The Value of Liberal arts Education

The Value of Liberal arts Education


THE President of Reed College has just penned an excellent article in which he asks “What is a Successful College Education?” “I think we should spend more time thinking about the purpose of college. You can decide this for yourselves, but I would like to suggest that a successful college education consists of five fundamental elements:

  • learning a set of core intellectual capabilities
  • developing character 
  • pursuing rich positive experiences
  • self-definition
  • preparing for the future.”

Read the whole article from Reed here.


While he showcases Reed in his essay, he is really talking about a whole group of colleges that emphasize the undergraduate experience first and foremost. His argument on the core intellectual  capabilities reminds of a similar essay written by Yale in 1828.


Are the liberal arts that enduring? In a word, yes. So argues the excellent essay,  The enduring relevance of a liberal-arts education


Many people wonder if students will be able to get a job with a degree from a liberal arts college:




This info graphic illustrates the key aspects of getting a liberal arts education:



Factors that Make Liberal Arts Education Work:

Faculty commitment to teaching and interacting with students

Opportunities to participate in research

Enhanced peer-to-peer activities and interaction

Opportunities for leadership

A broader exposure to activities and experiences

Accessible support services

Small classes with less emphasized multiple-choice exams

Engagement in the classroom and on campus

A strong commitment to developing essential skills

Adapted from Green & Green’s The Hidden Ivies


Some facts about Liberal arts Graduates:


  • Score among the highest on graduate school entrance exams like GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT.
  • The Gain entry into professional schools school (Law, Medicine and MBA) at very nigh rates. The Wall street Journey identified the top 50 feeder schools— 15 of the 35 are Liberal art schools.
  • Liberal art Graduates report much higher satisfaction and work readiness than their counterparts in Private Universities and Public Flagship Universities so says this study
  • The study found also that liberal arts college graduates are more likely than alumni of other types of institutions to say all of the following about their college experience:







    • Their professors often challenged them academically and personally helped them meet those challenges.
    • Most of their grades were based on essay exams and written reports.
    • Their experience often included extensive classroom discussions.
    • They participated in faculty-directed research or independent study.
    • They often engaged in conversations with professors outside of class.
    • They participated in service-learning or community service.
  • Read the full report here.


    Ready to start looking at Liberal Arts Colleges?

    • Check out the 16 Colleges that Change Lives coming to SA Tomorrow: 
    • A larger list of colleges that offer this great education is the Annapolis group
    • And of course, you can find Liberal arts colleges around the world.  


    One of the best overall sites for learning about the Liberal arts colleges, bares the name



    “The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.”

    —Albert Einstein



    Early numbers for the class of 2022

    Students who applied early action/early decision have begun hearing. Yet again, record breaking year at many colleges. 

    Again colleges have filled a significant portion of their class (technically for places like Princeton, Harvard and MIT they could go elsewhere, but their yields are incredibly high. Many places reported major increases from students applying overseas, which I guess is good, I guess. 


    Acceptance rate


    % of class filled




















    Does not share the data






    No information






    Admit rate down from 25%






    Same as last year, which was 16% up

    U Georgia





    Up 33% over 5 years






    largest ever. Plan to have a smaller freshman class

    Johns Hopkins












    Notre Dame





    64% admitted early enroll.






    Increased 26% the year before












    Admit rate fown from 22%






    Not released, but 9.2%






    Typically admits 36% early













    Colleges posting the Gallup Purdue results

    Gallup and Purdue teamed up back in 2014 to look at what actually matters during a person’s college years. They found six dimensions that prove transformation:

    1. A professor who made them excited to learn;

    2. A professor who cared about them as individuals;

    3. A mentor who pushed students to reach their goals;

    4. Working on a long-term project;

    5. Completing a job or internship related to classroom lessons;

    6. Being engaged in extracurricular activities and groups.


    The following colleges share their own data:








    Goucher –one of the best usages I have seen. 

    Grace College

    Indiana public and private colleges

    James Madison University

    Ohio State


    Robert Morris University

    St. Michaels College

    Temple University

    University of New Hampshire

    University of Pittsburgh

    University of Tennessee

    University of Virginia and here

    Virginia Tech



    Day 2 of the purpose challenge

    Day two starts with a video of Jimmy Fallon talking about his personal meaning and how Victor Frankl helped him. They ask you to reflect on a Victor Frankl Quotation. I choose not to put it here as i think it is important for you to experience itself. 

    Next is a value sort. AFter you sort they ask you to reflect on your top three and how they influence your life. 




    Finding your purpose, writing your admission essay and winning

    The John Templeton Foundation along with The Greater Good Society and Prosocial are sponsoring a unique college essay contest. “The Purpose Challenge provides students with an opportunity to enter a contest by submitting a college essay they write based on provided guidelines, including a description of a personal long-term goal and what motivates them to achieve it. One grand-prize winner will be awarded a $25,000 scholarship for college, and five second-place winners will each receive a $5,000 college scholarship.”

    Unfortunately it is only open to US citizens, but the toolkit and resources they created are useful for anyone crafting a college essay and trying to define their meaning in life.

    Designed to be done in four sessions, with each session providing a prompt to focus your attention on some aspect of your life and meaning. It starts with a pre-survey of 21 likert scale questions that focus you on where you are at with your own sense of purpose. Day 1 continues with a 360 Review whereby you send an email to five adults to ask them to help them with a project by answering four questions:

    • What do you think are my strengths and talents?
    • How do you think I can I use my talents in a meaningful way?
    • How do you see me contributing to the world in the future?
    • What advice would you give to help me achieve these goals?

    Just with that one act, the challenge has upped the anti. It gives you five touchpoints to look at the world, or more accurately their impact in the world. Wow. 

    Each day includes not just activities but also information to educate you on purpose.  

    The final activity of day 1 asks students to write about their ideal world, and more importantly, what is something they could do to move it towards that imagined future. 

    It does not let you proceed unless you complete each part and it only allows you to work on one day. IE, I have to wait until tomorrow to see where this purpose challenge is going. I really like the idea, though. Even if the teen does not craft a college essay from this experience, they just might find meaning where they had overlooked it. 

    Where do teens get a sense of purpose?

    Yet, only one in five teens have identified a purpose. The video above makes a great distinction between How (what do you want to do) and Why (the meaning and motivation driving you). 

    CIS Forum 2017

    Essay writing workshop ideas

    Before you start


    1. Consider your goals. Hopefully it is not only to produce an essay, but also help the student better understand themselves. 
    2. How many students will you be working with?
    3. Consider your space. Space can dictate what you can do. 
    4. Consider how much time you have. 



    There are two keys: 1) Get your kids reflecting and 2) Get them writing. 

    To get the juices flowing, you need to structure the event so you scaffold the kids writing time with self-discovery and sharing. For the most part, intersperse short self-discovery and sharing exercises with 15-20 minute writing sections. 

    Resources to get you going

    Firstly, Check out Pam’s fantastic Finding Your Voice website. She does 1 hour a week for six weeks. Lots of great things established there. 

    Check out the Free resources from the College Essay Guy. His webinar trainings are fantastic.

    Here he is talking about how to lead a life changing college essay workshop.

    Warm-up exercises

    Values Clarification

    • Via Character Strengths assessment–Free. Learn about the 24 character strengths  and how to build them here.

    College Essay Resources

    I have curated a lot of resources on the college essay and personal statement here

    Essay Hell offers a lot of interesting ideas. 


    Get writing…for writing’s sake

    Below are two free write ideas. Both are excellent. Sometimes you need more direction. Here are 

    Julia Cameron popularized the idea of stream of conscious writing first thing to start your day–Morning pages. Her idea is 750 words or 3 pages:

    Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing,
    done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*–
    they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about
    anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes
    only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and
    synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put
    three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.

    Proprioceptive Writing is a method for exploring the mind through writing. A simple method anyone can learn, PW is a powerful tool that can be used to:

            ~ Focus awareness, dissolve inhibitions, and build self-trust
            ~ Unburden your mind and resolve emotional conflicts
            ~ Connect more deeply with your spiritual self
            ~ Write and speak with strength and clarity
            ~ Awaken your senses and emotions
            ~ Liberate your creative energies

    How The Method Works

    (Source: Room to Write) Many have experienced the benefits of Proprioceptive Writing by attending workshops. However, the authors note that it’s very appropriate to carry it out at home — perhaps similarly to the way that some people keep a journal. Indeed, they advocate for a regular, daily practice of 25 minutes. They say that part of the power of the process is in the safety of the ritual.

    • First, you’ll need to establish a block of alone-time (about half an hour) and a quiet place to be. If you live with others, make sure they understand the importance of giving you this space.

    • Provide yourself with Baroque music, preferably the slower movements, played quietly. The authors explain that this type of music has been found to have a calming effect on the body. (I also suspect it is significant that the music provides bilateral stimulation, which is known to shift the way the brain processes thoughts and memories.)

    • Light a candle and place it on a firm surface in front of you. Metcalf and Simon write that the candle generates “a luminous glow that can quiet your mind, focus your attention, and help you turn inward.”

    • Gather a few pieces of unlined paper – this helps you remember to let go of the regular rules about writing.

    • Set a timer for twenty-five minutes and begin writing. “Imagine your thoughts as spoken words and write them exactly as if you could hear them, as they occur to you moment by moment,” the authors say.  They go on to explain that you should not be writing for an audience; this is for you alone.

    • As you go along, “listen to what you write.” To do this, you use the Proprioceptive Question: “What do I mean by _________?” Into the blank goes whatever word or phrase catches your attention. Then write what you “hear” in response to the question. For example, in my piece quoted above, I wrote, “What do I mean by ‘lost?'” That question led me to describe images that I hadn’t been aware were in my mind. In fact, it was interesting and helpful to me to find that “being lost feels kind of good.”

    • When the time is up, finish your thought and then turn off the music. Then, before blowing out the candle, follow the Write by asking yourself (in writing) four concluding questions:


    • What thoughts were heard but not written?
    • How or what do I feel now?
    • What larger story is the Write part of?
    • What ideas came up for future Writes?


    The authors explain that this is often when revelations occur. For writers and other artists, these questions can also help spark future work.


    Summer programs for aspiring medical students

    Generally open enrollment







    More Competitive Programs…

    Check out these articles on pre-medical programs aimed at high school students:

    Deep Springs goes co-ed…again…this time for real

    Last time (2011) they announced their plan to admit women to the venerable men’s only institution, they landed in a lawsuit with themselves. The charter clearly states for men, but courts decided that the trustees can refine that as needed:

    The key finding of the appeals court was that the lower court had been within its discretion to approve a change in the trust guidelines for the college from promoting “the education of promising young men” to “the education of promising young people.” There was no evidence, the appeals court said, that the lower court had exceeded its authority to determine which trust provisions were “administrative” (such as the reference to men) and which ones were focused on the central mission of the college (the overall approach.

    Now that the lawsuits are done, the board of trustees again voted to go coed for the fall of 2018. With a freshman class of only 14 men people, we can expect it become even more selective since it looks like they will not increase the college size.

    The Applications Committee (ApCom) receives between 180 and 250 applications each year. Of those prospective students, 15 are invited to enroll and 10 are added to a wait-list. Our goal is to have 14 students in each matriculating class.

    With all expenses paid, Deep Sprigs offers an exceptional possibilities: 

    “The desert has a deep personality; it has a voice. Great leaders in all ages have sought the desert and heard its voice. You can hear it if you listen, but you cannot hear it while in the midst of uproar and strife for material things. ‘Gentlemen, for what came ye into the wilderness?’ Not for conventional scholastic training; not for ranch life; not to become proficient in commercial or professional pursuits for personal gain. You came to prepare for a life of service, with the understanding that superior ability and generous purpose would be expected of you.”


    Deep Springs Founder L.L. Nunn, 1923

    colleges who require self -reported grades/coursework on their applications

    Colleges who require self -reported grades/coursework on their applications

    • Chapman University, CA
    • Florida Atlantic University,
    • Florida Polytechnic 
    • Florida State University
    • George Washington University, DC
    • New York School of Career & Applied Studies of Touro College & University System, NY
    • Ohio State University, OH
    • Purdue University, IN
    • Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
    • University of California all campuses, CA
    • University of Florida,
    • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    • University of Pittsburgh
    • University of Southern California, CA
    • West Virginia University, WV





    Books for counselors of all ages

    This summer I co-taught a course for international school counselors at the CTC. We asked the participants to share some of their favorite resources. Below are books that were recommended with their commentaries:

    Elementary School Level

    • Our school, in the elementary level, uses Kelso’s Choices as guidance for problem solving and conflict resolution. It provides students, especially younger students, with some strategies that help in social situations or conflict resolution.
    • Guided gratitude journals like this work better than just saying, ‘go journal.’ 
    • Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell is a great book that can be read to ES students. It encourages discussion around positive thinking, values, anti-bullying, etc. The children really enjoy the book and the discussions/learning that follows.
    • I used to be afraid
    • What Do You Do With a Problem?
    • Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands by Tamara Levitt (from …
    • Julia Cook’s books — Her ‘bibliotherapy’ type books are unbelievable tools for counsellors, teachers, and parents! A must to add to your collection and or your school’s SEL library section. New releases: Bubble Gum Brain (growth mindset), The Judgemental flower, The Technology Tail. Do visit her facebook page, as well:
    • At the Elementary School, we embrace the growth mindset and it is fascinating to listen to how students tackle a problem and encourage eachother when they have a growth mindset. Although these are not exactly for parents, they are all great books that we use with Elementary students to promote growth mindset.   We have had parents who read these books at home and found it very useful to have conversations about growth mindset with their children.

      Middle school Level
      • I have used the book “Bluish“, by Virginia Hamilton, as a class read aloud resource in my classroom. This novel focuses on a girl of upper elementary school age/early middle school, who is exploring feelings and experiences around being new to school/class, new friendships, family dymanics, and a friend’s illness (leukemia). This book is a useful segue for discussions about transitioning schools, how to fit in, making new friends, being ‘different” and how these experiences apply in an international school setting. 
      • “The Drama Years: Real Girls Talk About Surviving Middle School — Bullies, Brands, Body Image, and More” by Haley Kilpatrick
      • A book I used to read aloud to my class each year is the Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. I have a few copies in my office that I regularly lend to students. You can find a breif description and great quotes from the book here 

      High School


      All Levels

      • I would recommend the book NFI: An Inclusive Toolkit by William Powell and Ochan Kusuma-Powell.  It is available on, but if your school is a member of NFI (Next Frontier Inclusion), you can download it for free.  Go to the NFI website and check if your school is a member.  If you don’t know your username or password, check with your Learning Support teacher or write directly to NFI.  The chapter titled Typcal High Incidence Populations in International Schools is an especially useful resource when talking to parents about their child, special needs, and service delivery.  There is a definition of each along with information about diagnosis, educational needs and service delivery options.


      • One book I use with parents is the STEP Parent’s Handbook.  There is a general one, young children, and teenagers edition.  It basically uses positive discipline approach based on Adler.  It is written in easy to read language that is good for parents of differing English levels. Also good for parent workshops.


      Counselors and teachers