Note: I ran this college blog post last year, but it’s equally relevant today…
Her husband, however, remained skeptical. He worried that his daughter would be jeopardizing her chances of going to graduate school if she went to an obscure liberal arts school. He thought she’d have a better shot at attending graduate school if she earned her bachelor’s degree from a large state university in California or elsewhere.
Here’s my answer to that: Nonsense.
A Liberal Arts Edge for Future Phd’s
Students who attend liberal arts colleges enjoy many advantages that students at large public institutions often don’t.
At liberal arts colleges there is a much greater chance for undergraduate research. Classes are routinely small. Instead of 200 or 300 in Calculus II, you may have 15 or 20 students. Students enjoy more opportunities to develop bonds with professors because the learning is in small settings and not lecture halls. And remember, it’s the professors who are writing those graduate school recommendations. My son, who is double majoring in studio art and mathematics at Beloit College, is certainly experiencing the benefits of connecting with his professors.
Okay, you might be wondering, but where are your facts to back up your claims?
To answer the email from the mom, I tracked down a report produced by the National Science Foundation that examined where scientists and engineers, who had earned PhD’s, had obtained their undergraduate degrees. The majority of schools (28) in the top 50 list of PhD-producing schools were liberal arts colleges. The list includes Beloit College, my son’s school.
PhD Feeder Schools
The liberal arts dominance on this PhD list is even more impressive when you consider that just 2% to 3% of students attending four-year higher-ed institutions are enrolled at liberal arts colleges.
When the National Science Foundation examined what schools were producing the most PhD’s per 100 undergraduate degrees granted, only three public institutions made the list – University of California-Berkeley, College of William and Mary and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.
In the NSF list below, I put a red mark next to each of the liberal arts colleges. I included Harvey Mudd which is an engineering/liberal arts college.
More on PhD and Undergrads
I wrote a post earlier this year that shared more statistics on PhD feeder schools. You will find the liberal arts/PhD advantage in other majors too. I’d urge you to check that one out:
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of the second edition of The College Solution.