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Monday, December 2, 2013

What's in a Liberal Arts College Education?

I am home again after spending a week on the road with 45 other counselors visiting seven Pennsylvania liberal arts colleges. We got to talk with students, meet with professors, interact with administrators and tour campuses. I even got to shake hands with a Nobel Prize winner!  
At every school I was truly struck by the unique features each one offered, and it became more obvious than ever that students need to search for a college that best fits them academically, emotionally, socially and financially. There are so many different combinations of programs available out there. Here are just a few highlights of what I saw:
  • graduation guarantee within four years. If a student isn't finished in time, the college will cover the costs of the necessary classes.
  • affiliations with local government for political science majors to get real world experience and education in how government really works.
  • an archeology program with dig sites in Greece and Israel.
  •  a peer mentor program for incoming freshmen to help them adjust to college life.
  • face to face interviews to match roommates together- with nearly a 100% success rate.
  • a collaboration program in which students work together to solve real world problems- like how to bring clean drinking
    water to certain parts of the world.
  • a residential field station leased from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for undergraduates to engage in hands-on environmental research and study.
  • college presidents who regularly meet with students and invite them into their homes.
  • generous and unique scholarships with admissions and
    financial aid staff willing to work with families to help them find a financial fit college (even if it ends up being a different college!)
I saw small class sizes with an emphasis on presentations, group projects and research throughout the tour. Study abroad programs and a focus on community service were the norm. 

I truly believe there is a right fit for every college-bound student.

For some, it's an Ivy league education, others a larger university and many will be most comfortable at a smaller liberal arts school. The key is knowing what's available and matching the student's interest and special needs to the right school. From there, it's up to the student to take advantage of the offerings of their college to ensure their success.