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The Top Five Liberal Arts Colleges in America

Williams College tops the liberal arts college rankings complied by US News and World Report.

Williams College

Deciding where to go for a liberal arts degree can be overwhelming. Are you struggling with too much choice?

Luckily, US News and World Report has sifted through data on nearly 1,400 schools and found that many liberal arts colleges — schools that focus almost exclusively on undergraduate education and award at least 50% of their degrees in the arts and sciences — provide students with a top-notch education.

"For more than three decades, we've collected and analyzed data on thousands of colleges and universities across the country and helped put schools on the map," said Kim Castro, editor and chief content officer of U.S. News.

"We've found the best institutions to be ones committed to academically and financially supporting their students through graduation. They draw in high-quality professors and set students up for postgraduate success," she added.

US News considered important factors like student outcomes, class size and spending per student to rank the best liberal arts colleges in America.

Here are the rankings:

  1. Williams College

    Overall score: 100
    First-year retention rate: 98%
    Graduation rate: 95%
    Student-to-faculty ratio: 7 to 1
    Acceptance rate: 13%


    Williams College is a private liberal arts college in Williamstown, Massachusetts that was founded in 1793. The school was originally a men’s college; women were first admitted in 1971.

    It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 2,073, its setting is rural, and the campus size is 450 acres. The school requires that all students take at least two writing-intensive courses as well several courses in the arts and humanities, social sciences, and science and mathematics. According to US News, the school also has Oxford-style tutorials, which rely heavily on student participation.

    Williams College's ranking in the 2020 edition of Best Colleges is Liberal Arts Colleges, #1. Its tuition and fees are $57,280 (2019-20). The school requires almost all students to live on campus.
     
  2. Amherst College

    Overall score: 96
    First-year retention rate: 97%
    Graduation rate: 93%
    Student-to-faculty ratio: 7 to 1
    Acceptance rate: 13%


    Amherst College is a private liberal arts college in Amherst, Massachusetts that was that was founded in 1821. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 1,855, its setting is rural, and the campus size is 1,000 acres.

    Amherst College's ranking in the 2020 edition of Best Colleges is National Liberal Arts Colleges, #2. Its tuition and fees are $58,640 (2019-20).

    “Amherst College, located in Amherst, Massachusetts, is known for its rigorous academic climate,” reports the US News.

    Amherst is a member of the Five Colleges consortium, which also includes Smith, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Students may take courses at any of these colleges.

    Freshmen are required to live on campus in one of seven residence halls. According to US News, Amherst is known as "the singing college," as it has many a cappella groups, including the Zumbyes, the Bluestockings and Route 9, to name a few. 

     
  3. Wellesley College (tie)

    Overall score: 93
    First-year retention rate: 96%
    Graduation rate: 92%
    Student-to-faculty ratio: 8 to 1
    Acceptance rate: 20%


    Wellesley College is a private women's liberal arts college in Wellesley, Massachusetts that was founded in 1870. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 2,534, its setting is suburban, and the campus size is 500 acres.

    Wellesley College's ranking in the 2020 edition of Best Colleges is National Liberal Arts Colleges, #3. Its tuition and fees are
    $56,052 (2019-20).

    Hillary Clinton graduated from Wellesley College in 1969.

     
  4. Swarthmore College (tie)

    Overall score: 93
    First-year retention rate: 98%
    Graduation rate: 94%
    Student-to-faculty ratio: 8 to 1
    Acceptance rate: 9%


    Swarthmore College is a private liberal arts college in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania and was founded in 1864. It has 1,559 undergraduates, its setting is suburban, and the campus size is 425 acres. Swarthmore College's ranking in the 2020 edition of Best Colleges is National Liberal Arts Colleges, #3 and it’s tuition and fees are $54,656 (2019-20).

     
  5. Pomona College

    Overall score: 92
    First-year retention rate: 97%
    Graduation rate: 94%
    Student-to-faculty ratio: 8 to 1
    Acceptance rate: 8%


    Pomona College is a private liberal arts college in Claremont, California which was founded in 1887. It has a total undergraduate student body of 1,679, its setting is suburban, and the campus size is 140 acres. It utilizes a semester-based academic calendar.

    Pomona College's ranking in the 2020 edition of Best Colleges is National Liberal Arts Colleges, #5. Its tuition and fees are $54,762 (2019-20).

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