The 20 Best Liberal Arts Colleges in the U.S. in 2019

Amherst College campus

There are several types of colleges and universities in the United States to choose from. Some are more focused upon specific disciplines with coursework and electives which complement a certain area of study or professional specialization, such as law, medical, technology or business applications. Liberal arts takes a broader approach to education with the inclusion of an interdisciplinary curriculum. Having been an administrator in higher ed for more than a decade, I can say that the best liberal arts colleges tend to be student-centric with smaller class sizes and an emphasis upon teaching versus independent research. If you’re considering attending a liberal arts college in the United States, here are the top 20 liberal arts colleges for your consideration.  Data has been compiled using the websites U.S News, Forbes, College Choice, and College Raptor:

20. Mount Holyoke College

Mount Holyoke College was established in 1837 in South Hadley, Massechusetts. Its an accredited private liberal arts college for women. The acceptance rate is 50 percent of applicants with a graduation rate of 80 percent and an out of pocket cost after financial aid of $24,000. The enrollment is approximately 2,099 students.

19. Bucknell University

Bucknell University is located in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. It’s a private liberal arts college with three main schools including the College of Engineering, the Freeman College of Management and the College of Arts and Sciences. The Acceptance rate is 25 percent of all applicants with a high graduation rate of 89 percent, and an average attendance cost after financial aid of $37,000. The undergraduate enrollment is approximately 3,522.

18. Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University is a private research university with a liberal arts curriculum located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The institution was founded in 1834 and has an acceptance rate of 29 percent of applicants with a high graduation rate of 88 percent, an an average cost of $31,000 after financial aid. The average undergraduate enrollment is 4,866.

17. Barnard College

Barnard College is a women’s private liberal arts school located in the Manhattan sector of New York City in New York. It was established in 1889 and is one of the oldest colleges for women in the world. The acceptance rate is 20% of applicants with a graduation rate of 89 percent and a post-aid cost of $26,000. The undergraduate enrollment is approximately 2,536.

16. United States Military Academy

The United States Military Academy is located at West Point New York and is also commonly referred to as West Point. The institution is a federal four year academy with a low acceptance rate of just ten percent. West point accommodates on average 4,194 cadets with a motto of Duty, honor and country. West Point was established on January 20, 1778.

15. Davidson College

Davidson College is a small private liberal arts college that is located in Davidson, North Carolina. Their enrollment averages only between 1,779-1,950 students with an acceptance rate of 22 percent and an extremely high graduation rate of 93 percent. The average cost of attendance after student aid is $20,000.

14. Colgate University

Colgate University is a private liberal arts school that was founded in 1819 and is located in Hamilton New York. he annual enrollment is approximately 3,000 students and the institution offers 56 undergraduate bachelor of arts degrees with Master of Arts in Teaching programs as well. For the undergraduate side, the acceptance rate is 27 percent of applicants with a graduation rate of 92 percent an an average cost of attendance after student aid of $23,000.

13. Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr College is a small private liberal arts college for women, founded in 1885 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. It is a member of the Tri-College Consortium and one of seven sister colleges with an acceptance rate of 39 percent of all applicants and a graduation rate of 82 percent. The average cost of attendance after aid is $29,000 for the undergraduate program which enrolls approximately 1,341 students per year. The school also has a graduate program that enrolls approximately 450 students.

12. Wesleyan University

Wesleyan University was founded in 1931 and is located in Middletown Connecticut.It’s a small private liberal arts colleges offering baccalaureate degrees at the undergraduate level in the arts and sciences. The average annual enrollment is 2,819 with an acceptance rate of 22 percent and a graduation rate of 93 percent. The average cost of attendance after financial aid is $25,000.

11. Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College was originally chartered in the year 1794 and it is one of the oldest colleges in the United states. It was founded when the state of Maine was still considered to be a part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, before it was even recognized as a state. The college is located in Brunswick Maine. It’s a private liberal arts school with an undergraduate enrollment of 1,794 students annually and an acceptance rate of just 15 percent of applicants, a graduation rate of 93 percent and an average cost of attendance of $19,000 after student air.

10. Smith College

Smith College is a member of the Seven Sisters consortium, located in Northampton Massachusetts. It’s a small independent women’s private liberal arts institution offering coed graduate as well as certificate programs, and is the biggest school among the Seven Sisters. The average annual undergraduate student enrollment is 2,471 students with an acceptance rate of 38 percent and a graduation rate of 87 percent. The average cost of attendance after applying financial aid is $28,000.

9. Haverford College

Haverford College is a small private liberal arts college that is located in Haverford, Pennsylvania. It is largely a residential college with an undergraduate student enrollment of just 1,229 annually. The acceptance rate for all applicants is 25 percent with an extremely high graduation rate of 94 percent of all students accepted into the college. The average cost for attendance after financial aid has been applied is $23,000.

8. Middlebury College

Middlebury College was established in 1800 by a group of Congregationalists and it is the first college to offer higher education within the State of Vermont. It is a small private liberal arts school which is located in Middlebury, Vermont. The average annual undergraduate enrollment is just 2,515 with an acceptance rate of all applications averaging 17 percent and a high graduation rate of 94 percent. After the application of student financial aid, the average cost of attendance is $23,000.

7. Carleton College

Carleton College was first established in 1866, and is located in Northfield, Minnesota. It is a small private liberal arts school with an average undergraduate annual enrollment of between 1,995 and 2,105 students. The acceptance rate for all applicants is approximately 21 percent with a high graduation rate of 93 percent. The average cost of attendance after the application of student financial aid assistance is $29,000.

6. Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College is a private liberal arts college with a focus on coeducation curriculum in international relations, finance, government and public affairs and economics. The school is located in Claremont, California and is a member of the Claremont Colleges consortium. It has an average annual student enrollment of 1,325, making it one of the smallest private schools in our listing. The acceptance rate is just 11 percent of all applicants which means that the enrollment approval committee is highly selective of which applications are approved for admission to the institution. The graduation rate is high, at 90 percent and the average cost of attendance after financial aid is applied is $24,000.

5. Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College was founded in 1864 and is one of the first co-educational institutions established in the United States. It’s a small private liberal arts school located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. The first classes were not officially held until 1869. The current annual undergraduate enrollment is approximately 1,566 students with a very low acceptance rate of just 12 percent, making it one of the more selective yet desired liberal arts colleges on our list. The graduation rate is also high at 94 percent wit an average cost after student id of $22,000.

4. Wellesley College

Wellesley College was founded in 1870 in Wellesley, Massachusetts. It is a small private women’s liberal arts college with an undergraduate enrollment annually of 2,400 students. The school offers over 150 different organizations and student clubs and it is a member of the Seven Sisters consortium with agreements for student co-enrollment with MIT and Brandeis college. The acceptance rate is 30 percent of applicants with a high graduatein rate of 91 percent. The average cost of attendance after student aid is $25,000.

3. Pomona College

Pomona College is a small liberal arts college with an undergraduate student enrollment of 1,640 annually with a diverse student body. It is located in Claremont, California and is considered to be one of the premier liberal arts colleges within the West Coast of the United States, offering a choice of 48 majors at the undergraduate level. The acceptance rate for applicants is extremely low at just 10 percent of applicants with a high graduation rate of 93 percent. The average cost of attendance after financial aid is $15,000.

2. Williams College

The second most highly recommended liberal arts college in the United States of 2019 is Williams College. The institution is among the oldest in existence in the United States. It was founded in 1793 in the town of Williams College, Massachusetts. The town is a small community and the school enrolls approximately 2,000 students in its undergraduate for year programs in humanities, sciences and social sciences. Some of the programs of study are based upon the old traditions of Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the United Kingdom, teaching either in small groups or on a one on one basis, making it one of the most highly desired colleges within the liberal arts classification. The acceptance rate is 18 percent of applicants with a high graduation rate of 95 percent and a cost of attendance after student aid of approximately $24,000.

1. Amherst College

Amherst College is the number one most highly recommended liberal arts college in the United States today. The institution has a rich history and was established in the year 1821. It has the reputation for being the third oldest college/university in the state of Massachusetts, which is known for its old institutions. Amherst is a private liberal arts college with an average undergraduate enrollment of about 1,725 students, located in the city of Amherst, Massachusetts. One of the factors that ranks Amherst College above Williams, our second best liberal arts school, is the fact that ninety percent of the courses are taught with less than 30 enrolled students, allowing for a smaller more intimate learning environment with greater access to the professors and their wealth of knowledge. Another is the structure of the curriculum, which is open. There are no core modules nor are there restrictions on the courses/subjects with regard to the order in which they must be taken. The open curriculum feature allows students greater freedom in structuring their schedules and pairing courses for the best results. Amherst is a rival of Williams College, and it’s interesting that the president of Amherst was actually attempting to relocate Williams to the city of Amherst when the college was set up. The acceptance rate for potential students who apply for acceptance at Amherst is just 14 percent, showing it’s a selective school. The graduation rate is 94 percent which is among the highest in the nation, and the average cost of attendance after the application of student aid is just $19,000.


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