Image of Colorado College, a liberal arts college

Are you conducting your college search to find the right fit? Recently, US News and World Report ran an article by a reporter named Josh Moody with helpful insights on liberal arts colleges. Read the article here. Below, I offer my perspective on the article, liberal arts colleges and types of colleges in general when it comes to your college search and finding the right fit for you.

Moody’s article is honestly one of the best I’ve read regarding liberal arts colleges and what they are, because it doesn’t pit liberal arts colleges (LACs) against big, public research universities in an either/or format. People should think of different types of higher education institutions in terms of a spectrum of choices that offer varying advantages and trade-offs.

I love the quote in the article from Jill Tiefenthaler, president of Colorado College (a liberal arts college), “I strongly believe that a student can get a great education anywhere if they are focused and mature and willing to really put in the effort. In the end, what you get out of your education probably depends more on you than the school that you go to.” In other words, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Let’s never forget the individual responsibility of the student in ultimately determining the quality of their education and what they do with the knowledge they’ve earned once they graduate.

The liberal arts education versus vocational education debate has been hot for the last few years as college costs have gone up, because consumers want to know “Will I get a job? What’s the ROI?” Those are fair questions. Liberal arts colleges point to places like Epic Systems that hire smart kids no matter what the degree, and there’s a lot to be said for that. But if you want to be an engineer or nurse, you can’t do those jobs with a broad understanding of many different subjects. You need technical proficiency. So one type of college versus another isn’t categorically right or wrong. It’s just a better or worse fit based on what you want your college experience to do for you.

Where I believe LACs overplay their hand is by claiming that “we teach you how to THINK CRITICALLY instead of just getting a job.” Implication? You can’t gain those skills elsewhere. Come on. My brother-in-law is a mechanical engineer. Do you honestly think that his mechanical engineering courses at Iowa State University didn’t teach him to think critically?

Why all the defensiveness among institutions of higher education? “This vs. that” debates ignore the uniqueness of one student’s college decisions based on the single, most important college planning factor: To what ends is college a means FOR YOU? As I tell students during my College Search work with them, “Get your #1 thing firmly in your mind, your college non-negotiable, and hold all possibilities up to that lens to find your best fit.” In other words, ask yourself, “If I get nothing else from my college investment of time and money, what’s the one thing I must get out of this?” Answering this question will improve your college search and help you find the right fit more easily.

We have designed a University of You discovery process dedicated to helping students identify their number-one college search criteria, as well as gain clarity about what type of student they are, where their passions lie, what their goals are and where they’ll best thrive. Ultimately, we use our process to assist students and families with their college search and help them find the right fit. To learn more, schedule a free consult anytime to talk about College Search. In fact, we wrote a blog post recently on the topic of what college search help is and how to tell if you need it.

There’s a quote from the article that I love, “This is a process that really starts with self-reflection and self-discovery.” I wholeheartedly agree.

If you’re a high school sophomore or junior embarking on your college planning process, I’d love to talk with you about your college search and how we might be able to help you find your best fit. I invite you to schedule a free consultation to learn more about our College Search services.