Should I avoid Liberal Arts Colleges if I’m interested in science?

No. Many people believe that only universities can provide the facilities and classes for undergraduates to complete a strong undergraduate major in the sciences. Like most sweeping assumptions, it isn’t true.

Liberal Arts Colleges have long been known to prepare students for graduate studies in the sciences. The National Science Foundation did a study of the Baccalaureate of Science and Engineering Doctorate Recipients. It found that

when normalized by the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded, the baccalaureate colleges as a group yield more future S&E doctorates per hundred bachelor’s awarded than other types of institutions, except research universities (figure 1). A group of 50 small, private baccalaureate schools (the Oberlin 50[5]) was studied in the mid-1980s and was found at that time to contribute greatly to producing future S&E doctorates.[6] These schools have long outproduced (by yield) even the research universities.

Although I haven’t found the complete report that breaks down PhD production by specific sciences, you can find references from various college websites. These are generally incomplete, only highlighting the institution’s ranking but do provide evidence that it’s not necessary to attend a research university to pursue graduate studies in the sciences. The following are just a few I’ve found:

One commonly cited concern about pursuing the sciences at a small college is the lack of upper-division opportunities. Critics will point to the limited number of classes offered in the subject by LACs. However, many colleges make it easy and encourage students to design independent study courses with faculty that can provide similar opportunities.

While Liberal Arts Colleges may not be the best choice for all students, they should not automatically be excluded for students considering majoring in the sciences.

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