Preparing for Liberal Arts College

Schools in the USA

Preparing for Liberal Arts College

If you are considering applying directly from high school to a liberal arts college, your post-secondary planning process should begin early. Liberal arts colleges--or particular programs within an institution--can be competitive and are rigorous; therefore, it's important to plan your high school courses accordingly. Your area of interest will determine what you should take. If you are considering pursuing a Bachelor of Science, you should be sure to have courses in math, chemistry, physics and computers to ensure that you are well prepared for the schools that make your list. Communication skills are always important, in virtually every field, so don't forget your English! In general, English and math are the most-often required courses for all fields of college and university study. If you are going into a liberal arts program for a Bachelor of Arts, then go for breadth: take courses across the curriculum in social science, science, humanities and creative arts. Find out what the university or college's policy is on pre-requisites, because if you are missing a required course, some institutions will offer specific courses to help you complete what's needed.

Taking the required courses, though, isn't necessarily enough: you should also be sure to keep your grades up. Most liberal arts colleges in the US have a minimum cut-off average for general admission. This required GPA varies according to the school you are applying to. Quota or other highly competitive institutions and/or programs may require a competitive GPA of up to 85%. The competitive GPA can change from year to year as it is based on the quality of the applicant pool and space available in the specific program.

In addition to your academics, there are several additional things you can do to prepare for success in your application to a liberal arts college:

  • Undertake to read and study about the field independently. This is a good way to develop interests, expand your knowledge and improve the vocabulary and reading comprehension skills needed for your program. This will also help you in an admissions interview, since you will be able to impress the interviewer or admissions committee with the knowledge you have built up of terms and issues specific to what a liberal arts education entails.

  • Since lots of students have excellent grades, many liberal arts college admissions committees also base their decision on a student's personal and social qualities, such as such as maturity, intellectual openness, motivation and goals. One way these qualities can be developed is through participating in extracurricular activities during high school. Consider joining or even starting school clubs, whether related to your area of interest or not (of course if it is related to your field of study, all the better!). This is also a good way to develop demonstrated leadership skills, which are also an important aspect of any competitive application.

  • Demonstrate your work ethic and values. Liberal arts college programs take a lot of commitment and plain old hard work. Therefore, work experience -- paid or volunteer -- is an achievement valued by admissions committees. Any work experience related to your chosen field is particularly beneficial. Showing your commitment to understanding and serving society is also highly regarded, since those are some of the principles on which liberal arts programs are founded.


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