25 Best Liberal Arts Colleges in the US | Complete List

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December 18, 2023
7 min read


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 11/3/23

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.

female student taking book off library shelf

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 25 best colleges for liberal arts 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 GPA of accepted students is around 4.07, and their SAT scores range from 1480-1570.

Tuition costs are also high at this school, costing $64,540 a year.

Williams College

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. Compared to other colleges on this list, Amherst is a smaller liberal arts institution, with a more intimate academic community and a strong focus on individualized learning experiences.

With an even more competitive acceptance rate than Williams, Amherst accepts only 9% of all applicants. Unsurprisingly, Amherst students have an average GPA of 4.07 and SAT score of 1480.

Tuition costs $66,650 a year at Amherst.

3. Pomona College

Coming in fourth place and one of the most well-known liberal arts colleges 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 around 4.04 and aim for an SAT score between 1480 and 1560.

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

4. Swarthmore College

Another top liberal arts college is Swarthmore College, which is tied in 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!

With the lowest acceptance rate on this list, Swarthmore college accepts only 6.78% of all applicants! Accepted students have a average GPA of 4.05 and SAT score of 1465.

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 GPA of accepted students ranges from 3.89-4.0. SAT scores range from 1430 and 1550.

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

6. Bowdoin College

Ranking ninth 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 who 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 prove your academic potential! The GPA of accepted students is around 3.8-4.0, and the average SAT scores are 1460-1560.

Tuition costs $64,304 a year to attend this college.

7. Carleton College

Tied for the ninth 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 17% of its applicants. The majority of accepted applicants have a GPA of 3.79-4.0 and SAT scores of 1430-1550.

8. United States Naval Academy

Ranked 3rd 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 11% of all applicants. The average GPA of accepted USNA students is 3.8-4.0, with average SAT scores of 1200-1440.

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.

United States Naval Academy students saluting in full uniform

9. Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College ranks eleventh 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 a 10% acceptance rate. Prospective students should aim to have a GPA of around 3.97 and an SAT score of 1440-1550. 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 12%, 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 1220-1450. 

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 4.0 and SAT score of 1410-1540.  

Tuition costs $55,790 a year.

12. Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University 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 17%, which means getting in can be quite competitive. Prospective students should aim to maintain a GPA of 3.96 and score between 1410-1510 on their SAT. It costs $60,590 a year in tuition fees to attend this college.

13. Smith College

Coming in at number 16, Smith College is committed to providing a rigorous academic program that fosters critical thinking and leadership skills among its students. Its acceptance rate stands at 19%, and SAT scores range from between 1370 and 1520.

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.

14. Vassar College 

Vassar College, ranked #16 in National Liberal Arts Colleges (tie), is a distinguished private liberal arts institution. Located in Poughkeepsie, New York, Vassar has a rich history, having transitioned from a women's college to a coeducational institution in 1969. 

Today, it boasts a diverse student body, with over 40 percent being male. Vassar College is renowned for its commitment to providing a high-quality liberal arts education. Tuition and fees at Vassar amount to $67,805. 

With an acceptance rate of 19% and an SAT score range of 1430-1535, Vassar College remains a highly selective and prestigious choice for students seeking a well-rounded education.

Poughkeepsie, NY, USA

15. Grinnell College

Grinnell College, ranked #11 in National Liberal Arts Colleges (tie), is a private liberal arts college nestled in the small town of Grinnell, Iowa. Students at Grinnell are known for their active engagement in social activism, making it stand out among schools of its size. 

It's a vibrant community that places a strong emphasis on making a positive impact. The cost of tuition and fees for Grinnell College is $64,342. Grinnell College, with an impressively low acceptance rate of 11%, typically admits students with SAT scores ranging from 1380 to 1530.

16. Davidson College

Davidson College, sharing the #16 ranking in National Liberal Arts Colleges (tie), is a private liberal arts institution situated approximately 20 miles from Charlotte, North Carolina. It prides itself on having a need-blind admissions policy, aiming to graduate students without debt. 

Davidson achieves this through a combination of grants and work-study programs, reducing the reliance on student loans. Tuition and fees at Davidson College total $64,160. 

Davidson College, with an acceptance rate of 14.5%, typically admits students with an impressive GPA of 3.93 and LSAT scores ranging from 1350 to 1500.

17. Hamilton College 

Hamilton College, also ranked #16 in National Liberal Arts Colleges (tie), is a private liberal arts college located in Clinton, New York. This institution places a strong emphasis on effective writing skills, requiring students to pass a minimum of three writing-intensive courses before graduation. 

Hamilton College, known for its rigorous academics, has a competitive acceptance rate of 12%, and its students generally have a strong GPA of 4.0 and score between 1420 and 1540 on the LSAT.

Hamilton College's commitment to developing writing proficiency across various disciplines sets it apart. The cost of tuition and fees for Hamilton College is $65,090.

18. Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College, sharing the #16 spot in National Liberal Arts Colleges (tie), is a private liberal arts school renowned for its rigorous programs in mathematics, science, and engineering. 

Harvey Mudd College, a STEM-focused institution, accepts students at a rate of 13% and admits students with a high GPA of 4.17, with LSAT scores in the range of 1480-1560.

Situated in Claremont, California, it's approximately 35 miles from downtown Los Angeles. Harvey Mudd provides a challenging academic environment for students interested in STEM disciplines. The total tuition and fees for Harvey Mudd College amount to $65,954.

19. Haverford College

Haverford College ranks #21 in National Liberal Arts Colleges (tie). Situated just 10 miles outside of Philadelphia in Haverford, Pennsylvania, it is a private liberal arts school known for its vibrant campus life.

Haverford College, with a 14% acceptance rate, typically admits students with a solid GPA of 4.01 and LSAT scores ranging from 1430 to 1540.

Students have access to over 150 organizations and sports teams, including the unique distinction of hosting the only varsity cricket team in the country. Haverford offers a diverse range of opportunities for student engagement. The cost of tuition and fees for Haverford College is $67,522.

20. University of Richmond 

The University of Richmond is ranked #25 in National Liberal Arts Colleges (tie) and is located in Virginia's historic capital city of Richmond. This university provides a lively atmosphere with abundant opportunities for outdoor activities and cultural experiences. 

The University of Richmond, with a 30% acceptance rate, generally admits students with a GPA of 3.87 and LSAT scores between 1440 and 1530.

Students can enjoy white water rafting on the nearby James River and participate in various city events, including the Richmond Folk Festival and the Richmond Greek Festival. 

On campus, students can engage in Greek life or explore over 170 other student clubs and organizations. Tuition and fees for the University of Richmond amount to $62,600.

21. College of the Holy Cross 

The College of the Holy Cross shares the #27 ranking in National Liberal Arts Colleges (tie). Located in Worcester, Massachusetts, the second-largest city in New England, the college thrives in a bustling college town. Worcester offers an array of dining, nightlife, and outdoor options. 

The College of the Holy Cross has a 36% acceptance rate, admitting students with a GPA of 3.82 and LSAT scores in the range of 1260-1430.

Students at Holy Cross can choose from over 100 clubs and organizations, and there's no Greek system at this Jesuit institution. Freshmen live on campus and participate in the Montserrat program, fostering a close-knit community. 

About 90% of students reside on campus, and a quarter of them engage in NCAA Division I varsity sports. Students can also pursue international study opportunities or semesters in other locations. The tuition and fees for the College of the Holy Cross total $60,050.

22. Macalester College

Macalester College sits at #27 in National Liberal Arts Colleges (tie). It offers a close-knit liberal arts experience near Minneapolis and St. Paul. Living in a bustling urban area means lots of cultural and outdoor activities. Students are required to live on campus during their first two years.

While there's no Greek life, there are various student clubs to join. Their sports teams, the Scots, compete in NCAA Division III. Bagpipes are a unique campus feature. And, international students find a welcoming home here, with over 90 countries represented. Tuition and fees? $64,678.

23. Berea College 

Ranked #30 in National Liberal Arts Colleges (tie), Berea College in Kentucky stands out for being interracial and coeducational. The best part? They don't charge tuition. Instead, they rely on endowment income and financial aid to support students. Everyone pitches in with work-study jobs. 

Berea College has a 25% acceptance rate and typically admits students with a GPA of 3.6 and scores between 1136 and 1298 on the LSAT.

There's a range of degree programs and over 60+ student organizations to get involved in. While most students live on campus, some exceptions apply. Athletically, they're part of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. And yes, tuition and fees are $0.

24. Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr College shares the #30 spot in National Liberal Arts Colleges (tie) and is located near Philadelphia. Bryn Mawr College boasts a competitive acceptance rate of 31%, and its students typically have an impressive GPA of 3.94, with a wide LSAT score range of 1280-1500. 

Despite being a women's college, students can mix it up with nearby schools like Haverford College, Swarthmore College, and even the University of Pennsylvania. There's a shuttle for easy campus hopping. 

Expect over 100 student clubs and a no-Greek system. They compete in NCAA Division III. The vibrant city of Philadelphia is just a train ride away for off-campus fun. Tuition and fees stand at $61,190. 

25. Bucknell University 

Bucknell University, located in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, is a dynamic liberal arts institution comprising three distinct colleges: Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. With nearly 90% of students residing on campus, it fosters a vibrant community with 250+ clubs, prominent Greek life, and 25+ NCAA Division I Patriot League sports teams. 

The campus offers top-notch amenities, including an Olympic-sized pool, an 18-hole golf course, and a modern fitness center. Tuition and fees are $64,418, and admission is competitive, with a 33% acceptance rate, average GPA of 3.56, and a SAT range of 1310-1470. 

Bucknell University
School Acceptance Rate AverageGPA Average SAT Average ACT
Williams College 9.8% 4.07 1480-1570 32-35
Amherst College 9% 4.07 1480 32-35
Pomona College 7% 4.04 1480-1560 33-35
Swarthmore College 6.78% 4.05 1465 32-35
Wellesley College 13% 3.89-4.0 1430-1550 33-35
Bowdoin College 7.75% 3.8-4.0 1460-1560 33-35
Carleton College 17% 3.79-4.0 1430-1550 32-35
United States Naval Academy 11% 3.8-4.0 1200-1440 25-32

School Acceptance Rate AverageGPA Average SAT Average ACT
Claremont McKenna College 10% 3.97 1440-1550 33-35
US Military Academy at West Point 12% 3.9 1220-1450 27-33
Middlebury College 13% 4.0 1410-1540 33-35
Washington and Lee University 17% 3.96 1410-1510 32-34
Smith College 19% 3.84 1370-1520 31-34
Vassar College 19% 3.9 1430-1535 32-34
Grinnell College 11% 4.03 1380-1530 31-34
Davidson College 14.5% 3.93 1350-1500 31-34

School Acceptance Rate AverageGPA Average SAT Average ACT
Hamilton College 12% 4.0 1420-1540 33-34
Harvey Mudd College 13% 4.17 1480-1560 34-36
Haverford College 14% 4.01 1430-1540 33-35
University of Richmond 30% 3.87 1440-1530 33-35
College of the Holy Cross 36% 3.82 1260-1430 28-32
Berea College 25% 3.6 1136-1298 23-27
Bryn Mawr College 31% 3.94 1280-1500 29-35
Bucknell University 33% 3.56 1310-1470 30-33

How to Find More Liberal Arts Colleges

Are you currently in the process of choosing a liberal arts college that aligns with your preferences and academic goals? Take our free interactive quiz to discover the best liberal arts college for you!

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 country.

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 for a GPA as close to 4.0 as possible.

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

While it’s not quite as challenging as getting into one of the Ivy League schools, getting into top-ranking liberal arts schools is still moderately difficult.

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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