Liberal arts colleges (often called LACs) are “college[s] with an emphasis on undergraduate study in the liberal arts and sciences.” They tend to be smaller than other private universities (it is extremely uncommon to see an LAC with more than 3000 undergrads) and only have an undergraduate program (or a very small graduate school). With their small size comes a slew of misconceptions about LACs, so I am here today to help dispel some of them.
Myth 1: “But if I go to an LAC I won’t get into a good grad school!”
The truth is that by having small classes and professors that really get to know you, you will be equally if not more prepared for grad school and grad school faculty know that. If you look at the list of undergrad institutions that Harvard Law School accepted students from, the list includes schools like Amherst College, Dickinson College, Middlebury College, and Pomona College (all of which are LACs). Furthermore if you look into schools producing the most PhDs by discipline, you will see LACs dominating the list in many of the fields.
Myth 2: “Since LACs are small I won’t have as many majors to pick from.”
While it is true that smaller schools will probably have fewer majors, this has a lot less of an impact than people realize. No matter the school, if you are interested in one of the more popular majors such as English or Biology, you will find them no matter where you go. Furthermore, at LACs it is fairly common to see the option of students being allowed to design their own major. Some of the LACs to let students do so include Smith College, Hampshire College, and Swarthmore College.
Myth 3: “LACs don’t have accredited engineering programs.”
More and more LACs are beginning to offer a B.S. in engineering that is accredited by ABET. Among them are Harvey Mudd College, Trinity College, and Smith College. If you are interested in engineering don’t less this misconception stop you from pursuing LACs.
Myth 4: “There are less research opportunities at LACs!”
It is actually quite the opposite, there are more opportunities. When there are little to no graduate students, undergrads have nobody to compete with for research opportunities.
Myth 5: “I can’t afford a small private college like an LAC.”
This myth is in fact sometimes true (as is the case with basically any school). However you shouldn’t assume that just because LACs come with a high price tag (sometimes over $60,000 including room and board) that they will actually cost you that much. Many LACs meet 100 percent of demonstrated need, which basically means that they will give you in grants/loans/work study all but what your family can afford. Some of the LACs to meet 100 percent of demonstrated need include Bates College, Colorado College, Gettysburg College, and Occidental College however there are lots of other LACs that also meet 100 percent of demonstrated need.
Myth 6: “All LACs are in New England.”
Perhaps you hate the snow or maybe you don’t want to go to college so far away from home; There are lots of reasons to be interested in certain geographic regions for college. While many LACs are in New England there are also a reasonable number that aren’t. There are LACs in the South including Davidson College, and Washington and Lee University and also LACs on the West Coast including schools like Pitzer College and Mills College.
Myth 7: “All LACs are in tiny towns.”
While this is true of some LACs, it is not true of all of them. From Barnard College in New York City to Occidental College in Los Angeles there are certainly some options if you want a small school in an exciting urban environment.
These are just some of the myths about LACs (I am sure I missed plenty of others) but hopefully this will help you to start to think about LACs in a new way. Like any type of school, LACs aren’t for everybody but be sure to fully explore them before deciding they aren’t right for you. I’ll leave you with this great article that defends LACs.