50 Best Liberal Arts Colleges and Uni­ver­si­ties of 2021

Liberal arts colleges are a great option for students seeking a well-rounded education in an intimate campus setting. The best liberal arts colleges offer a diverse selection of degree programs with opportunities for a highly individualized educational experience.

50 Best Liberal Arts Colleges and Uni­ver­si­ties of 2021

What is a liberal arts college?

A liberal arts college is a school that puts a premium on undergraduate studies and offers a broad range of subjects for students to study. Top liberal arts colleges typically require students to select a major while simultaneously completing a wide array of courses in both the humanities and the sciences. The point of a liberal arts education is not just to learn deeply about some specialized area, but to emerge as a well rounded, broadly educated person with a fuller appreciation of life and the world.

A college of liberal arts typically provides smaller class sizes, more direct engagement with professors, and, most importantly, the opportunity to sample a wide range of subject areas on the way to a bachelor’s degree.

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The following list of the best arts liberal colleges and universities is composed entirely of four-year undergraduate schools. We’ve identified a total of 1,240 liberal arts colleges in the US, 998 of which have student body populations greater than 1,000 students. In order to be included in this list of the best liberal arts colleges and universities, a school needs to satisfy the following three conditions:

  1. It must be a non-profit institution.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. It must have a student body of at least 1,000 students.

How do we determine the best liberal arts colleges and universities?

The best colleges pound for pound!

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call Concentrated Influence. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our ranking methodology here.

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The best liberal arts colleges and universities in the US!@AcademicInflux

50 Best Liberal Arts Colleges & Universities in the US

  1. Swarthmore College
    #1

    Swarthmore College

    #140 institution's overall influence
    #22 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1460/33

    Swarthmore, PA

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  2. Amherst College
    #2

    Amherst College

    #112 institution's overall influence
    #26 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    12%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    Amherst, MA

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  3. Sarah Lawrence College
    #3

    Sarah Lawrence College

    #386 institution's overall influence
    #1422 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    55%

    Graduation

    79%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1331/29

    Bronxville, NY

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  4. Reed College
    #4

    Reed College

    #170 institution's overall influence
    #79 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    80%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1422/32

    Portland, OR

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  5. Wesleyan University
    #6

    Wesleyan University

    #103 institution's overall influence
    #34 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    21%

    Graduation

    90%

    Student body

    4K

    Middletown, CT

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  6. Vassar College
    #7

    Vassar College

    #169 institution's overall influence
    #88 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    25%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/32

    Poughkeepsie, NY

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  7. Hampshire College
    #8

    Hampshire College

    #613 institution's overall influence
    #955 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $52K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    1K

    Amherst, MA

    View profile

    What is Hampshire College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. Wellesley College
    #9

    Wellesley College

    #188 institution's overall influence
    #33 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/32

    Wellesley, MA

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  9. Williams College
    #10

    Williams College

    #162 institution's overall influence
    #27 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    15%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1480/33

    Williamstown, MA

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  10. Cooper Union
    #11

    Cooper Union

    #262 institution's overall influence
    #62 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $47K

    Acceptance

    18%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1417/32

    New York, NY

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  11. Pomona College
    #12

    Pomona College

    #311 institution's overall influence
    #13 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1465/33

    Claremont, CA

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  12. Oberlin College
    #13

    Oberlin College

    #118 institution's overall influence
    #114 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    35%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1380/31

    Oberlin, OH

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  13. Bryn Mawr College
    #14

    Bryn Mawr College

    #245 institution's overall influence
    #119 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $54K

    Acceptance

    38%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    2K

    Bryn Mawr, PA

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  14. Bard College
    #15

    Bard College

    #313 institution's overall influence
    #998 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    57%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    2K

    Annandale-On-Hudson, NY

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  15. Haverford College
    #16

    Haverford College

    #325 institution's overall influence
    #73 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    18%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1460/33

    Haverford, PA

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    What is Haverford College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. Smith College
    #17

    Smith College

    #150 institution's overall influence
    #111 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $54K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    3K

    Northampton, MA

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  17. Claremont McKenna College
    #18

    Claremont McKenna College

    #594 institution's overall influence
    #18 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    13%

    Graduation

    90%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1435/32

    Claremont, CA

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    What is Claremont McKenna College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. Morehouse College
    #19

    Morehouse College

    #437 institution's overall influence
    #1436 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $29K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1081/20

    Atlanta, GA

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  19. Kenyon College
    #20

    Kenyon College

    #407 institution's overall influence
    #50 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1365/31

    Gambier, OH

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  20. Bowdoin College
    #21

    Bowdoin College

    #287 institution's overall influence
    #17 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    2K

    Brunswick, ME

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  21. Mount Holyoke College
    #22

    Mount Holyoke College

    #269 institution's overall influence
    #228 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $52K

    Acceptance

    52%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    3K

    South Hadley, MA

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  22. United States Military Academy
    #23

    United States Military Academy

    #100 institution's overall influence
    #55 overall school desirability

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1270/27

    West Point, NY

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  23. United States Naval Academy
    #24

    United States Naval Academy

    #166 institution's overall influence
    #52 overall school desirability

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1350/29

    Annapolis, MD

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  24. Carleton College
    #25

    Carleton College

    #420 institution's overall influence
    #78 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    21%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1450/32

    Northfield, MN

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  25. Spelman College
    #26

    Spelman College

    #646 institution's overall influence
    #1205 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Acceptance

    53%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1155/24

    Atlanta, GA

    View profile

  26. Colgate University
    #27

    Colgate University

    #398 institution's overall influence
    #42 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    27%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    Hamilton, NY

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  27. Washington and Lee University
    #28

    Washington and Lee University

    #351 institution's overall influence
    #80 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    25%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1430/33

    Lexington, VA

    View profile

  28. Occidental College
    #29

    Occidental College

    #561 institution's overall influence
    #1144 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    41%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1390/30

    Los Angeles, CA

    View profile

    What is Occidental College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  29. Connecticut College
    #30

    Connecticut College

    #766 institution's overall influence
    #212 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    38%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1380/31

    New London, CT

    View profile

  30. Pitzer College
    #31

    Pitzer College

    #985 institution's overall influence
    #63 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    17%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    1K

    Claremont, CA

    View profile

  31. Wheaton College
    #32

    Wheaton College

    #356 institution's overall influence
    #1019 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1330/29

    Wheaton, IL

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  32. Grinnell College
    #33

    Grinnell College

    #557 institution's overall influence
    #101 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $54K

    Acceptance

    19%

    Graduation

    87%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1450/32

    Grinnell, IA

    View profile

    What is Grinnell College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  33. Middlebury College
    #34

    Middlebury College

    #366 institution's overall influence
    #32 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    22%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/33

    Middlebury, VT

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  34. DePauw University
    #35

    DePauw University

    #355 institution's overall influence
    #716 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $51K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    81%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1245/26

    Greencastle, IN

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  35. Hamilton College
    #36

    Hamilton College

    #401 institution's overall influence
    #85 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    18%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/33

    Clinton, NY

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  36. Trinity College
    #37

    Trinity College

    #480 institution's overall influence
    #148 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    36%

    Graduation

    81%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1374/30

    Hartford, CT

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  37. New York Institute of Technology
    #38

    New York Institute of Technology

    #820 institution's overall influence
    #876 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1182/25

    Old Westbury, NY

    View profile

    What is New York Institute of Technology known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  38. Scripps College
    #39

    Scripps College

    #1048 institution's overall influence
    #99 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    35%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1411/31

    Claremont, CA

    View profile

    What is Scripps College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  39. Earlham College
    #40

    Earlham College

    #764 institution's overall influence
    #963 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $47K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1235/26

    Richmond, IN

    View profile

    What is Earlham College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  40. Emerson College
    #41

    Emerson College

    #684 institution's overall influence
    #1246 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $49K

    Acceptance

    41%

    Graduation

    81%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1305/29

    Boston, MA

    View profile

  41. Colby College
    #42

    Colby College

    #591 institution's overall influence
    #75 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    10%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1450/32

    Waterville, ME

    View profile

  42. Colorado College
    #44

    Colorado College

    #616 institution's overall influence
    #68 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    14%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    2K

    Colorado Springs, CO

    View profile

    What is Colorado College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  43. Kalamazoo College
    #45

    Kalamazoo College

    #1125 institution's overall influence
    #566 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $50K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1270/28

    Kalamazoo, MI

    View profile

  44. Goucher College
    #46

    Goucher College

    #685 institution's overall influence
    #503 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $45K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/25

    Baltimore, MD

    View profile

    What is Goucher College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  45. Drew University
    #47

    Drew University

    #856 institution's overall influence
    #589 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $41K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    2K

    Madison, NJ

    View profile

    What is Drew University known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  46. College of the Holy Cross
    #48

    College of the Holy Cross

    #404 institution's overall influence
    #134 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    38%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1345/30

    Worcester, MA

    View profile

  47. Denison University
    #49

    Denison University

    #525 institution's overall influence
    #536 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $54K

    Acceptance

    28%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1305/29

    Granville, OH

    View profile

    What is Denison University known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  48. Union College
    #50

    Union College

    #302 institution's overall influence
    #188 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    41%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1320/29

    Schenectady, NY

    View profile

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