Last Updated: August 23, 2021
Selecting the Right College and Program - Liberal Arts
Liberal Studies is an umbrella term that encompasses the disciplines of arts and sciences, and humanities. It is a common misconception that the liberal arts are anything but science or commerce. It is a study that includes a wide range of disciplines that helps to enhance one’s area of knowledge as well as diversify skills. Given that liberal arts and sciences have a multifaceted approach, it is not only advantageous for upgrading their skills but also offers flexibility and versatility for students to follow the career path they ideally desire.
A liberal arts education instills the values, skills, and knowledge students require to successfully pursue meaningful work. There are a multitude of fields that make up the liberal arts, including the pure sciences, mathematics, philosophy, literature, and fine arts. If one is interested in pursuing a liberal arts degree, it is important to think carefully about the most suitable university, degree, and major.
Picking the Right Institute
Students have their own dreams and aspirations when considering aspects like education, and career. Choosing an institute of higher learning which is best for one's career as well as lifestyle is also worth considering. To make these dreams turn into reality, students must take time to carefully explore and research various factors when selecting a suitable college to pursue a degree. The important factors worth considering when selecting the right college are:
- Campus Life: Having a clear picture of the kind of campus life one wishes to experience is a valuable aspect for any student. There are several factors such as the overall atmosphere of the institute, the size of the campus, the possible religious affiliation of the college, the diversity in various backgrounds and communities among students, available campus fraternities or sororities, services/facilities provided for disabled students, activities offered outside class, etc. However, the prime factor here will be to pay attention to the location of the institute. A student must decide if they prefer to study in an in-state or out-of-state college if the institute should be near to or far from home if there are convenient housing options within or outside the campus if the locality is safe, and so on.
- Educational Attributes: Liberal studies, being an extremely diverse discipline, undoubtedly offers a plethora of subjects to choose from. Therefore, one should explore if the institute also provides a range of different majors and concentrations along with proper descriptions of each course. This in itself will help the student have a choice to weave the most suited curriculum while keeping their career prospects in mind. Other important aspects one should examine is if the faculty is highly qualified and experienced, if the student-faculty ratio is appropriate if the campus offers impressive placement opportunities or internships, if the institution is accredited, if libraries and research labs are well-equipped, if they fit the eligibility criteria for admission, and so on.
- Economic Aspects: The cost of living, and affordability of education, food, transportation, campus dormitories, housing facilities outside campus, healthcare, and miscellaneous items, mostly differs depending on the state and the city. This is why the location of an institute is a cardinal factor. Before enrolling at an institution, a student must verify factors like the overall costs for studying (calculate the difference in fees for both in-state and out-of-state students), options for a health insurance plan, financial aid, and scholarship options provided by the state or the institute, loans, work-study opportunities, and a lot more. It must also be analyzed if the institute is well-maintained, if they utilize technologically advanced pieces of equipment and methods of study, and if the facilities provided within the campus are worth the money.
Institutions such as Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore, and Pomona are among the best liberal arts schools in the United States. These institutions offer excellent training in the liberal arts and have earned their reputations as top schools within the United States.
Students who want the big school atmosphere in addition to a liberal arts education also have options. Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, and some private universities such as Georgetown, Duke, and Stanford, all have extremely strong liberal arts programs as well as slightly larger student bodies and graduate student programs. Students should not discount large public research institutions either. State universities such as the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan have excellent liberal arts programs. Choosing a college is a huge decision, but many schools have strong liberal arts offerings. Prospective undergraduates should surely take into account factors such as location, cost, and size when choosing a college, in addition to the school’s class and degree offerings.
Picking the Right Major
Once the most suitable institute is selected, the next major hurdle is to pick the right program. Liberal arts encompass a wide range of fields including literature, communication, history, philosophy, language, and many others. Choosing a major is daunting as it feels like one's whole life depends on this one decision. However, a college major in liberal arts will not necessarily determine one's career. An English major could have a career in teaching, research, writing, or business. A student with a major in marketing could run a company or develop an app. Most employers don’t care if the area of study was foreign languages, philosophy, or history. What they care about is if one can do the job efficiently.
Before choosing a major, it is important to take some time and think about one's interests, skills, mental caliber, and career aspirations. Solving career aptitude tests, going for a career counseling session, trying out internships in different fields, will be beneficial for any student. Given that liberal studies is a discipline loaded with a wide range of sub-disciplines, students always have the scope to think and explore the subject before taking up a specific major. One can check out subject descriptions of different majors and concentrations offered in various colleges before applying. Students also have the option to seek guidance from seniors, experts, or professors to have an in-depth idea about a specific major or career prospects.
A common adage goes that if one has a job that one loves, they’ll never work a day in their life. The same thing applies to academics. The smartest thing one can do for a successful academic career is to pick a major one enjoys. Students who enjoy their studies are more likely to succeed and thus, more likely to develop the skills employers want during the course of their studies.
Many students believe that specific skills in science, technology, and engineering are the only degrees that will garner them a stable career and a high income. The STEM degrees, which include science, technology, and engineering, have grown in popularity among students by 43% since 2009. However, liberal arts programs still offer students an incredible education and strong career prospects. A 2013 survey commissioned by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 91 percent of employers believe that “a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than his or her undergraduate major.” More than anything else, a humanities-focused education teaches students to think critically, logically, and creatively. These skills, rather than any specific degree, are the most important to employers of any firm.
Liberal arts degrees can actually garner students' high-flying careers and impressive incomes. A liberal arts education can often take students much further than those which only teach technical skills. Major business leaders including the Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz, former Walt Disney CEO Michael Eisner, and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki all earned degrees in liberal arts. Furthermore, a liberal arts education is an integral part of the new economy. Even sectors, such as tech, which many people would not think need liberal arts majors, need people who have studied these subjects. Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs believed that the secret to the company’s success was “technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities.” The liberal arts provide an extremely flexible and lucrative career path for students who pursue their studies. However, one should not discount liberal arts colleges or arts degrees for fear of poor career prospects. The number of careers open to those who study the liberal arts is myriad and the possibilities are endless.
Given below are some career options that one can take up when pursuing humanities and liberal arts majors:
- Technical Writer
- Freelance Writer
- Graphic Designer