universities. You can read the article further to ask yourself those questions at last.

In order to help you understand the differences between the Liberal Arts Colleges and the Universities, we have listed the differences between these two types of institutions of higher education in the UK:

  1. Program of study:
  • Liberal Arts Colleges have their focus on the undergraduate education and offer a more traditional, broad, and general education. They award most of their degrees in the liberal arts disciplines, which include social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, and arts.
  • Universities generally consist of graduate schools, professional schools (in engineering, law, business, and medical, to name a few), as well as undergraduate programs. They may be a better choice for students who are interested in a technical degree with a career focus in engineering, computer science, or accounting, for example.
  1. Courses offered:
  • Liberal Arts Colleges require students to take a wide variety of courses to give them exposure to a range of liberal arts studies with a broader base of knowledge. In general, they do not focus on career-related classes as heavily as universities do.
  • In contrast, universities focus on each student’s major with relatively fewer general core requirements. They offer classes more tailored to each student’s specific career needs, especially for those who want to pursue a technical career path.
  1. Reputation: Big national universities generally have greater name recognition and a more established reputation internationally, when compared to Liberal Arts Colleges. However, Liberal Arts Colleges may be well-known in the U.S.
  2. Institutional affiliation: Universities (including state universities) can be private or public, whereas Liberal Arts Colleges are typically private.
  3. Cost: Liberal Arts Colleges are more expensive than public universities, but they are often more generous with financial aid and scholarships. Public universities have lower tuition than private universities and Liberal Arts Colleges, but there are fewer financial aid opportunities for international students, especially at state universities.
  4. Campus setting: Liberal Arts Colleges are generally small and universities tend to be large. State universities have particularly large campuses.
  5. Class size: Liberal Arts Colleges have smaller class sizes, as well as smaller student-to-teacher ratios than most universities. The introductory or 101 level lecture classes at universities are especially large and can have hundreds of students.
  6. Class style:
  • Liberal Arts Colleges tend to offer seminars rather than lectures, which leads to greater student engagement. During seminars, students have many opportunities to speak out, ask questions, and engage in classroom discussions. At Liberal Arts Colleges, students also have more chances to speak and engage with professors and classmates inside and outside of class.
  • On the contrary, universities offer more lectures than seminars due to their larger student bodies. Some classes or discussion sections are taught by graduate students serving as teaching assistants (TAs), rather than professors.
  1. Faculty: The majority of the faculty at Liberal Arts Colleges is student-focused and teaching-oriented, whereas the faculty at universities tends to be more research-oriented. This means that universities have many leading scholars in their fields, but they may be relatively less accessible to students than at Liberal Arts Colleges.
  2. Graduate school preparation:
  • Liberal Arts Colleges offer stronger academic preparedness overall and they provide research opportunities to their undergraduate students. Also, because of the close relationships between professors and students, it is easier for students to reach out to professors and ask for recommendation letters for graduate programs.
  • Although universities provide many research opportunities, the majority of them are for their graduate students. Research opportunities can be highly competitive for undergraduate students at universities. However, one of the advantages is that there may be higher chances of being admitted to graduate programs in the same university.
  1. Career opportunities: Both Liberal Arts Colleges and universities offer potential career opportunities for students. Given their larger student bodies, universities host more on-campus career fairs and recruitment events. They also boast a larger alumni network, which provides students with connections and career options. By contrast, students at Liberal Arts Colleges likely have a stronger relational bond with alumni, professors, and classmates. This means students are more likely to be referred to internships and jobs.
  2. Extracurricular activities: Universities boast more events and activities on and off campus; some also have fraternities and sororities and well-known sports teams. In general, universities have a wide variety of student organizations and clubs, and Liberal Arts Colleges have relatively fewer student organizations and clubs.

Whether you choose a University or a Liberal Arts College, choose the one that fits your abilities, interests, and aims. More importantly, Liberal Arts and Universities also differ in terms of their aims and cultures. You should choose between the two institutions depending on your compatibility with the aims and cultures of the institutions.


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