Advantages of Liberal Arts Colleges?

<p>Nbafan135, LACs attract many kids who know what they want to do. My daughter is just an example of one who didn't know. A lot of pre-med, pre-law and education majors at the LAC I attended. So the "sure" vs "not sure" distinction isn't accurate. My experience at a small LAC, and my daughter's experience, weren't the same as ColdWind's. We had many friends from lots of different backgrounds and with different interests. You can isolate yourself on a big campus, too. The kids I know that went to the big university in my state were mostly interested in partying and staying close to home. They didn't take their education as seriously as the kids that sought out and found "good fit" LACs. They certainly weren't more mature or tolerant. Obviously, it's a very subjective experience, and there are a lot of different kinds of LACs and not all big schools are the same, either. I think you need to visit some small and medium-sized LACs and a big university and see where you're most comfortable.</p>

<p>More important is what does the OP expect a LAC to be like & what does he want from college? And which LACs are you considering?</p>

<p>I went to a mega big state university, Michigan, and my son went to a small liberal arts college, Williams. Even considering different times and different personalities my son's educational and social experience was vastly superior to mine.</p>

<p>Big U's offer everything you could possibly want and need, BUT -- and I think this is the crux of the difference -- you have to be the squeaky wheel and go after it aggressively. The bureaucracy can be impersonal, the professors dis-interested in teaching undergraduates, the teaching assistants inexperienced and the sheer enormity of choice intimidating. If you are an assertive and focused person you will achieve your goals. If you are somewhat shy or introverted you may or may not. The resources are immense but you have to ferret them out and claim them. </p>

<p>At a small LAC the faculty and administration are accessible. Your professors are there to teach, period, even though they may be experts in their fields. They will know you personally and when it comes time to ask for recommendations for internships, jobs, graduate school you'll have lots of choices. </p>

<p>There is some truth to what ColdWind says about sameness at an LAC; each has a distinctive personality, though within the context of "character" there will still be diversity of race, religion, sexual preference, economic standing etc. Most people have a handful of close friends and a social circle of several dozen. 2000 to 3000 students is still a lot to choose from. Ironically, because it was easier to socialize, I think my son had a wider and more varied social group at Williams than I did at Michigan.</p>

<p>LACs are sometimes rural, but can also be urban or suburban. They can be aggressively liberal or middle of the road. They can be sporty or brainy or nerdy. The personality type is there but it isn't just one personality from school to school.</p>

<p>At the end of the day it comes down to fit. I received a wonderful education at Michigan and it has served me well all over the world, but I believe I would have found a better personal fit at a small LAC.</p>

to survive the restrictive atmosphere of an LAC, it is essential to be involved in a sport and in an activity. It helps if you spend a year abroad, also.


<p>You really shouldn't make this kind of blanket statement, because it clearly does not hold true to everyone. I go to an LAC and am still thrilled to be here in my jr year; I am not involved in a support, nor am I going abroad. While my LAC is larger and less isolated than most, momrath's son is a good example of someone who went to a small, isolated LAC and loved it.</p>

<p>I have a student at UVA and one at a competitive LAC. Both really like their choice for a lot of the reasons stated above. Overall, I think momrath provides an apt comparison. </p>

<p>The only thing I will add is that the one at the LAC seems to be getting a richer and more rigorous academic experience. The smaller classes, teaching focus of professors, and the greater emphasis on writing, discussion, and analytical skills makes a big difference. You cannot hide in the back of a large lecture hall and your professors know you by name. None of the information is filtered through inexperienced TAs, and you do not need an appointment to drop in on your professor to discuss a paper you are working on, or to go over something from class in more detail. in fact, thy expect you to take advantage of their accessiblity. There are great advantages in that, especially for students who really enjoy academics. </p>

<p>Socially, both are having great experiences, but I think the opposite of one of the earlier posts. I think you have to be much more involved in activites to get to know people at larger schools than smaller ones. Based on their experiences, I also disagree that social life at an LAC is somehow inferior due to the smaller number of students. Just because there are 20,000 students doesn't mean you will get to know more people, or find your social niche more easily. For many, such a large scale actually makes it harder to meet people and it can be more isolating. Just because there are only 2,000 students doesn't mean you know everyone after the first couple of semesters. Such assumptions are false. 2,000 is a very large number of people to get to know if you really think about it. Whether the school is large or small most people are fortunate to develop a core circle of close friends and a broad spectrum of acquaintances. At a small school you will have far more acquaintances, and though there is statistically less diversity, you have a much better opportunity to get to know students from diverse backgrounds and cultures. That's because at a small school you have more intimate contact with other students. At a larger school, self segregation can be such that you never really get to know students outside your own natural circle of friends. So the fact they exist is not necessarily the benefit it appears to be on paper unless you put some effort into it. </p>

<p>That said, fit is extremely important, and those who are are outgoing and assertive will not necessarily have any special problems with whatever path they choose.</p>

<p>Thank you for all your replies coldwind, momrath, flvadad, and kcphobo. There are some very unique insights here. </p>

<p>coldwind- I dont know enough about LACs to say I have one in particular. but what I do know is that I expect to have a lotta fun in college, and be able to explore many options that would hopefully help me figure out what i wanna do. </p>

<p>im not shy in any which way and am really looking forward to college and having fun, and I think maybe the petitness of most of these LACs will come back to haunt me. But on the other hand, it sounds like such a great experience with the closeness with the professors and fuller experience. So im still really divided. wow</p>

<p>In response to post #24, I agree that generalizations are somewhat inappropriate & that I did make a blanket statement. The LAC that I attended had fewer students than Wesleyan's 2,800. As a rural, preppy, athletic LAC of about 2,000 students, my blanket statement is much more true than it may be inaccurate. It is what I believe & what I would tell my son (who refused to even consider a LAC even though one very elite "held the doors open for him if he wanted the opportunity") were he to go to a LAC.
Post #24 Weskid's Wesleyan is not as rural and is significantly larger. My LAC was similiar in studentbody makeup to Dartmouth, Colgate, Bucknell & Middlebury.
Some interesting choices that combine a LAC like experience within a university setting are Dartmouth College (over 4,100 undergrads), Brown University (about 5,800 undergrads) & Rice University in Houston, Texas (approx. 3,000 undergraduates).
Other options include well run honors colleges at large state universities which house honors students together for the first year and offer required small honors students only seminars during at least the first year.
Urban LACs such as Macalester are interesting, as are consortium LACs such as the Claremont Colleges, the Haverford, Bryn Mawr & Swarthmore group, and LACs in the geographical area of Amherst, Smith , Mt. Holyoke & Hampshire with UMass-Amherst.</p>

<p>nbafan, I say check them all out and decide for yourself. I know I sounded bias, but really, neither of my kids would trade with the other. They each just found what was best for their personal tastes.</p>

<p>coldwind- I think ill look into some of those schools that combine the two, maybe itd be good since therell be more people but not too many. uva goes into that too right?</p>

<p>flva- ill try my best. thanks again</p>

As a rural, preppy, athletic LAC of about 2,000 students, my blanket statement is much more true than it may be inaccurate.


<p>Maybe that's true, I have no way to judge, but your statement was originally "to survive at an LAC," not a small, rural, athletic LAC. We’re talking about LACs in general here, which means everything from Wesleyan (larger, artsy) to Occidental (in the middle of LA, urban flavor), to Williams (smaller, more isolated, to some extent preppier), and I don’t think that advice applies everywhere; certainly the part about sports doesn’t (being involved in actives is a good idea no matter what kind of school you go to, IMO).</p>

<p>On the subject of missing out on the benefits of a "big school," consider residential schools within big universities. As of now, one of my top choices is Michigan State's James Madison College, which has a population of around 1000 undergrads and gives some of the benefits of a small LAC (small classes, get to know profs, close community) without giving up the "big school" experience (still have a major football team, option to take general MSU classes).</p>


Also there are a number of other schools that do this, i know UVA has some of this as well as i think some UCs and maybe princeton</p>

<p>Weskid: I understand & appreciate your point of view. I do not agree & hope that you will respect my right to offer my heartfelt, experienced advice. If you reread my earlier posts in this thread more carefully, I think that you may understand & respect my perspective a little more than just by highlighting one phrase or sentence out of many. Please read my postings as a whole & you will better understand that they are not meant to offend in any manner whatsoever.</p>

<p>From a social perspective, I would say...</p>

<p>If you went to a small high school (where you know about everone in your graduating class) and found that little uncomfortable, you may want to consider a larger university where you can have a little more anonimity.</p>

<p>However, if you went to that same high school and found knowing everyone comforting, you will more likely find that same comfort at a LAC.</p>

<p>Now if you attended a large high school where most people didn't know everyone and you felt like you were missing out on things, perhaps the LAC is the right place for you, as you will experience more of the same on a large scale at a large university.</p>

<p>OTOH, if the ever changing people around you and new opportunities (social and otherwise) was something you sought out at the large high school, that will more likely translate at the larger university than the LAC that may be smaller than your high school.</p>

<p>I think there sould be a general Liberal Arts college section on this site. We focus so much on the big U's that we dont let others see that there is another option. There's a lack of LAC info on here. I, who plan to attend one of these schools have to look under rocks to find convos such as these (few are ever stickied).</p>

<p>Question </p>

<p>Which LACs have the BEST (THE BEST) Research opportunities (for pre-med)?</p>

<p>Best interms of frequent, plentifull opportunities provided. Not just 5 or any amount able to count on ones fingers.
Please try not to generalize and say that you can find research everywhere. I'm sure that there are a few that are up there in this regard.</p>

<p>As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages to both large research universities and small LAC's and often that depends on the individual. For some, a small, intimate environment would be an advantage. I personally learn better in a large lecture environment supplemented by going to office hours. Likewise, some prefer a small social environment. I went to Cornell (~12000 undergrads) and loved being able to meet new people each and every week and not having to say "hi" to 20 people on my way to class. I'm in med school now (~170 per graduating class) and while I'm enjoying the experience, there are times when I get tired just looking and talking to the same people over and over again (and I'm only 2 months into the school year).</p>

<p>Determind15: You should check out my school, Wesleyan. We actually have a few TINY grad programs in the sciences, which works out really well for science majors looking for research opportunities, because there is grad school funding and research (unlike many LACs), but so few grad students that there are tons of opportunities for undergrads. There is also the Hughs program that allows undergrads to do research here over the summer (I think they even get a stipend). All of my science major friends got lab positions here when they wanted them—granted, they are all good students, but the sense I get is that opportunities are plentiful. IIRC, we have one of the highest percentages of undergrads getting their name on published research of any LAC.</p>

<p>My daughter is at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wi, a small LAC of about 1500, and she likes it very much. She has received a lot of input from her teachers, with copies feedback on her papers. She has to prepare for each class since participation is important and a part of the grade - she cannot somnambulate. She likes academics, so she like this kind of environment. If you might want to coast some more , maybe this is not a good environment.</p>

<p>You get a broad based education, in a sense it is a real eductions as opposed to more focused training in a field (e.g., business, or physics). Many of the LAC's are small and focus on undergrads. In the end you can have a literate discussion about many things, not just one. Mine has paid off over the years.</p>