Keep your career options open with a liberal arts program

By Charlotte Sexauer

The popularity of liberal arts programs has been growing beyond the US borders, where they originated more than 200 years ago. A few institutions in the UK now offer Bachelors of Arts and of Science, trying to emulate the US model. Although Humanities have been undergoing cuts in the U.K, this growing interest in liberal arts is significant and reflects a demand in well-rounded critical thinkers both in academia and in the workplace.

The model of broad education adopted by more than 250 colleges and universities in the US is widely recognised as a great way for students to keep their options open and broaden their horizon before specialising in the area of their choice. Although it may seem odd to think about studying more than one or two subjects, this system is still common throughout Europe at high school level. In France, for instance, pupils study core subjects all the way through to university – and aren’t asked to make drastic career choices until they are 18.

Students at Pikeville

Small universities and colleges make an effort to keep class sizes reasonably small, and offer lectures that rely on participation and discussion, helping students develop presentation skills and build confidence. Liberal arts universities place a great deal of importance on collaboration and encourage students to seek input from advisors and professors and developing intellectual relationships.

Most liberal arts colleges emphasize undergraduate study over four years full-time. Students earn either a Bachelor of Arts degree or a Bachelor of Science before progressing to graduate school or entering the workplace. Students focus on a ‘major’ of their choice but are also required to take some general core courses in all the basic subjects offered, from music and literature to chemistry and psychology.

For Eric Patterson, Director of International Studies at John Carroll University, the liberal arts system truly makes a difference in students’ education.

“Not only does the liberal arts system provide more time and space for a young person to explore a variety of interests before making a significant decision about their degree field,” Patterson said, “but it also results in a better educated and well-rounded graduate. Scientists should be able to write well, political scientists should understand something about the mathematics of population growth, and businessman should be familiar with the history of fine art. This is the essence of a US liberal arts program.”

Students at Ottorbein

So what are the main benefits of studying liberal arts degrees?

- Students prepare for a variety of jobs: unlike many degrees and qualifications that develop a specific professional or vocational skill, liberal arts courses equip students with general knowledge and gives them more time to decide what career to embark on

- Employers see value in the liberal arts: employers know liberal arts graduates display a range of transferable skills and can adapt to a changing workplace. By taking a variety of subjects, students demonstrate they have a variety of interests and are capable of learning across a diverse field of studies

- Programs offer a broad foundation for further studies: liberal arts graduates who want to pursue their education can do so with strong foundation knowledge in healthcare, law, business and other fields.

International students come to the US every year to broaden their horizon and discover a new culture which increases their future prospects and demonstrate many qualities. Choosing a course and a career can be a daunting task for many students who aren’t ready to commit to a single area of study and work. Liberal arts studies are the perfect alternative for students who don’t want to put their future on hold, but aren’t ready to narrow it all down just yet.

Here are some great liberal arts colleges for international students in the US:


Cornell College is a private, four-year liberal arts college located in Mount Vernon, Iowa, which that has been teaching since 1853 and equips students with the knowledge and skills required to succeed. At Cornell, students focus intensely on one course for a few weeks before moving onto a new subject. This structure enables students to truly experiment with all the subjects and Cornell is one of only two national liberal arts college which offers it. Cornell College offers an active campus life and a welcoming community to students who come from all over the U.S and dozens of other countries. Read the full profile here…


Ottorbein University is a private, four-year liberal arts college in Westerville, Ohio, in the United States. The university offers programs in engineering, business management, education and music, as well as programs to prepare students for law and medicine studies. The university was founded in 1847 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, and has since 1968 been associated with the United Methodist Church. Ottorbein University welcomes 2,700 undergraduate and 400 graduates students on campus, coming from all 50 states and from more than 20 countries. The school has a popular Greek presence as well as many student organizations. Read the full profile here…


The University of Pikeville was founded in 1889 by Presbyterians and is a private, liberal arts university located in Pikeville, Kentucky. The University of Pikeville is committed to offering a broad liberal arts and sciences education, providing opportunities for students to develop their full academic potential and prepare for specific careers. International students can join the Intensive English Institute which offers courses to undergraduates and graduates and helps them prepare for success in university academic coursework. All international students are welcomed and supported through the Global Education Office to settle down from the moment they arrive in the U.S. Read the full profile here…

Students on campus at Cornell College


Doane College is a private liberal arts college located in Crete, Nebraska, with additional campuses in Lincoln, Grand Island and Omaha. Doane offers 40 undergraduate majors, seven pre-professional programs and three graduate programs in counselling, management, and education. Doane welcomes 1,000 residential undergraduate students, 750 adult learners and 1,200 graduate students every year, who come from all over the world to study in one of the best colleges in the Midwest. Doane College encourages students to undertake internships, study abroad programs and join in with activities and athletics on campus; as well as offering a leadership program.


Pacific Union College (PUC) is a private, coeducational liberal arts college located in Napa Valley, California, and is the only four-year college in Napa County. Established in 1882, it serves almost only undergraduate students, the majority of which live on campus. The College is affiliated with the Adventist Church and welcomes over 1,500 students who choose from courses in more than 70 areas of study. PUC welcomes international students and the culture and diversity they bring to the campus, and was ranked second out of 219 National Liberal Arts Colleges for Campus Ethnic Diversity by the US News and World Report.


Westminster College is a private, residential, undergraduate liberal arts college located in Fulton, Missouri. The college was established in 1851 and is one of the nicest campuses in the US, with high tech teaching space, research facilities and personalised learning areas. Westminster is home of the Winston Churchill Memorial & Library in the U.S, which is a central tourist and scholarly destination. Fulton is a community of over 13,000 people with a quaint downtown and easy access to lakes and nature. The College offers 36 majors, 34 minors and 12 pre-professional programs and welcomes international students from more than 78 countries around the world.

This article was first published over at the Asian Correspondent website on 2 May 2014. It is reproduced with permission.