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What are the benefits of attending a Liberal Arts college?

I am currently attending a small private liberal arts school in Ohio, and while I believe that my education will be very useful, others tend to think that these degrees do not mean as much and are not worth as much as public university degrees for example. liberal-arts

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Yvonne’s Answer

Hi Mariel,


There are pros and cons to each type of school and what's most important is that the school you choose is a great fit for you. It's really hard to measure a college's worth on the individual level because so much more gets factored in than just the school a person attends. It's true that larger universities have larger alumni networks and are more recognizable, but it's also easier for a student to get lost in the mix because the campus and class sizes are usually larger. Smaller schools often have benefits such as more one on one time with faculty, the ability to become more engaged in your area of study, the opportunity to build stronger relationships with classmates and professors because you see them more often, etc. I think the most important thing for you to keep in mind is to make sure to put effort into your courses and graduate with the knowledge you need to embark in your career field. If you feel that you aren't making the connections you would at a larger school, you can put extra effort into looking for internship opportunities in the summer, or jobs on campus during the year to add experience to your resume. Finally, many schools have strong alumni networks, no matter what the size, and often have mentorship programs where graduates will connect with current students to give career advice and help them find their way post college. Make the most out of your school by utilizing the resources and getting everything you can out of the experience!

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Rob’s Answer

Hi there Mariel--

This is a question near-and-dear to me! I graduated from a small liberal arts college in Maryland with a B.A. in Psychology and used the foundation I got there to drive toward a strong and established career in software development.

First the cons -- and it sounds like you've heard the biggest one from people already. FIRST: There is *definitely* a subset of people out there that don't really understand what a liberal arts education is about and so they wind up being dismissive of it. When those people are hiring managers, it can be challenging to convince them that your education applies to the role they're hiring for. SECOND: *Sometimes* it feels like you're doing a little more work to bring all the pieces of your education together into that compelling story to tell. Which on the one hand... you've got more freedom to pull in all sorts of topics that interest you! On the other hand, that goes back to con #1 where you've got to be able to tell that story -- and it *can* be harder than just "I have a degree in Electrical Engineering" or something like that

Now the pros! FIRST: Speaking for myself, I feel much more well-rounded as a person, and the way that has shown up for me professionally is that I keep winding up in leadership roles. Drawing on diverse subject-matter helps with having a broader view of the world, and that can help you speak with people outside of your immediate area. (For me as a software engineer that has helped in my communication with peers from sales, product, finance... you name it!) SECOND: If you can tell your story well, you have more career options open to you. When my first play for a software engineering role didn't pan out, I was able to go after a technical support role instead -- and then within that company I parleyed that into a management role and then eventually into the software role that I wanted originally.

If you feel committed to your liberal arts degree, let me be among the folks to cheer you on. It *can* be a harder story to tell, but I think it helps you to have more options over your lifetime and *that* is probably the best way to have professional resilience.
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