5 Core Principles of a Liberal Arts College

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Staff Writers
Updated March 24, 2021

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Liberal Arts Core Principles

  • Provide A Varied Education
  • Character Building
  • Interaction With Faculty
  • Diversity
  • Critical Thinking

A liberal arts college has slightly different core principles than other universities do. Liberal arts schools focus not only on a student's education of their chosen topic but also on the development of their character, other areas of study and important life skills. Here are the five core principles of a liberal arts education that make it a wholly unique experience.

1. Provide A Varied Education

By their very nature, liberal arts colleges want to provide their students with as diverse an education as possible. Liberal arts schools often require their students to take courses in many different subjects - not just courses in their chosen field. This serves a number of purposes. It allows students to discover new areas of interest they may decide they like better than the education path they'd originally planned. It gives them a well-rounded education on a number of topics that may prove useful in a future job. A varied education also improves and teaches important soft skills to students that are highly desired by employers, according to a report by CBS News.

2. Character Building

Liberal arts curriculums are designed to mold and build students' character as much as they are about teaching academics. The ultimate goal of a liberal arts education is to turn students into well-rounded individuals who define themselves. A college education is not just what students learn in the classroom. It is also their cumulative experiences. Liberal arts schools encourage or even require students to participate in learning experiences such as internships, study abroad programs, student organizations and more in order to become the best possible people they can be.

Ranking: 30 Best Liberal Arts Colleges in the West, Ranked by Return on Investment (ROI)

3. Interaction With Faculty

It is not uncommon at a liberal arts school for students to be on personal terms with their professors. This makes students more comfortable asking questions and seeking out help, which often ensures they actually learn the material. Liberal arts schools try and keep classroom sizes small, as opposed to the large lecture halls at big universities. This allows faculty to form mentoring relationships with students that can be invaluable both before and after graduation. This can result in more powerful and effective letters of recommendation being written, which can increase a student's chances of getting into graduate school.

4. Diversity

Diversity is a critical component of a liberal arts education. These programs firmly believe that diversity leads to new ideas and perspectives that can help both an individual and the world around them in numerous ways. For example, diversity is helpful in business because it allows for the development of new products and the targeting of new audiences. Becoming acquaintanced with people of different backgrounds expands students' horizons and allows them to learn about other cultures. Liberal arts schools typically encourage study abroad programs to give their students a better understanding of another culture and a different way of looking at the world as well.

5. Critical Thinking

A liberal arts college does not want to simply teach students what to believe. The true goal of a liberal arts education is to provide students with the tools to think for themselves and come to their own conclusions. This is often observed in classrooms at liberal arts schools, where professors engage in discussion with their students and encourage students to engage in discussion with each other. The ability to think critically is highly prized by employers because it is invaluable for problem solving and coming up with creative ideas.

Liberal arts colleges teach their students to look at the world in different and unique ways, which can ultimately change the world for the better. They also provide students with the soft skills necessary to succeed in life, no matter what field of employment they pursue. The core principles of a liberal arts college can lead to an excellent education and success throughout life.

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