Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Liberal Arts College: A Top Education from a Small School

By Kyle Schaeffer
Assistant Director of Admission, Christopher Newport University

The United States has hundreds of exceptional universities waiting for students from around the world to attend. In a country with so many educational options, it can be easy to miss the dynamic group of small liberal arts schools found all over the U.S. These schools provide a diverse education with small classes centered inside a close community of scholars. 

Selecting the right school is a big decision, and below are three of the most important reasons to consider a degree from a liberal arts college or university.

1. Close Faculty Interaction

Liberal arts schools have the advantage of being small. Small schools lend itself to small classes and therefore close interaction with faculty. A professor at a liberal arts school will know your name and have much more availability to work with you individually, which can be very helpful for international students.

Joona Rhako, a senior from Finland studying at Christopher Newport University, a liberal arts school in Newport News, Virginia, says he was able to succeed in the classroom despite English being his third language. Joona believes his success can be credited to “the marvelous faculty that sincerely has every student’s best interest in mind."

A small classroom setting allows professors to notice you in class and help you directly if you need more support. Larger institutions often do not provide this advantage, as classes may be too big for the professor to work with everyone individually. “Larger institutions…are mostly focused on research, where as CNU is palpably more student-oriented.” adds Joona. This type of student-centered focus can be a great advantage to you as you adjust to your new life abroad.

2. Explore Your Education

The curriculum at a liberal arts school is designed to give students a wide variety of experiences. All students must take math, science, history, English and many other general courses. Some liberal arts schools do not require their students to declare a major until the second year of study. Therefore, a student with multiple interests has time to explore and narrow down those interests (or even discover some new ones) before committing to a field of study.

“(The curriculum) helped me a lot to ease into the new school culture,” adds Marion Gloor, a recent graduate of Christopher Newport University who came to the United States from Switzerland. Instead of taking hard classes in her major immediately, Marion found she could explore a number of subjects outside of what she chose to study while she adjusted to life in the United States.

“Taking an English 123 class, a History 121, and a Math 125, not only broadened my knowledge,” says Marion, “but more so did they help me in achieving English proficiency.”

3. Graduate Ready for Any Opportunity

A second distinct advantage to a liberal arts curriculum comes in the form of future opportunity. By requiring students to study a variety of subjects, the schools cultivate your learning beyond your intended field, and, when you graduate, you will have a well-rounded education with experience in a number of different areas. 

A liberal arts degree in the working world means you are prepared for any opportunity that may arise. In today’s job market, people can have as many as 15 different jobs throughout their lives, and what you pursue in college is not necessarily what you will pursue as a career. A liberal arts degree ensures you have a high level of competency in your own field of study, but you also have the intellectual capacity to be successful in any job opportunity through the diverse curriculum provided by the school.

Regardless of what type of school you choose, a great adventure awaits you. The number of schools and programs available in the United States are just as diverse as the people looking to study them. Whether you choose a large university or a small one, the experiences, friendships, and education you gain will be some of the greatest of your life. 

But before you go off to that big name research institution, take a close look at some of the smaller universities in the field. There may be a gem seemingly tailor-made to your educational needs just waiting for you to discover.


Kyle Schaeffer is the Assistant Director of Admission at Christopher Newport University. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Messiah College in 2008. Kyle has worked in higher education admission for over five years, and was formerly a teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL) in Incheon, South Korea. Contact him at

1 comment:

  1. I am wondering what does it take to make a master degree in French and History? Besides what is the equivalence of a DAFLE in the U.S education System?


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