Best Liberal Arts Colleges (2023)

Public library
August 28, 2023


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/2/23

Are you interested in studying literature, philosophy, history, science, or all of the above? Read on to learn more about the best liberal arts colleges the nation has to offer.

A co-host of Good Morning America, Martha Stewart, and a Chemistry Nobel Prize winner all walk into a bar. What do they have in common? They all graduated from liberal arts colleges!

Despite the stigma around liberal arts degrees, these majors teach students useful thinking skills and foundational knowledge that can be applied to almost every field! If you’re interested in attending a liberal arts college, read on to find out the top 13 liberal arts colleges.

Best Liberal Arts College in the US

Since there are over 200 liberal arts colleges to choose from, picking the right college can be challenging. To eliminate the hassle and narrow your search, we’ve compiled a list of the 13 best liberal arts colleges in the US.

1. Williams College

Ranking first as the Best National Liberal Arts College is Williams College. With over 50 areas of study to choose from, Williams offers innumerable opportunities for students to discover their passions. As a top-ranking school, this university is highly selective, with an acceptance rate of only 9.8%. 

Considering this low acceptance rate, students interested in joining this school will need to have a high GPA and high SAT scores. The average GPA of accepted students is around 3.9, and their SAT scores range from 1460-1560.

Tuition costs are also high at this school, costing $61,450 a year.

2. Amherst College

Amherst College ranks second as the Best National Liberal Arts College. Amherst has a personal, dynamic, and rigorous curriculum to help students discover their intellectual and creative passions.

With an even more competitive acceptance rate than Williams, Amherst accepts only 9% of all applicants. Unsurprisingly, Amherst students have an average high school GPA of 3.9-4.0 and SAT score of 1410-1550.

Tuition costs $60,700 a year at Amherst.

3. Pomona College

Coming in third place as the Best National Liberal Arts College is Pomona College, a college that fosters a close community that guides students to make major contributions as the next generation of leaders, scholars, and artists.  

Like Swarthmore, Pomona has a low acceptance rate of just 7%. To get into Pomona, students should maintain a GPA of 3.8-3.94 and aim for an SAT score between 1470 and 1570.

Attending this college costs around $61,906 a year.

4. Swarthmore College

Another top liberal arts college is Swarthmore College, which ranks fourth as the Best National Liberal Arts College. Swarthmore is committed to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community to enrich its students’ experiences and expand their worldviews.  

As an added bonus, Swarthmore was actually named one of the most beautiful campuses in the country by Forbes! Just look at this magical outdoor amphitheater where you can attend your lectures!

Swarthmore amphitheater
Source: Swarthmore College

With the lowest acceptance rate on this list, Swarthmore college accepts only 6.78% of all applicants! Accepted students have an average GPA of 3.9-4.0 and SAT score of 1440-1570.

Swarthmore’s tuition costs $61,992 yearly.

5. Wellesley College

Wellesley College places fifth as the Best National Liberal Arts College and focuses on the shared experience of intellectual and personal growth. Wellesley places special emphasis on being a scholarly beacon for women around the world and is an all-girls college.  

Wellesley has a higher acceptance rate than the colleges discussed thus far, accepting 13% of all applicants. However, they still have high expectations of their applicants, as the average GPA of accepted students is 3.89-4.0. The average SAT scores range from 1400-1540.

The tuition costs to attend Wellesley are similar to most high-ranking liberal arts colleges, costing $64,000 a year.

6. Bowdoin College

Ranking sixth as the Best National Liberal Arts College is Bowdoin College. According to their mission statement, Bowdoin is dedicated to admitting students of uncommon promise and uncommon character that demonstrate curiosity and a willingness to take risks.

Feel like you match this description? Well, considering this college’s low acceptance rate of 7.75%, you’ll need to also prove your academic potential! The average GPA of accepted students is 3.8-4.0, and the average SAT scores are 1320-1520.

Tuition costs $60,952 a year to attend this college.

7. Carleton College

Tied for the sixth spot on the Best National Liberal Arts College list is Carleton College. What sets this college apart from the rest is its unmatched teaching in a close-knit community where intellectual curiosity leads to lifetime exploration. In fact, Carleton’s faculty ranks number one in teaching year after year.

With one of the highest acceptance rates on this list, Carleton accepts 18% of its applicants. The majority of accepted applicants have a GPA of 3.79-4.0 and SAT scores of 1410-1550.

8. United States Naval Academy

Also ranking sixth as the Best National Liberal Arts College is the United States Naval Academy. While this college educates midshipmen to join the US Navy and Marine Corps, it’s still worth mentioning if you’re interested in the Navy. Graduates from this college also earn a Bachelor of Science in their chosen major.

Like many other schools on this list, USNA only accepts 7% of all applicants. The average GPA of accepted USNA students is 3.8-4.0, with average SAT scores of 1200-1420.

Unlike the other schools on this list, the Navy covers the full cost of tuition for enrolled students! Students are actually paid $1087.80 per month to cover personal expenses.

9. Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College is another one of the best liberal arts colleges, ranking ninth in the nation. Since 1984, this college has been preparing students for thoughtful and productive lives in various professions and is best known for its economic and government studies.

Claremont is a competitive college with an 11% acceptance rate. Prospective students should aim to have a GPA of 3.68-4.0 and an SAT score of 1420-1530.

Tuition at Claremont costs $60,480 a year.  

The cost to attend this school is around $62,244 a year, making this the most expensive liberal arts college on this list. To ease the financial burden of attending this school, you can apply for scholarships that cover the full cost of tuition.

10. US Military Academy at West Point

As one of the most prestigious military institutions in the world, West Point is known for producing some of the finest military leaders in history. The academy's rigorous academic program and training regimen prepare cadets for a lifetime of service to their country. So, it’s no surprise that it lands the ninth spot on our list.

The application process is quite competitive, with an acceptance rate of only 11%, and candidates are evaluated based on their academic achievements, leadership potential, physical fitness, and character. The average GPA of accepted students is 3.9, and the average SAT scores are 1200-1440. 

The cost of attending West Point is covered by the US government, and cadets receive a full scholarship that includes tuition, room and board, and a stipend. In return, graduates of West Point are committed to serving in the US Army for at least five years after graduation.

11. Middlebury College

The eleventh-best liberal arts college is Middlebury College. Middlebury offers several majors to its students, but specializes in immersive language study, literature, and pedagogy.

Middlebury College has an acceptance rate of 13%, with an average GPA of 3.74 and SAT score of 1380-1530.  

Tuition costs $55,790 a year.

12. Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University ranks eleventh on the Best National Liberal Arts College list. This small liberal arts college is known for its personal and engaging undergraduate experience and School of Law, in case you’re interested in becoming a lawyer.

This school’s acceptance rate is 19%, which is the highest acceptance rate on this list! Prospective students should aim to maintain a GPA of 3.67 and score between 1410-1530 on their SAT.

It costs $60,590 a year in tuition fees to attend this college.

13. Smith College

Coming in at number 13, Smith College is committed to providing a rigorous academic program that fosters critical thinking and leadership skills among its students. Among the 11% of candidates accepted, students scored between 1420 and 1530 on the SAT. 

The cost of attendance is $61,260 per year, but Smith College is committed to meeting the full demonstrated financial need of all admitted students through a combination of grants, scholarships, and work-study programs. 

With its vibrant campus community and commitment to women's education, Smith College offers a unique and transformative college experience for its students.

FAQs: Best Liberal Arts Colleges

To answer any remaining questions you might have, here are the answers to frequently asked questions about liberal arts colleges.

1. What is the Number One Liberal Arts College in America?

Williams College is the number one liberal arts college in the nation.

2. Is a Liberal Arts College Worth it?

Yes! Liberal arts colleges allow students to explore a wide range of subjects and gain a broad yet extensive education that can be an asset in any field!

3. What Can You Do With a Liberal Arts Degree?

A more suitable question would be: what can’t you do with a liberal arts degree? Aside from getting a job in the art field, liberal art majors find jobs within the STEM field, in business, marketing, sales, and more.

Liberal arts degrees are essentially useful in any job! These majors are able to add a “human touch” to every field they enter.

4. What GPA Should I Have to Get Into a Liberal Arts School?

To get into a top-ranking liberal arts school, you should aim to maintain a GPA of 3.6-4.0.

5. Is it Hard to Get into Top-Ranking Liberal Arts Colleges?

Since the acceptance rates of the schools on this list range from 9%-24%, it’s difficult to get into high-ranking colleges!

6. Does the Liberal Arts Include Math and Science?

Yes! Basic math and science are part of liberal arts and can be studied in depth depending on what courses you take.

Getting Into the Best Liberal Arts Colleges

Now that you know what the best liberal arts colleges are, you should be able to decide which school is best for you! Since many of these schools are competitive, once you choose your top schools, let Quad Education’s team of experts help you craft stellar applications!

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