The Top 10 Best Liberal Arts Colleges

What is a Liberal Arts College?

While many universities have liberal arts colleges, an independent liberal arts college is different from one part of a larger university systems. Liberal Arts colleges focus more on well-rounded instruction and on smaller classroom discussion than those in a university setting.

While liberal arts colleges do indeed teach liberal arts subjects such as literature, philosophy, religion and language arts; mathematics, social and hard sciences are also taught.

In order for a school to be classified as a National Liberal Arts College it must emphasize undergraduate education and must award at least 50% of its degrees in the liberal arts.

The below ranking of the 10 best liberal arts colleges in the country is made up of all schools classified as National Liberal Arts Colleges. We ranked them according to our overall quality ranking that emphasizes outcomes.

These schools are excellent choices for students who are seeking a top-notch undergraduate experience that focused on broad-based learning in the liberal arts.

10. Colgate University


Colgate University is a small private university located in Hamilton, New York. If you are looking for a beautiful small town location about an hour from Syracuse, Colgate may be a good fit. About 2,800 undergraduate students are enrolled at Colgate in a variety of liberal arts majors. Popular areas include the social sciences and biological & biomedical sciences. Colgate ranks #32 in the nation according to CollegeFactual.

9. College of the Holy Cross


College of the Holy Cross is one of the oldest Catholic colleges in the US having been founded in 1843. Today, Holy Cross continues to be a small private college located in Worcester, Massachusetts. About 2700 students attend Holy Cross majoring in a wide variety of liberal arts majors such as economics, psychology and political science. Holy Cross is ranked #30 in the list of top colleges in the nation.

8. Davidson College


Davidson College is a small private college located in Davidson, North Carolina. Just under 2000 students are enrolled at Davidson in popular majors such as political science, biology and economics. Davidson is notable as it has 23 Rhodes Scholars who call Davidson their alma mater. CollegeFactual ranks Davidson #29 in the country for top colleges.

7. Bowdoin College


Bowdoin College was chartered in 1794 making this one of the oldest colleges on this list. Located in beautiful Brunswick, Maine, Bowdoin college offers its students excellent instruction – in fact CollegeFactual ranks Bowdoin #25 in the nation and the best school in Maine. Popular majors include political science and economics. About 1800 students attend Bowdoin.

6. Hamilton College


Hamilton College is a small college of just under 2000 students located in Clinton, New York. Chartered in 1793, Hamilton today offer students a choice of 34 majors across 15 fields of study. Popular majors include economics and mathematics. CollegeFactual ranks Hamilton #24 in the nation of best colleges.

5. Williams College

By  SerSeanCrane  via Flickr under  CC BY-SA 2.0

By SerSeanCrane via Flickr under CC BY-SA 2.0

Williams College, like others on this list, is located in the New England region. Having been founded in 1793 in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Williams College is a prestigious, small private college with just over 2000 students. Williams College is ranked #23 in the nation. Popular majors include economics, mathematics and English literature.

4. Amherst College


Amherst College was founded in 1821 and along with Williams and Wesleyan College is one of the “Little Three” colleges in the New England area. Just under 2000 students attend Amherst. Popular majors include economics, child development and psychology. CollegeFactual ranks Amherst the #22 best college in the United States.

3. Pomona College

Pomona is the founding college in the Claremont College system having been founded in 1887. Just over 1500 students attend Pomona and while this school doesn’t have a specialty like Harvey Mudd and Claremont McKenna, popular majors include economics, computer science and mathematics. CollegeFactual ranks Clarmont College #20 in the nation.

2. Claremont McKenna College

One of three Claremont Colleges on this list, Claremont McKenna College is located in Claremont, California. While Harvey Mudd focuses on educating students on the sciences, Claremont McKenna focuses on economics, business and public affairs. Popular majors include economics, political science and international relations. While larger than Harvey Mudd, Claremont McKenna is still a very small college with about 1300 students attending. CollegeFactual ranks Claremont McKenna #16 in the nation.

1. Harvey Mudd College


Harvey Mudd College is one of the seven Claremont Colleges in the Claremont College consortium along with Claremont McKenna and Pomona College who also reside on this list. Harvey Mudd was formed as a science and engineering focused college in 1955 and today is not only the best liberal arts college in the US, but #8 overall in the nation. Fewer than 1000 students attend Harvey Mudd and major in popular topics such as general engineering, computer science and physics.

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