Don't Overlook Liberal Arts Schools: Small Class Size And Access To Faculty

06/21/2016 05:42 pm ET Updated Jun 21, 2017

While nearly every high school and college student in the United States has heard of schools like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, many are unaware of the existence of the country's top liberal arts schools. Prestigious liberal arts schools like Amherst, Williams, and Pomona, because they're much smaller than national universities, offer a number of advantages that we'll discuss in this series of posts on the case for small liberal arts school.

Let's begin with small class sizes. While many students are initially attracted by the power of brands like Harvard and Stanford, they can often find themselves disappointed to be sitting in cavernous lecture halls with 200, 300, sometimes even up to a 700 of their fellow students. They wonder, how will the faculty have time to read all our papers? The answer is, they don't. Faculty who teach these massive classes split them up into sections, usually with 20 or 30 people in each section (in an effort to recreate the student to teacher ratio afforded by their liberal arts competitors). But the sections aren't led by faculty. They're usually they're led by Teaching Fellows or Teaching Assistants, in other words, graduate students. Attending a brand name school is great, but if professors aren't reading your work, or leading your section, then in what real sense are they your professor? Students spending $50,000 a year on a college degree expect that every paper they write to be personally graded by professors, and for that professor to be available to meet with them one on one to help improve my skills.

Fortunately, that's exactly how things work at our top liberal arts schools. Class sizes at liberal arts schools generally average around 15-20 students per class, and advanced seminar classes average 7 or 8 students per class. Some liberal arts schools such as Vassar even allow students to sign up for independent study courses where you're the only student! The advantageous student to teacher ratios help you get to know faculty personally, and encourage faculty to invest in their students' careers. It's even common for faculty to host dinners for students at their homes. Liberal arts college are the ideal academic environment for students who want small class sizes and personal attention from faculty.

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