Resources › For Students and Parents Top Liberal Arts Colleges in the U.S. Want a Small School with an Undergraduate Focus? Check Out These 30 Schools Share Flipboard Email Print Creating Your College Wish List Introduction Understanding the Different Kinds of Colleges 15 Things to Consider When Choosing a School Faculty to Student Ratio What Is a Liberal Arts College? 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What Is a Reach School? What Is a Match School? What Is a Safety School? By Allen Grove College Admissions Expert Ph.D., English, University of Pennsylvania M.A., English, University of Pennsylvania B.S., Materials Science & Engineering and Literature, MIT Dr. Allen Grove is an Alfred University English professor and a college admissions expert with over 20 years of experience helping students transition to college. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Allen Grove Updated September 28, 2019 The top liberal arts colleges in the United States all feature strong academic programs, low student to faculty ratios, small classes, and attractive campuses. Every school on our list has fewer than 3,000 undergraduates, and most have no graduate programs. Liberal arts colleges can be an excellent choice for students who want an intimate academic experience working closely with peers and professors. Differentiating between #1 and #2 on lists of top colleges is so subjective that here we've simply listed the schools alphabetically. Schools were selected based on four- and six-year graduation rates, first-year retention rates, financial aid, academic strengths, and other factors. Amherst College Amherst College. Photo Credit: Allen Grove Located in Western Massachusetts, Amherst usually stands #1 or #2 in rankings of top colleges with a liberal arts focus. Amherst students can take classes at the other excellent schools in the five-college consortium: Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Hampshire College, and University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Amherst has an interesting open curriculum with no distribution requirements, and students can expect a lot of personal attention thanks to the school's low student / faculty ratio. Fast Facts (2018) Location Amherst, Massachusetts Enrollment 1,855 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 13% Student / Faculty Ratio 7 to 1 Bates College Bates College Quad. reivax / Flickr Students at Bates College can expect a lot of interaction between students and faculty for the college places emphasis on seminar classes, research, service-learning, and senior thesis work. The college has been true to the spirit of a liberal education since its founding in 1855 by Maine abolitionists. A high percentage of students participate in study abroad, and the college is one of the few on this list with test-optional admissions. Fast Facts (2018) Location Lewiston, Maine Enrollment 1,832 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 18% Student / Faculty Ratio 10 to 1 Bowdoin College Bowdoin College. Paul VanDerWerf / Flickr Located in Brunswick, Maine, a town of 21,000 on the Maine coast, Bowdoin takes pride in both its beautiful location and its academic excellence. Eight miles away from the main campus is Bowdoin's 118 acres Coastal Studies Center on Orr's Island. Bowdoin was one of the first colleges in the country to offer loan-free financial aid. Fast Facts (2018) Location Brunswick, Maine Enrollment 1,828 Acceptance Rate 10% Student / Faculty Ratio 9 to 1 Bryn Mawr College Bryn Mawr College. Montgomery County Planning Commission / Flickr A top women's college, Bryn Mawr is a member of the Tri-College Consortium with Swarthmore and Haverford. Shuttles run between the three campuses. The college is also close to Philadelphia, and students can register for courses at the University of Pennsylvania. A high number of Bryn Mawr women go on to earn PhDs. Along with strong academics, Bryn Mawr is rich in history and traditions. Fast Facts (2018) Location Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania Enrollment 1,690 Acceptance Rate 34% Student / Faculty Ratio 9 to 1 Carleton College Carleton College Bell Tower. Roy Luck / Flickr Situated less than an hour from the Minneapolis / St. Paul area, the small town of Northfield, Minnesota is home to one of the best schools in the Midwest. Features of Carleton's campus include beautiful Victorian buildings, a state-of-the-art recreation center, and the 880 acre Cowling Arboretum. With a low student / faculty ratio, quality teaching truly gets top priority at Carleton College. Fast Facts (2018) Location Northfield, Minnesota Enrollment 2,097 Acceptance Rate 20% Student / Faculty Ratio 9 to 1 Claremont McKenna College The Kravis Center at Claremont McKenna College. Victoire Chalupy / Wikimedia Commons Located about 35 miles from Los Angeles, Claremont McKenna's small 50-acre campus sits in the heart of the Claremont Colleges, and students at CMC share facilities and often cross-register for classes at the other schools — Scripps College, Pomona College, Harvey Mudd College, and Pitzer College. The college has strengths across the liberal arts and sciences, but government and economics are particularly well regarded. Fast Facts (2018) Location Claremont, California Enrollment 1,327 (1,324 undergraduates) Acceptance Rate 9% Student / Faculty Ratio 8 to 1 Colby College Miller LIbrary at Colby College. Colby Mariam / Wikimedia Commons Colby College frequently ranks among the top 20 liberal arts colleges in the country. The 714-acre campus houses attractive red-brick buildings and a 128-acre arboretum. Colby wins high marks for its environmental initiatives and for its emphasis on study abroad and internationalization. It's also one of the top schools for skiing and fields NCAA Division I alpine and Nordic ski teams. Fast Facts (2018) Location Waterville, Maine Enrollment 2,000 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 13% Student / Faculty Ratio 10 to 1 Colgate University Colgate University. Jayu / Flickr Located in a small town in the picturesque rolling hills of central Upstate New York, Colgate University frequently ranks among the top 25 liberal arts colleges in the United States. Colgate has an impressive 90% 6-year graduation rate, and roughly two-thirds of students eventually go on to do some form of graduate study. Colgate is a member of the NCAA Division I Patriot League. Fast Facts (2018) Location Hamilton, NY Enrollment 2,969 (2,958 undergraduates) Acceptance Rate 25% Student / Faculty Ratio 9 to 1 College of the Holy Cross College of the Holy Cross. Joe Campbell / Flickr Founded by the Jesuits in 1843, Holy Cross is the oldest Catholic college in New England. Holy Cross has an impressive retention and graduation rate, with well over 90% of entering students earning a degree within six years. The college's athletic teams compete in the NCAA Division I Patriot League. Fast Facts (2018) Location Worcester, Massachusetts Enrollment 2,939 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 38% Student / Faculty Ratio 10 to 1 Davidson College Davidson College Presbyterian Church. Jon Dawson / Flickr Established by the Presbyterians of North Carolina in 1837, Davidson College is now a highly-ranked liberal arts college. The college has a strict honor code that allows students to schedule their own exams and take them in any academic classroom. On the athletic front, the college competes in the NCAA Division I Atlantic 10 Conference. Fast Facts (2018) Location Davidson, North Carolina Enrollment 1,843 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 19% Student / Faculty Ratio 9 to 1 Denison University Denison University Swasey Chapel. Allen Grove Denison is a highly-rated liberal arts college located about 30 miles east of Columbus, Ohio. The 900-acre campus is home to a 550-acre biological reserve. Denison does well with financial aid — the majority of aid comes in the form of grants, and students graduate with less debt than at most comparable colleges. Fast Facts (2018) Location Granville, Ohio Enrollment 2,394 (all undergraduates) Acceptance Rate 34% Student / Faculty Ratio 9 to 1 Dickinson College Dickinson College. Tomwsulcer / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 11.0 With small classes and a healthy 9 to 1 student / faculty ratio, students at Dickinson will receive a lot of personal attention from the faculty. Chartered in 1783 and named after a signer of the Constitution, the college has a long and rich history. Fast Facts (2018) Location Carlisle, Pennsylvania Enrollment 2,399 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 49% Student / Faculty Ratio 9 to 1 Gettysburg College Breidenbaugh Hall at Gettysburg College. Photo Credit: Allen Grove Gettysburg College is a highly-ranked liberal arts college located in the historic town of Gettysburg. The attractive campus features a new athletic center, a music conservatory, a professional performing arts center and an institute on public policy. Gettysburg offers its students a wide array of rewarding social and educational experiences. Fast Facts (2018) Location Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Enrollment 2,441 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 45% Student / Faculty Ratio 9 to 1 Grinnell College Grinnell College. Barry Solow / Flickr Don't be fooled by Grinnell's rural location in Iowa. The school has a talented and diverse faculty and student body, and a rich history of social progressiveness. With an endowment near $2 billion and a low student / faculty ratio, Grinnell holds its own against the most elite schools in the Northeast. Fast Facts (2018) Location Grinnell, Iowa Enrollment 1,716 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 24% Student / Faculty Ratio 9 to 1 Hamilton College Hamilton College. Joe Cosentino / Flickr Hamilton College, located in picturesque upstate New York, was ranked as the 20th best liberal arts college in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. The college's curriculum places particular emphasis on individualized instruction and independent research, and the school highly values communication skills such as writing and speaking. Students come from 49 states and 49 countries. Fast Facts (2018) Location Hamilton, New York Enrollment 2,005 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 21% Student / Faculty Ratio 9 to 1 Haverford College Haverford College. Antonio Castagna / Flickr Located on a beautiful campus outside of Philadelphia, Haverford offers its students a wealth of educational opportunities. Although strong in all areas of the liberal arts and sciences, Haverford is often noted for its superb science programs. Students have the opportunity to take classes at Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, and the University of Pennsylvania. Fast Facts (2018) Location Haverford, Pennsylvania Enrollment 1,310 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 19% Student / Faculty Ratio 8 to 1 Kenyon College Leonard Hall at Kenyon College. Curt Smith / Flickr Kenyon College has the distinction of being the oldest private college in Ohio. Kenyon prides itself on the strength of its faculty, and the attractive campus with its gothic architecture features a 380-acre nature preserve. The average class size is just 15 students. Fast Facts (2018) Location Gambier, Ohio Enrollment 1,730 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 36% Student / Faculty Ratio 10 to 1 Lafayette College Lafayette College - Pardee Hall. Charles Fulton / Flickr Lafayette college has the feel of a traditional liberal arts college, but it is unusual in that it also has several engineering programs. Kiplinger's ranks Lafayette highly for the school's value, and students who qualify for aid often receive significant grant awards. Lafayette is a member of the NCAA Division I Patriot League. Fast Facts (2018) Location Easton, Pennsylvania Enrollment 2,642 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 29% Student / Faculty Ratio 10 to 1 Macalester College Macalester College - Leonard Center. Evenjk / Wikimedia Commons For a small Midwestern liberal arts college, Macalester is quite diverse — students of color make up 21% of the student body, and students come from 88 countries. Central to the college's mission are internationalism, multiculturalism and service to society. The college is highly selective with 96% of students coming from the top quarter of their high school class. Fast Facts (2018) Location Saint Paul, Minnesota Enrollment 2,174 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 41% Student / Faculty Ratio 10 to 1 Middlebury College Middlebury College Campus. Alan Levine / Flickr Located in Robert Frost’s scenic hometown in Vermont, Middlebury College is probably best known for its foreign-language and international studies programs, but it excels in nearly all fields in the liberal arts and sciences. Most classes have fewer than 20 students. Fast Facts (2018) Location Middlebury, Vermont Enrollment 2,611 (2,564 undergraduates) Acceptance Rate 17% Student / Faculty Ratio 8 to 1 Oberlin College Oberlin College. Allen Grove Oberlin College has a distinguished history as the first college to grant undergraduate degrees to women. The school was also an early leader in educating African Americans, and to this day Oberlin prides itself on the diversity of its student body. Oberlin's Conservatory of Music is one of the best in the country. Fast Facts (2018) Location Oberlin, Ohio Enrollment 2,812 (2,785 undergraduates) Acceptance Rate 36% Student / Faculty Ratio 9 to 1 Pomona College Pomona College. The Consortium / Flickr Originally modeled after elite Northeastern colleges, Pomona is now one of the most competitive and best-endowed colleges in the country. Situated a little over 30 miles from Los Angeles, Pomona is a member of the Claremont Colleges. Students frequently interact and cross-register with the other Claremont schools: Pitzer College, Claremont McKenna College, Scripps College, and Harvey Mudd College. Fast Facts (2018) Location Claremont, California Enrollment 1,573 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 8% Student / Faculty Ratio 7 to 1 Reed College Reed College. mejs / Flickr Reed is a suburban college located about 15 minutes from downtown Portland, Oregon. Reed consistently ranks high for the number of students who go on to earn PhDs, as well as their number of Rhodes scholars. The Reed faculty takes pride in teaching, and their classes are consistently small. Fast Facts (2018) Location Portland, Oregon Enrollment 1,503 (1,483 undergraduates) Acceptance Rate 35% Student / Faculty Ratio 9 to 1 Swarthmore College Parrish Hall at Swarthmore College. Eric Behrens / Flickr Swarthmore's gorgeous campus is a 425-acre arboretum situated just 11 miles from downtown Philadelphia, and students have the opportunity to take classes at neighboring Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and the University of Pennsylvania. Swarthmore consistently sits near the top of nearly all rankings of U.S. colleges. Fast Facts (2018) Location Swarthmore, Pennsylvania Enrollment 1,559 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 9% Student / Faculty Ratio 8 to 1 Vassar College Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College. Notermote / Wikimedia Commons Vassar College, founded in 1861 as a women's college, now ranks as one of the top coeducational liberal arts colleges in the country. Vassar's 1,000-acre campus includes over 100 buildings, picturesque gardens, and a farm. Vassar is located in the attractive Hudson Valley. New York City is about 75 miles away. Fast Facts (2018) Location Poughkeepsie, New York Enrollment 2,456 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 25% Student / Faculty Ratio 8 to 1 Washington and Lee University Washington and Lee University. Travel_Bug / iStock / Getty Images Plus Founded in 1746, Washington and Lee University has a rich history. The university was endowed by George Washington in 1796, and Robert E. Lee was the president of the university immediately after the civil war. The school rivals the University of Virginia as the most selective college in the state. Fast Facts (2018) Location Lexington, Virginia Enrollment 2,223 (1,829 undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 21% Student / Faculty Ratio 8 to 1 Wellesley College A path on the Wellesley College campus. Soe Lin / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0 Located in an affluent town outside of Boston, Wellesley provides women with one of the best educations available. The school offers small classes taught exclusively by the full-time faculty, a beautiful campus with Gothic architecture and a lake, and academic exchange programs with Harvard and M.I.T. Fast Facts (2018) Location Wellesley, Massachusetts Enrollment 2,534 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 20% Student / Faculty Ratio 8 to 1 Wesleyan University Wesleyan University Library. Photo Credit: Allen Grove While Wesleyan does have several graduate programs, the university has the feel of a liberal arts college with a predominantly undergraduate focus supported by a low student / faculty ratio. Students at Wesleyan are highly engaged in the campus community, and the university offers over 200 student organizations and a wide range of athletic teams. Fast Facts (2018) Location Middletown, Connecticut Enrollment 3,217 (3,009 undergraduates) Acceptance Rate 17% Student / Faculty Ratio 8 to 1 Whitman College Whitman College. Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr Located in the small town of Walla Walla, Washington, Whitman is a great choice for students looking for a quality education and engaged campus community in an intimate setting. Students interested in the sciences, engineering or law can take advantage of collaborations with top schools like Caltech, Columbia, Duke and Washington University. Whitman also offers a wide range of options for study abroad. Fast Facts (2018) Location Walla Walla, Washington Enrollment 1,475 (all undergraduate) Acceptance Rate 50% Student / Faculty Ratio 9 to 1 Williams College Williams College. Photo Credit: Allen Grove With a beautiful campus in Western Massachusetts, Williams typically vies with Amherst for the #1 spot on national rankings of top colleges. One of Williams' unique features is their tutorial program in which students meet with faculty in pairs to present and critique each other's work. With a remarkably low student-faculty ratio and an endowment well over $2 billion, Williams offers exceptional educational opportunities for its students. Fast Facts (2018) Location Williamstown, Massachusetts Enrollment 2,149 (2,095 undergraduates) Acceptance Rate 13% Student / Faculty Ratio 6 to 1 Cite this Article Format mla apa chicago Your Citation Grove, Allen. "Top Liberal Arts Colleges in the U.S." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/liberal-arts-colleges-in-u-s-787014. Grove, Allen. (2020, August 28). Top Liberal Arts Colleges in the U.S. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/liberal-arts-colleges-in-u-s-787014 Grove, Allen. 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