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The Pros and Cons of a Liberal Arts education

mp153mp153 Registered User Posts: 382 Member
I need everyone's help. Also, I'm not sure that this is in the right section so let me know.

I decided to only apply to small LACs out-of-state (I live in Florida). I want to major in English and political science. But here's the deal...

My parents believe that a liberal arts education is worthless and INSIST I go to the University of Florida (the chances of me not getting accepted there are very small for many different reasons). My argument is that I'd be a liberal arts major even at UF, so I may as well go to a school that does the liberal arts education the right way. I want small classes, etc. They want me to major in business since liberal arts degrees are "worthless." They INSIST that no one has ever heard of ANY of the schools to which I'm applying (they like to pick on Macalester a lot because it's in Minnesota and also because they're ignorant and have never heard of it, thus assuming that no one else has).

I've been searching the internet, but can't find articles from reliable sources that chronicle the benefits of a LA education, so I've come here. Help me, please. I really don't even want to apply to UF, let alone end up there, majoring in something that I absolutely hate. Unless I make a really convincing case, my parents might force me to do so, and I know that it is the absolute wrong environment for someone like me (not to mention that I get very physically ill every time I'm in the town of Gainesville...coincidence?).
Post edited by mp153 on

Replies to: The Pros and Cons of a Liberal Arts education

  • AlectricityAlectricity Registered User Posts: 388 Member
    As far as I know, LACs have a much smaller student population than most other major schools. You generally tend to get to know professors a little bit more and because the classes are so small, you HAVE to interact with the other students. I have a friend that goes to Middlebury in Vermont and that population is about 2k. She says that you see the same faces on campus all the time and you know who belongs and who doesn't. The work load is alot more intense because of the smaller class size and the unability(forgive my spelling and word choice) to skip class. So theres my 2 cents if it means anything. Hope it helped (at least a little!) Oh, and if they INSIST you do business, tell them economics is a liberal arts major
  • collycolly Registered User Posts: 175 Junior Member
    An argument I often hear in favor of a liberal arts education is that it prepares you for anything--a college major is not always a one-way track to a career. People with one degree are quite capable of doing a job that doesn't seem related to the degree. Sometimes people major in one thing in college and pursue career-oriented study in grad school.

    Check that out. Swarthmore hands it out in the form of a brochure.
  • liek0806liek0806 Registered User Posts: 3,316 Senior Member
    Have you considered New College of Florida, it's a public school, so in state tuition will be cheap, and there was a ranking of top 50 or so schools that are feeder schools to top mba/law/medical schools, and New College of Florida was the second highest public school< i think after berkeley
  • aurisphereaurisphere Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
    This is a link to a collection of essays from which you may be able to assemble a persuasive argument.

    Editorials and Commentary from the Nation’s Leading Liberal Arts Colleges
  • hmom5hmom5 - Posts: 10,882 Senior Member
    It sounds like your parents are practical thinkers. I would show them the recent study showing how well grads of LAC's do salary wise (Forbes.com) and show them matriculation lists for any top MBA program.
  • spdfspdf Registered User Posts: 955 Member
    Let's try that again -- an accidental keystroke prematurely sent my first reply, and the system refused to accept the edit.

    The main purpose of any liberal arts college is to teach you to think critically. Any good liberal arts college will help you to reason through the consequences of a stated claim, to see internal contradictions in an argument, to identify unstated assumptions, and to recognize bias in an argument, whether it's the other side or your own. These are essential skills for any job, whether your major is chemistry, political science, business, or English.

    I majored in chemistry at a small liberal arts school and now teach chemistry at a major state university. Some of my English major friends are now Hollywood screenwriters, and one is an agent after working as a television producer for CBS. Another English major works for Citibank in New York. A friend of mine majored in Russian because he wanted to play chess against Russians, and now he negotiates business deals with Russian businessmen. All of these guys came from tiny Knox College that nobody ever heard of.

    At a liberal arts college your schedule in any given semester is likely to include chemistry and philosophy, or biology and theater, or philosophy and phychology. The juxtaposition of ideas helps you understand things in ways you otherwise probably never would. My students at the state university have schedules loaded with chemistry, biology, and math.

    Large state universities do offer benefits that small liberal arts schools don't -- they have a wider selection of majors, and some students thrive in the larger, more open community of a state school. But there are others who enjoy life at a small residential school where everybody stays there on evenings and weekends, and where you spend the small hours facetiously arguing about Descartes until the debate inevitable descends into an exchange of Shakespearean insults. That's what we did, and we all got jobs afterward.

    BTW, in the past four years, Knox's commencement speakers have included Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Stephen Colbert, and Madeleine Albright. Apparently not everyone thinks liberal arts colleges are a waste of time. I would recommend you call the alumni office of whatever liberal arts school you're considering and ask them about some recent and some notable alumni, commencement speakers, and honorary degree recipients. It might help your parents realize that even if they've never heard of a place like Macalester (which is a great school, by the way), lots of other people have, and for good reason.
  • pointoforderpointoforder Registered User Posts: 546 Member
    Checkout this sites which provides links to a variety of articles and research on the value of a liberal arts education and the contributions of residential liberal arts colleges

    Additional Resources

    Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts - RESEARCH

    Also, show them college guides which rank colleges, e.g., The Fiske Guide and Barron's. Let them see Macalester's ranking compared to UFL.
  • mp153mp153 Registered User Posts: 382 Member
    Thanks so much for all of this! I'm definitely going to be able to form a great argument...I hope, anyway!

    Also, RE: New College. I knew this would get brought up. I looked into the school and decided it wasn't for me. I felt it was TOO small (I want at least 1,000 students...preferably somewhere between 1500 and 2500, though some schools I'm applying to are slightly bigger), I didn't identify with the student body, and overall, found that it wasn't a good school for me. Not to mention that I want out of Florida.
  • FLVADADFLVADAD Registered User Posts: 1,602 Senior Member
    mp153 you mentioned Macalester earlier. What other schools are you considering?
  • hikidshikids Registered User Posts: 1,284 Senior Member
    There is nothing wrong with a good liberal arts education. You will be in fact and educated person, relative to some who have specialized (e.g. engineering). There are many careers that will take a Liberal Arts degree. However, it forecloses engineering for example. Those who are willing to look long-run might choose Liberal Arts then get an MBA for job related interests.
  • theredsmileyfacetheredsmileyface Registered User Posts: 303 Junior Member
    I'm with fvladad, I'd love to hear your list
  • mp153mp153 Registered User Posts: 382 Member
    Some other schools I have on my list are Barnard, Franklin and Marshall, Muhlenberg, Oberlin, Goucher, and Haverford (though I know that one is a MAJOR reach). I also have some smaller privates like Brandeis and Tufts (though both are also probably reaches) and then some other privates that are medium-largeish, like BU, NYU, and Fordham. The last three made the cut because I felt like they were smaller than they actually were when I visited.
  • shennieshennie Registered User Posts: 2,467 Senior Member
    As far as no one ever hearing of Macalaster, Kofi Annan graduated from there. He was a former secretary general of the UN.
  • pointoforderpointoforder Registered User Posts: 546 Member
    ^^^^Hikids wrote: "There are many careers that will take a Liberal Arts degree. However, it forecloses engineering for example."

    I just want to say that's not true. Plenty of LAC grads go into engrineering. You can go get a graduate degree in engineering without an undergrad degree in engineering... So, LAC grads still go get grad degrees in a range of professional fields of study: engineering, journalism, business, architecture, public health, design, education, etc. They use their sound undergrad education as a foundation for a wide range of studies.
  • mp153mp153 Registered User Posts: 382 Member
    Bumping, as it is the weekend and I decided to make a quick powerpoint presentation and would like some more opinions.
This discussion has been closed.