Liberal arts colleges

Major Leverage

Major Leverage

Some students go into the admissions process with the strategy of declaring a strange, off-the-beaten-track type major that will bolster their chances of getting into a selective school which otherwise would likely reject their candidacy.

The idea is once they’re in they’ll change their major with the advantage of being in the system not outside of it. For most of the liberal arts colleges such as Middlebury, Pomona College, or Davidson, this strategy won’t work.

Grove City College, a Hidden Gem

On occasion people ask me where are the hidden college gems?

I have a found that the 50 Best Colleges list ( is a pretty good source of hidden gems. The list’s primary criterion is that college is for undergraduates, not graduate students—which eliminates many of the big names, such as Harvard or Northwestern. It surveys the record of achievement among a college’s graduates to determine whether they have the skills to succeed in the real world. It also considers whether a college offers a ‘diversity of courses’ free of dogmatism, ideology or political correctness, delivers academic rigor so that students master their subjects, and watches its expenses to avoid adding an unwieldy debt load that indentures many graduates for decades to come. 

The Liberal Arts Alternatives- Public Liberal Arts Colleges

The most discriminating purchasers of college services, college professors, are keen on sending their kids to liberal arts colleges. Why? Liberal arts schools are usually small, smaller than many high schools. Most are composed solely of undergraduates, meaning accessibility to professors is unmatched: professors know this.  

Consequently, liberal arts colleges encourage and deliver many undergraduate research opportunities, even compared to major ‘research universities.’ Moreover, at the liberal arts colleges, professors teach introductory courses, with many interacting frequently with their students—and have countless informal meetings, which according the late Steve Jobs, are the most fruitful and memorable.

Regardless of all this professor access, many believe that attending a liberal arts college- to learn, read, write, analyze, communicate and think clearly will land students squarely in the unemployment line. Not according to Paul D’Arnieri , dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences at University of Florida, “…liberal arts major can go into education, public policy, law, intelligence, as well as business--let’s not forget that many, many business leaders have liberal arts degrees.” (Fox Business 27 January 2012) Okay, but won’t the costs of these colleges saddle students with tens of thousands of dollars of debt? Certainly the sticker price of Swarthmore, Amherst, Pomona College, or Williams is over $50,000 a year, but there are alternatives.

Beyond the brand name private liberal arts schools there are a number of public liberal arts colleges. Many are a part of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) which consists of 27 public colleges spread among 24 states and a Canadian province. A full list can be found at Four of these public liberal arts colleges are included in Fiske’s Best Buys of 2013, which is based on “the quality of their academic offerings in relation to the cost of attendance.” (Fiske Guide, 2013)  These include the College of Charleston (SC), Evergreen State (WA), Truman State, (MO), and University of Mary Washington (VA). Two other public liberal arts colleges for those wanting to be closer to home include Sonoma State University, with a cost of attendance (COA) of just over $23,000 and Southern Oregon University (which is part of the Western University Exchange program, WUE), with a COA of $25,000.

Yet another public liberal arts college, University of Minnesota, Morris, which for some odd reason did not make the Fiske list, is truly an exceptional value. The college is located in the middle-western portion of Minnesota, fairly close to the North Dakota border. The 125-year-old campus has a 42-acre historic district set in the middle of its 130-acre campus. Equally interesting is the campus is well on its way to becoming carbon neutral, as it obtains over half its power from a municipal level wind turbine (another liberal arts school in Minnesota, Carleton, just installed its second wind turbine generator—a popular energy alternative in the land of 10,000 lakes).

Academically all students begin with a first-year seminar featuring a five-course core under the name of ‘Skills for the Liberal Arts.” Eight courses are then required spread among history, fine arts, social science, natural sciences, and ‘international perspectives.’ Over two-thirds of the classes have 19 or fewer students, and all are taught by professors. Students find the academics competitive but highly collaborative.

The best news is that Morris does not charge non-residential fees. The annual tuition, room and board for a non-resident is under $20,000. For the right type of student, Morris represents a superb undergraduate value, as do many of the public liberal arts schools.

Only 3% of students coming out of high school go on to liberal arts colleges. In all likelihood of the students who even learn that liberal arts schools exist, most dismiss this alternative as too pricey, unprofessional, and small. That’s a shame because there are a lot of choices and opportunities for those bold enough to stray off the well-worn UC or CSU admissions path. Liberate your search and survey the great public liberal arts school opportunities.  

Carleton College: a Superb Liberal Arts College in Minnesota


  • In a League with Pomona College, Amherst, and Middlebury
  • Small Undergraduate Population, Expansive Cowling Arboretum
  • Excellent and Diligent Professors
  • Trimester System—Numerous majors
  • High Production of PhDs and NSF Winners

Even in the sub-zero frigidity of a Minnesota January, brains are exuding energy in Northfield, a town about 40 minutes from Minneapolis and St. Paul. ‘Carls,’ Carleton students, also known as “northern commies” by more conservative elements who find their politics a touch too left leaning, have just begun their second trimester.  If you can weather the Minnesota winter, and find enjoyment in talking with some of the most intellectually engaged students in the country, “serious students who don’t take themselves too seriously,” then Carleton College might warrant being added to any application list which includes the likes of Pomona College, Swarthmore, Middlebury, or Amherst.

Its student numbers are comparable to Williams College, with just over 2,000. Like Swarthmore, Carleton contains an arboretum: Cowling Arboretum is 880-acres and is directly adjacent to the college. All told Carleton consists of 1,040 acres, a fairly spacious campus for its 2,000 undergraduates. The campus also includes a Japanese Garden, the Goodsell Observatory, listed on the National Historic Trust, and two utility grade wind turbines, substantially reducing the campus’s carbon footprint and generating close to half of the campus’s energy needs.

Carleton is noted for its natural sciences and political science departments. With no graduate students, teaching is done by the faculty; its focus is on teaching. Teachers at Carleton are “approachable” and “generous with their time”. On Rate My, Carleton professors, as a group, score 3.54 in “Overall Quality”. (Yale professors score 2.59; Harvard, 2.95, Pomona College 3.59 and Amherst, 3.8). One of the many recommended professors is Al Montero, who teaches a challenging introductory course to political science, grades severely, yet appears universally loved. One student mentions Professor Montero as, “…a flawless professor. All his colleagues know it and his students do too. Is it scary to have a professor who is flawless? Yes. Is it amazing? Yes.”

Most classes at Carleton are small: over 60% have fewer than 20 students, with the average class size of 17.  Carleton has no formal course requirements, and few distribution requirements. Though similar to Hampshire College and Brown University, once a major and concentration is determined, the student meets with her department advisor and the required course path is configured. A BA is offered in 37 majors, and students can elect to design their own; additionally, students earn a ‘concentration’ which comprises interdisciplinary study in such subjects as neuroscience, or European Studies. More impressive still, Carleton offers 12 foreign language courses from Russian to Arabic. Over 70% of Carls study abroad.

Carleton nurtures success in its students. Its most recent class produced 7 Fulbright Scholars, and the highest number of National Science Foundation fellowships in the country. It regularly graduates more women who pursue a PhD in the natural sciences than either Dartmouth or Princeton (each of which graduates twice as many women). Overall, 70% of Carleton graduates go on to graduate school, most in PhD programs, not MBA type programs. Apparently, the Carleton natural sciences department's emphasis on field and lab work gives it substantial advantage over larger, research-driven universities. However, don’t think this display of academic excellence is serendipitous-- almost a fifth of Carleton’s recent class was composed of National Merit Scholars-- that’s a number greater than any other liberal arts school in the country. 

Yes, its cost of attendance (COA) is over $54,000, but more than half the recent class received need-based financial aid—over $27,000 was given in grants and scholarships. Also, Carleton charges no application fee for students who apply online, and it’s on the Common Application—so, to test the water costs nothing but time, compared to Stanford’s $90 application fee.

If the cold doesn’t kill you, then Carleton might give life to your undergraduate career. With a beautiful campus containing its own arboretum, a Japanese Garden, and the first campus night club, The Cave, there is always too much to do. Yet the excellence of the teaching, the small classes, the broad selection of majors, and the study abroad program make Carleton an alluring place to spend four years building a base for a lifetime of learning.   


Carleton College소개: 미네소타의 최고의 인문대학

  • Pomona College, Amherst, Middlebury와 유사함
  • 작은 수의 학생에 비해 웅장한 Cowling Arboretum
  • 우수하고도 부지런한 교수들
  • 3학기제에 많은 전공들
  • PhD와 NSF우수자의 배출

1월의 미네소타의 영하의 날씨에도 불구하고, Minneapolis와 St. Paul에서 40분 떨어진 Northfield 에서는 두뇌에서 에너지가 쏟고 있다.  Carleton의 학생들, Carls들이 2학기를 시작하면서 좌파로 기울면서 보수주의자들에게서 “북쪽의 공산주의자”라는 명칭을 갖는다.  만약 여러분이 미네소타의 겨울을 이길 수 있고, 전국에서 가장 지적인 학생들(스스로는 심각하게 생각하지 않지만, 심각한 학생들)과 토론하길 좋아한다면, Carleton College는 Pomona college, Swarthmore, Middlebury, Amherst와 같이 원서를 넣어야 하는 대학이다.

Williams College와 비슷한 숫자의 2,000명이 재학하며, Swarthmore와 같이 식물원을 교내에 갖고 있다: Cowling Arboretum은  880에이크이다.  교정 전체는 1,040 에이크이며, 2,000명의 학생이 다니기에는 정말 넓다.  캠퍼스에는 National Historic Trust에 등록된 Japanese Garden, Goodsell Observatory가 있으며, 두 개의 바람터번은 캠퍼스의 이산화탄소를 줄여주며, 에너지를 반 이상을 생산한다.

Carleton은 자연과학과 정치학이 유명하다.  교수들은 대학원이 없으므로 오로지 가르치는 일에 집중한다.  교수들은 접근가능하고 시간에 후하다.  Rate My Professor.com에 올라온 평가를 보면, 전체적으로 3.54 (예일대 교수가 2.49; 하버드가 2.95; 포모나가 3.54; 엠허스트가 3.8)이다.  정치학 입문을 가르치는 교수로 점수도 짠 Al Montero 교수는 정말 존경받고 있다.  학생의 글에는 “…흠없는 교수이다.  동료와 학생 모두가 그렇게 평가한다.  교수가 흠없다는 것은 두려운 것 아닌가?  그렇다.  멋진가?  정말 그렇다.”라고 쓰여 있다.

Carleton의 대부분의 수업은 소규모이다:  60%의 수업이 20명 이하이며, 평균은 17명이다.  이 대학에는 공식적으로 학업에 대한 넓이나 요구조건은 없다.  Hampshire College, Brown University대학과도 비슷하며, 학생은 학과장을 만나서 과목수강을 결정한다.  학사학위로 37개의 전공이 있으며, neuroscience, European Studies와 같은 학제간 연구를 전공으로 할 수 있다.  특히, 이 대학은 Russian, Arabic 등의12개의 외국어를 제공하며, 70%이상이 해외연수를 간다.

Carleton은 학생들의 성공을 장려한다.  7명의 풀브라이트 장학생을 배출했고, 전국에서 가장 많은 National Science Foundation fellowships수혜자를 배출했다.  Dartmouth, Princeton보다 많은 여성 자연과학자를 배출했다.  Carleton의 자연과학과는 다른 종합대학이 리서치 중심인데 비해, 필드와 실험실중심이다.  이런 결과는 우연이 아니다-이 대학은 전국 어느 인문대학보다 많은 1/5의 학생이 National Merit Scholars이다.  

다음 학비는 $54,000이 넘지만, 반 이상이 필요조건을 $27,000이상을 받는다.  또한 이 대학은 온라인으로 응시할 때 원서비가 없으며, Common Application을 이용한다.  스텐포드는 90불이나 받는다. 

정말 추위가 겁나지 않다면, Carleton에서 대학생활을 할 만하다.  Japanese Garden을 가진 식물원이 있고, 전국 최초 클럽인 Cave가 있는 아름다운 캠퍼스에는 항상 할 일이 많다.  우수한 교수진, 소규모 수업, 다양한 전공, 해외수학 프로그램은 정말 일생의 기초가 되는 대학 4년을 보낼 만한 곳이다.