The Benefits of a Liberal Arts Education

As written by Sarah K (BA, MA Harvard), a USA College Counsellor

As a US college advisor for Bespoke Tuition now based in London, Sarah enjoys learning about students’  interests and helping them to express the best versions of themselves in their essays, applications and  interviews. Sarah can offer both in person and online consultations as well as USA Admissions courses  for students in Years 10, 11 & 12. Contact Sarah on +44 (0)207 3856795 or email 

My name is Sarah and I am a Harvard graduate originally from New York City and now based in  London. I work with students on a variety of subjects including American university admissions  consulting. At university, I concentrated in Classics (Latin and Greek Language and Literature) with a  secondary field in Dramatic Arts, and I am a strong proponent of the liberal arts style of education most  commonly offered at American colleges and universities. 

But first, what do I mean by a “liberal arts” education? At American colleges (the undergraduate  part of a university), students typically study a variety of subjects over the course of four years, rather  than study one subject for three years as they would at a university in the UK. Moreover, American  undergraduates generally do not apply to a specific course of study. Rather, they are admitted to the  college under the faculty of arts and sciences and choose their major once there, usually sometime during  their second year. The aim of a liberal arts education, according to Harvard College’s mission, is to “offer  a broad intellectual foundation for the tools to think critically, reason analytically, and write clearly.” In other  words, students graduate knowing a lot about one thing (their major) and a little about a lot of things  (distribution requirements and electives). 

So how does a liberal arts education work in practice? In general, students take around 32 classes  over the course of 4 years (4 classes per semester), roughly half of which will be in their major, a quarter  in distribution requirements, and a quarter in electives. Distribution requirements vary by college, and  some colleges, such as Brown, do not have any, but typically they include classes on writing, literature,  art, history, natural sciences, social sciences, quantitative reasoning, and moral reasoning. Some colleges  also require proficiency in a foreign language.

I loved my liberal arts education. I enjoyed being able to spend half of my time on Latin and  Greek and the other half of the time learning about all sorts of other subjects. I had the opportunity to  take such classes as a History of Science class about the mind-body connection in modern medicine, a  Music class about the premiere performances of five major works, a Comparative Religion class about the  significance of the sea in religion, and even one class about the Holy Grail. More practical courses  included Calculus, Marine Biology, and an introduction to Linguistics, among others. 

Upon graduation, I found that my liberal arts education prepared me well for the “real world”  and that I was not limited in my choice of career. Indeed, I have many friends who majored in humanities  or social sciences, who went on to medical school and are now doctors. They were able to satisfy their  pre-med requirements through elective courses, while continuing to major in their chosen field. Others,  from a similar variety of majors, chose to pursue business or law school. 

From my perspective, having grown up and been educated in the American system and now  living in the UK, I find that the UK university system is ideal for those students who have a specific  career path in mind or who are passionate about one specific subject. For those who have a variety of  interests and may not want to commit themselves to one subject for the next three years, an American  college is the place for them.

Author Bio

  • BA Classics, Harvard University, graduating 2008 
  • Secondary field in Dramatic 
  • MA Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, London 
  • Lived in New York until May 2019 then moved to London 
  • 3 years as expert level tutor at Tutors Associates in New York 
  • Interests: Dance, Theatre, Reading, Travel, Swimming, Skiing, Yoga 

Parent & Student Testimonials

“Sarah has been a real help to my daughter in preparing her for her SAT exams and preparing her  college application on the common app platform. My daughter is currently schooling in the UK and  Sarah was able to help her navigate the common app process and tailor her application to showcase her  unique situation as an American schooling abroad. She was extremely thorough in researching the  different colleges my daughter could apply to that would fit her academic and extracurricular needs. She  was consistent in providing us with reports on our daughter’s progress with her SAT preparation and  was always making suggestions on how she could improve. Sarah has in a short amount of time been  instrumental in our daughter’s improved work ethic overall.” 

Student preparing for SAT exams to US colleges

“Sarah is an incredible teacher! She is extremely patient, smart, and is able to simplify the problems so  they become more manageable. I worked with her for a few months in preparation for the GRE. She is  very knowledgeable and hardworking. She went above and beyond and fully supported me to be  successful in my studies and most importantly motivated me and did not allow me to give up on myself.  I felt lucky to have found a tutor who was able to explain the problems and help me develop key  strategies to excel in my studies. I highly recommend Sarah.” 

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