Small Liberal Arts Colleges: List of Most Prestigious Schools

Liberal arts schools are typically small, private institutions that focus on a general-knowledge undergraduate education. Get information on the rankings, program offerings and other outstanding qualities of some of the nation's best small liberal arts colleges.

Liberal arts schools typically provide students with small class sizes and significant attention from faculty members, in addition to a well-rounded education in a variety of subjects. They primarily confer bachelor's degrees.

School Overviews

U.S. News & World Report' ranked the nation's top liberal arts colleges for 2017. Williams College, Pomona College and Carleton College are among the top ten.

1. Williams College in Williamstown, MA

School Highlight: 96% of Williams students are involved in at least one extracurricular activity.

Williams College, a liberal arts school in northwestern Massachusetts, was named the best liberal arts college in the country by U.S. News & World Report in 2017. The Princeton Review included Williams College at number 26 in its Top 50 - Colleges That Pay You Back for 2017. The 4-year college offers over 30 undergraduate majors in over 20 departments, including art history, economics, comparative literature, anthropology and American studies. Master's degree programs in development economics (for international students only) and art history are also available.

Pomona College in Claremont, CA

School Highlight: Pomona College was the only school in the western region of the country to be ranked in the top seven of U.S. News & World Report's best liberal arts colleges for 2017.

Located approximately an hour away from Los Angeles, Pomona College was tied for seventh in U.S. News & World Report's ranking of best liberal arts colleges for 2017. Pomona offers 48 majors in natural sciences, humanities and social sciences. Areas of study include English, music, philosophy, art history, theater and romance languages and literature. The school features a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1 and classes with an average size of 15 students.

Carleton College in Northfield, MN

School Highlight: All seniors complete a research capstone or a major artistic production, regardless of their major.

Carleton College was tied for seventh on the U.S. News & World Report's list of top liberal arts colleges for 2017. Located in Northfield, Minnesota, the school offers 36 majors in addition to 15 areas of concentration, ranging from biology to Latin American studies to theater arts. With just under 2,000 students, the school is able to offer small classes and personalized attention. The student-to-faculty ratio is 9:1. Students can also participate in a variety of on-campus social events and extracurricular activities.

Top Liberal Arts Colleges

The following are some other liberal arts colleges that are ranked highly:

  • The campus of Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, CA, includes 10 research centers and institutes, covering topics like financial economics, human rights leadership, state and local government and the environment.
  • At Colgate University in Hamilton, NY, students can develop a for-profit or non-profit entrepreneurial venture and receive guidance from faculty and other professionals through the university's Thought Into Action Student Incubator.
  • Hamilton College, which is located in Clinton, NY, has an Oral Communication Center that helps students improve their communication skills through workshops, seminars and tutoring.
  • Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT, has international schools in 17 countries, including China, India, Argentina, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom.
  • Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH, was the first college in the country to admit African-American students and grant women degrees in coeducational programs.
  • Smith College, an all-women's school in Northampton, MA, allows students to take classes at any institution within the Five College Consortium, which includes Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (UMass).
  • Located in Lexington, VA, Washington and Lee University offers more than 200 four-week immersion courses that provide intensive studies in a broad range of topics.
  • Wellesley College is an all-women's school located in Wellesley, MA; it offers the Davis Scholars program, which is designed for adult students and includes options for full-time or part-time study.
  • Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, was named for John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.

Prospective undergraduates can get a well-rounded education at top-ranked liberal arts colleges. These small colleges foster close-knit intellectual communities and offer unique learning experiences, such as study abroad and immersion courses.

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