I WAS WRONG about Liberal Arts Colleges...

I WAS WRONG about Liberal Arts Colleges...

I applied for three liberal arts colleges: Williams, Amherst, and Pomona. There are, of course, much more top ones I could go for: Swarthmore, Wellesley, Bowdoin, Claremont McKenna (if I get into Pomona, I could cross-subsidize and take their courses, so I didn't bother), but I just wasn't a fan of the states they are located in.

Out of the five most popular states for international students: California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, I am only interested in going to CA and NY. Why? Because I thought I was going for opportunity, mobility, and affluence. Usually, LACs are located a bit further away from the downtown, and I thought it wouldn't do me any goods.

I made a list for myself regarding the benefits and disadvantages of choosing a liberal college, and this is it:


  • The sizes of classes are small; professors teach in tiny groups in the form of tutorials to get students stuck in conversations.

This is a double-edged sword; some people like the vibe of lectures when hundreds of students are studying in the same hall, some people don't. Be expected to be phoned by your professor if you don't show up in a single class.

  • Experience a real sense of community.

When universities get too big, it's hard for you to experience a truly cohesive community. There are just too many people that we can be friends with, and every day it will feel like you meeting different people even in the same place. I like to stick with the same groups of people, not because I am good at being in my comfort zone, but so that I can feel I belong as one part.


  • Don't expect your friends, relatives, and companies to know anything about your college.

The actual fact is, most people won't have heard of your LAC. Let's face it: if I spent my 4 years of college at Pomona, a student body with just more than 1700 people, the company that I hand in my CV to in Asia probably would not know anything about my school; you have to deal with this...

So, if you are someone who's only looking forward to getting a job and living peacefully without worrying about losing all your money if you choose to start your own business, prioritize the 'ranking scheme.' I have to say that UK universities are so over ranked, but people still believe those websites' validities! If you were going to ask me whether I would choose to attend UCL or Pomona for an undergraduate if I was only planning to be employed and get a highly-paid job, I'd suggest you go for UCL without a second thought!

I look more into the education I will receive and the student life I will have there. I would definitely choose Pomona between the two simply because the education standard is more phenomenal, and I get to explore using the liberal arts education.

  • Limited curriculum with less qualified teaching staff.

Don't get me wrong here; There are great professors in those colleges but don't expect them to be world-class researchers. LACs focus on the liberal arts curriculum only. They don't have specialized schools for medicine, education, business, engineering like research universities do. Therefore, the size of interest groups might not be as large as you would get in elsewhere.

  • Less emphasis on sports.

Yeah... LACs are no ivy league schools. Comparing their money input on sports facilities, they are usually way off.


  • "Resources for job recruitment are limited."

Speaking for myself, because all the LACs I applied for are top-ranked, I have to say this is a general stereotype and often WRONG. Some articles on Google talk about most big firms would rather spend their time searching for the elites they want in their fields in big schools. They can have a broader range of potential candidates to consider and select, even going to a less prestigious university.
Well, it really depends on schools. For example, Pomona College has well-laid networks. It's pervasive for its top students to go to elite professional graduate schools after graduation in law, medicine, and business or go into top 500 US companies. Indeed, liberal arts colleges tend to be located in small towns, but don't worry about job opportunities and internships; there are companies around recruiting students on campus. However, if the LAC you are attending is not the absolute top one, you may need to consider this piece of advice; it might be true.

  • "Limited diversity."

It can be true. One of the cultural tendencies in America is that rich people tend to go to the best local liberal arts colleges. And then go to the large research institutions for postgraduate or Ph.D.

It depends on what you want, really. Because I have been in China the whole time, I want to experience the American culture; getting to know people from other ethnic groups. One thing I dislike about the well-known universities is that no matter if they are public or private, there are so many Chinese. I don't discriminate against my peers, obviously; I have no problem with people being comfortable seeking a sense of belonging with people from the same place. But there's just the norm that Chinese tend to hang out with Chinese, which will not help us if we want to get to know more of the local culture.

What should you know before choosing a liberal arts college?

  • Geographical location

Location matters more than anything. You are strongly suggested considering the physical environment you want to live in and life after college. For example, Williams has a rural setting, is very isolated, surrounded by dense woodlands. LACs are rarely located in major cities, so if you want to be surrounded by great restaurants, diverse landscapes, and lots of people, they probably won't be the best choice for you to consider.

Overall, I would love to attend a liberal arts college, and the outstanding education it offers will be enough for me. I don't have any issues with those large research universities, but just looking at the ranking will not help you to make the best decision of where you want to spend the next four years of your life. Hectic or serene, it's up to you to decide.