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Best Liberal Arts Schools
U.S. News Liberal Arts Colleges Rankings

Liberal arts colleges, ranked by U.S. News & World Report as National Liberal Arts Colleges, confer only undergraduate degrees. At least half of the degrees awarded at these institutions are in a liberal arts field. Search below to find the top-ranked liberal arts colleges and universities in the nation. To locate bachelor degree programs or online master's degrees in liberal arts be sure to search our listings of accredited degree programs.

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National Liberal Arts Colleges Tier 1   |   Tier 2   |   Unranked


#1

Williams College

Williamstown, MA

A private liberal arts institution founded in 1793, Williams College is located in Williamstown, Massachusetts. It is situated on 450 rural acres at the foothill of Mount Greylock in the Berkshire Mountains. Notable Williams College alumni include Elia Kazan, director of On the Waterfront, and John Frankenheimer, director of The Manchurian Candidate.

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#2

Amherst College

Amherst, MA

A private liberal arts institution founded in 1821, Amherst College is located in Amherst, Massachusetts. The school is situated on 1,000 rural acres and is surrounded by numerous parks and state conservation areas. Amherst College is a member of the Five Colleges Consortium, and is widely known for its rigorous academic climate.

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#3

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore, PA

Swarthmore College, located in Swarthmore, Penn., was founded in 1864. Situated 11 miles from Philadelphia, the scenic campus has been designated an arboretum. Unlike other liberal arts colleges, Swarthmore also offers a B.S. in engineering. The College is private, yet open to all regardless of financial need; and decidedly global in outlook, drawing students from around the world and U.S.

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#4

Wellesley College

Wellesley, MA

A private, women’s liberal arts institution founded in 1870, Wellesley College is located in Wellesley, Massachusetts. It is situated on 500 suburban acres just 12 miles from Boston. Wellesley College is one of the original Seven Sisters Colleges, which includes Mount Holyoke, Vassar, Smith, Bryn Mawr, and Barnard.

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#5

Bowdoin College

Brunswick, ME

Bowdoin College is a private liberal arts institution that was founded in 1794. It is located in Brunswick, Maine on 205 suburban acres just north of the Casco Bay shoreline. Some of Bowdoin College’s famous alumni include author Nathaniel Hawthorne, former U.S. President Franklin Pierce, and sexuality and gender researcher Alfred Kinsey.

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#5

Pomona College

Claremont, CA

Located in Claremont, California, Pomona College is a private liberal arts institution. The school was founded in 1887 and resides on 140 suburban acres about 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Pomona College is part of the network of Claremont Colleges and competes in the NCAA Division III Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

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#7

Middlebury College

Middlebury, VT

Middlebury College, located in Middlebury, Vermont, is a private institution founded in 1800. It offers scenic mountain views and a rigorous liberal arts curriculum that is strong in environmental studies, international studies, sciences, and literature. A commons-based residential life system lets students to study in an intimate atmosphere while enjoying the life of a larger college community.

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#8

Carleton College

Northfield, MN

A private liberal arts institution founded in 1866, Carleton College is located in Northfield, Minnesota. The school is situated on 955 rural acres 40 miles south of Minneapolis-Saint Paul, and is widely known for academic excellence. Notable Carleton College alumni include former Supreme Court Justice Pierce Butler and Anthony Downs, author of An Economic Theory of Democracy.

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#8

Claremont McKenna College

Claremont, CA

Just 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles is Claremont McKenna, one of seven institutions known as The Claremont Colleges. Claremont McKenna is home to 10 distinguished research institutes, giving students many opportunities for advanced study. Famous alumni include Robin Williams and Paul Brickmen (Risky Business).

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#8

Haverford College

Haverford, PA

Haverford College, located in Haverford, Penn., is a private institution founded in 1833. It’s on a campus that is classified as an arboretum, encompassing gardens and a large pond. Although the school was founded by Quakers, the school doesn’t have a religious affiliation. It does, however, have one of the most extensive collections of Quaker history in the world. Alumni include Chevy Chase.

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#11

Davidson College

Davidson, NC

Davidson College, located in a picturesque town just north of Charlotte, NC, is known for award-winning faculty, exceptional students and Division I athletics. Students can participate in Greek life or any of the nearly 150 organizations on campus. Famous alumni include crime writer Patricia Cornwell and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Charles Wright.

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#11

Vassar College

Poughkeepsie, NY

Vassar is set in the scenic Hudson Valley in Poughkeepsie, NY, about 75 miles north of New York City. Students have the flexibility to determine an individually tailored field of study and can take advantage of NCAA Division III sports, on-campus housing and a highly regarded education.

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#13

United States Naval Academy

Annapolis, MD

Located in Annapolis, MD, the United States Naval Academy was founded in 1845 and is set on a 338-acre campus. Upon graduation from the four-year program, all students receive a Bachelor of Science degree and are commissioned as Ensign in the United States Navy or Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.

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#14

Washington and Lee University

Lexington, VA

Founded in 1749, Washington and Lee University is the country's ninth oldest institute of higher education. From its 322-acre Lexington, VA, campus, it offers students excellent academics, Greek life, NCAA Division III athletics and proximity to Washington D.C. Famous alumni include Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

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#15

Colby College

Waterville, ME

Since 1813, Colby College has provided students with private liberal arts education from its Waterville, ME, campus. Colby promotes collaborative learning, encourages international thinking and offers close student-faculty interaction. Television personality Billy Bush and senior Obama advisor Pete Rouse are alumni of Colby College.

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#15

Hamilton College

Clinton, NY

Hamilton College, located in Clinton, New York, is a private institution founded in 1812. A key component of the Hamilton experience is its open curriculum. In place of distribution requirements that are common at most schools, Hamilton gives its students freedom to choose the courses that reflect their unique interests. Notable alumni include poet Ezra Pound and psychologist B.F. Skinner.

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#15

Harvey Mudd College

Claremont, CA

Harvey Mudd College, located in Claremont, Calif., is a private institution founded in 1955. Situated 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, Harvey Mudd is one of the country’s top math, science, and engineering undergraduate colleges. The school also offers a variety of student organizations on campus, from the break-dancing club to the Harvey Wallbangers Climbing Club, among others.

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#15

Wesleyan University

Middletown, CT

A private liberal arts institution founded in 1831, Wesleyan University is located in Middletown, Connecticut. It is situated on 340 urban acres overlooking the Connecticut River. In addition to an exceptional education, Wesleyan offers sports teams that compete in the NCAA Division III New England Small College Athletic Conference and more than 200 student organizations.

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#19

Bates College

Lewiston, ME

Located in Lewiston, Maine, Bates College is a private liberal arts institution. The school was founded in 1855 and now resides on 109 urban acres along the Androscoggin River. Bates College sports teams – known as the Bates Bobcats – are members of the NCAA Division III New England Small College Athletic Conference.

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#19

Grinnell College

Grinnell, IA

Grinnell College, located in Grinnell, Iowa, is a private institution founded in 1846. The school is known for its strong social activism, ranking among top schools of its size in volunteers to the Peace Corps. Grinnell’s social consciousness stems back to FDR’s presidency, when several Grinnell graduates became influential New Deal administrators. Notable alumni include musician Herbie Hancock.

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#19

Smith College

Northampton, MA

Smith College, located in Northampton, Mass., is a private institution founded in 1871. Situated two hours from Boston and three hours from New York City, Smith is one of the largest liberal arts schools for women in the nation. Its broad open curriculum – anchored in the sciences and the humanities and arts – allows unlimited choices. Famous alumni include poet Sylvia Plath and chef Julia Child.

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#22

Colgate University

Hamilton, NY

Colgate University is a highly selective private college founded in 1819. Colgate places a heavy emphasis on small class sizes, student-faculty interaction and liberal arts core curriculum. Its 553-acre campus is located southeast of Syracuse in Hamilton, NY.

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#23

Oberlin College

Oberlin, OH

Located in Oberlin, Ohio, Oberlin College is a private liberal arts institution. The school was founded in 1833 and resides on 440 suburban acres about 35 miles southwest of Cleveland. Oberlin College offers more than 150 student organizations and over 20 NCAA Division III athletic teams, known as the Yeomen.

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#24

Macalester College

St. Paul, MN

Macalester College, located in St. Paul, Minn., is a private institution founded in 1874. Life at Macalester is an intimate liberal arts experience near two big Minnesota college towns: St. Paul and Minneapolis. Macalester students benefit from a rich network of alumni, who include former Vice President Walter Mondale and Ari Emanuel, for whom the Entourage character Ari Gold was modeled.

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#24

Scripps College

Claremont, CA

A private, women’s liberal arts institution founded in 1926, Scripps College is located in Claremont, California. It is situated on 37 suburban acres about 30 miles from Los Angeles. Scripps College is part of the Claremont Colleges consortium, which also includes Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Pitzer College and Pomona College.

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