You have choices. Where to go to college? What to study? How much to pay? What to do after graduating?

Here are some amazing liberal arts grads who explain what worked for them. Small class sizes. Personal attention from professors. Opportunities to captain a team, start a club, or study all over the world.

Here you’ll also find the facts on liberal arts colleges, which might surprise you. A private liberal arts education isn’t just for the elite. It’s more affordable than you think. Students are diverse. And graduates get good jobs.

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Here are some amazing liberal arts grads who explain what worked for them. Small class sizes. Personal attention from professors. Opportunities to captain a team, start a club, or study all over the world.

Here you’ll also find the facts on liberal arts colleges, which might surprise you. A private liberal arts education isn’t just for the elite. It’s more affordable than you think. Students are diverse. And graduates get good jobs.

Silhouette of young adult carying books and a backpack

What can you do with a liberal arts education?

The quick answer is anything you want. The complete answer would have you scrolling this page for far too long.

Here are just a few examples of what grads featured here have done: launched a tech company, run a bank, produced video games, mapped the brain, won a Pulitzer Prize, coded in Silicon Valley, governed a major city, led medical research. And these grads aren’t exceptions. The vast majority of private college grads get jobs within six months of finishing their degrees.

Azure Bowie-Hankins

Mills College taught me the importance of passion, and I learned never to settle for a career path that I’m not excited about. I learned the importance of highlighting the strength of individuals within a team to create a harmonious and effective environment that can produce good work.
Azure Bowie-Hankins Azure Bowie-Hankins Video Game Producer, Electronic Arts
Azure Bowie-Hankins

Azure Bowie-Hankins

Video Game Producer, Electronic Arts Mills College (CA)

Azure Bowie-Hankins has worked in the video game industry for seven years on a variety of titles, including MySims and The Sims 3. She is currently a part of the production team for The Sims 4. In her spare time she likes to sing and play piano at small shows. She graduated from Mills College with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 2007 and an MBA in 2008.

Isaac Holeman is a co-founder of Medic Mobile, a nonprofit tech and health care company that has improved care for 3 million people in more than 20 countries. Holeman has been featured twice on the Forbes “30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs” list and is currently conducting research on innovation, strategy, and organization as a Gates Cambridge scholar. He earned bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology from Lewis & Clark College and an MPhil in sociology from Cambridge University.
Isaac Holeman Isaac Holeman Co-Founder, Medic Mobile and Gates Cambridge Scholar
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Two truths and a lie. Click the card to reveal the answer.

Most grads of private colleges get jobs.

Truth

90%


of grads of private nonprofit colleges have a job or are in grad school 6 months after graduating

Source

Employers don’t value liberal arts knowledge.

Lie

80%


of employers say all students should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts

Source

Liberal arts grads are leaders.

Truth

1/3


of all Fortune 1,000 CEOs have a liberal arts degree

Source

Mary Elizabeth Ulliman

I use my liberal arts education every day. My managers are consistently impressed with my confidence, my ability to adapt, and my appreciation for different kinds of knowledge and viewpoints…. Liberal arts colleges can truly set you apart when it comes to looking for a job at the end of your college experience.
Mary Elizabeth Ulliman Mary Elizabeth Ulliman Account Manager, Google
Mary Elizabeth Ulliman

Mary Elizabeth Ulliman

Account Manager, Google St. Mary’s College (IN)

Mary Elizabeth Ulliman graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Saint Mary’s College. She now works at Google as an account manager, helping education and nonprofit organizations with advertising on Google Search, Google Display Network, and YouTube among other sites.

David Rose is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, and instructor at the MIT Media Lab. He also is CEO of Ditto Labs, an image-recognition software platform that scours social media to find brands and products. Previously, Rose was founder and CEO of Vitality, a medication packaging company that makes products now used by CVS and Walgreens. He earned bachelor’s degrees in physics and fine arts from St. Olaf College and a master’s degree in technology and education from Harvard University.
David Rose David Rose Entrepreneur and CEO, Ditto Labs and Author, Enchanted Objects
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Tahllee Baynard

I didn’t have a crystal ball to tell me what knowledge would be important for my future pursuits. My experience at Cornell College minimized the need to accurately predict the future. I developed tools that are flexible and useful for a changing world and my evolving interests.
Tahllee Baynard Tahllee Baynard Research Science Manager, Lockheed Martin
Tahllee Baynard

Tahllee Baynard

Research Science Manager, Lockheed Martin Cornell College (IA)

Dr. Tahllee Baynard is a research science manager for optics and electro-optics at Lockheed Martin’s research and development laboratories in Silicon Valley. Previously, he was a research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado, where he studied air quality and climate change. Baynard was named the 2012 Scientist of the Year by Black Engineer and Information Technology magazine. He was a chemistry and history major at Cornell College and earned a PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Chicago in 2002.

Silhouette of a group of young adults cheering

Who goes to private liberal arts colleges?

Students come from all economic backgrounds, ethnicities, and regions of the country. They’re not just the economic elite.

There’s no one “type” of student that goes to private liberal arts colleges and universities. Some are interested in STEM. (Yes, science and math are included in the liberal arts!) Others focus on the social sciences and humanities, and still others focus on the creative arts. Many liberal arts colleges even offer pre-professional programs, where you can earn degrees in fields such as engineering, nursing, and business. No matter what you study, you’ll find others who see the world a little differently. And that’s a good thing.

Steven Yeun

I was surrounded by an eclectic mix of peers who pushed me and exposed me to experience so many different cultures and ideologies. It was a true coming-of-age college experience…I met a solid group of friends who all still keep in touch. We have a surgeon, a lawyer, a tech executive, a business owner, a radiologist, and somehow, an actor.
Steven Yeun Steven Yeun Actor, The Walking Dead
Steven Yeun

Steven Yeun

Actor, The Walking Dead Kalamazoo College (MI)

Steven Yeun stars as “Glenn Rhee” on AMC’s The Walking Dead. Yeun was born in Seoul, South Korea, and then, as a child, moved with his family to Troy, Michigan, where he grew up. After graduating from Kalamazoo College, Yeun moved to Chicago, where he toured with the Second City improv group and worked at Steppenwolf Theatre.

Gregory Moore has been editor of the Denver Post since 2002. Under his leadership, the paper won four consecutive Pulitzer Prizes. Previously, he worked at the Boston Globe and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He served nine years on the Pulitzer Prize Board, including one as co-chair, and in 2012 was named Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year. He holds bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science from Ohio Wesleyan University.
Gregory Moore Gregory Moore Editor, Denver Post
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Two truths and a lie. Click the card to reveal the answer.

Only rich kids go to private colleges.

Lie

1/3


of students at smaller private colleges come from families that make less than $40,000 a year.

Source

STEM students thrive at smaller private colleges.

Truth

Private college STEM majors are 50% more likely to stick with their major than those at regional public colleges.

Source

Smaller private colleges are as diverse as public four-year universities.

Truth

38%


of students at smaller private colleges are racial and ethnic minorities.

Source

James B. Stewart

I owe almost everything to a great liberal arts education. DePauw University was a lifeline for me, and it is why I left a small town where very few people went on to any kind of higher education, to where I am today, being able to write a column for the New York Times. I’ve had an absolutely fantastic and fulfilling career.
James B. Stewart James B. Stewart Columnist, New York Times and Author
James B. Stewart

James B. Stewart

Columnist, New York Times and Author DePaul University (IN)

James Stewart writes the “Common Sense” column of the New York Times Business Day section and has published nine books, including four bestsellers. In 1988 he won the Pulitzer Prize while reporting for the Wall Street Journal, where he later served as the front-page editor. Before turning to journalism, Stewart practiced law in New York City. Born and raised in Quincy, Illinois, he received his bachelor’s degree in French and political science from DePauw University and his JD from Harvard Law School.

Kathryn McKellar sings with the Boston Lyric Opera, is co-director of Opera on Tap Boston, and a member of Gamut, a vocal quartet championing vocal chamber music. She also has helped execute many benefit concerts for programs such as Jane Doe Inc. and UNICEF. McKellar received her master’s degree in music from the Boston Conservatory and a bachelor’s degree in music from Hollins University.
Kathryn McKeller Kathryn McKeller Opera Singer and Performing Artist
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Theressa J. Wright

Since a child, I wanted to become a doctor, but repeatedly I heard, “You are black, poor, and a girl. Being a doctor doesn’t happen to people like you.” But my mother, grandfather, and the Franklin College “family” kept me centered, and my liberal arts education paved the way for me to become a physician and contributor to the global medical community.
Theressa J. Wright Theressa J. Wright Senior Medical Director, Eli Lilly and Co.
Theressa J. Wright

Theressa J. Wright

Senior Medical Director, Eli Lilly and Co. Franklin College (IN)

Theressa J. Wright, MD, joined Eli Lilly and Co. in 1995 and currently is the senior medical director for Early Phase Medicine, Global Patient Safety and is co-chair of the Cardiovascular Safety Advisory Committee. She also is a co-founder and board member of two K–8 charter schools in Indianapolis, Indiana. Wright holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Franklin College, a master’s degree in chemistry from Butler University, and a medical degree from Indiana University. Before becoming a physician, Wright was a medical technologist and a research chemist.

Silhouette of a young adult sitting down with a laptop

Is a liberal arts education still relevant?

The faster the economy changes, the more flexible grads need to be. That makes a broad foundation in the liberal arts more important than ever.

You’ve probably heard people say that focused, technical training guarantees respectable, high-paying work, while studying the liberal arts lands grads in minimum-wage jobs. Don’t be misled. Liberal arts grads are entering the tech workforce more rapidly than technically trained grads, and they have a higher acceptance rate into medical school than pre-med majors. Liberal arts skills such as strong communication, critical thinking, ethics, and teamwork prepare students to tackle problems today and far into the future.

Peter Savage

Without classes in philosophy, anthropology, theology, and other fields, I would have been ill-prepared to adapt to a rapidly changing world and career. My education gave me the skills I needed to learn about areas of the world in which I had little experience or background. I continue to apply the lessons I learned to my career.
Peter Savage Peter Savage Foreign Affairs Specialist, U.S. Department of Defense
Peter Savage

Peter Savage

Foreign Affairs Specialist, U.S. Department of Defense Houghton College (NY)

Peter Savage currently serves as a foreign affairs specialist in the U.S. Department of Defense. He focuses on military support to humanitarian crises and disasters around the world.

Jason Kozemczak is a software engineer and entrepreneur who specializes in global-scale consumer mobile applications. He was a technical lead at Twitter from 2013 to 2015, working on Twitter’s iPhone and iPad product that became a “Top App” in 2013. Currently he engineers consumer iPhone products at Instacart, an on-demand grocery delivery service that operates in 18 U.S. cities. He graduated from Greenville College in 2007 with a BS in physics and a BA in mathematics.
Jason Kozemczak Jason Kozemczak Software Engineer, Instacart
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Two truths and a lie. Click the card to reveal the answer.

A college degree helps you land a good job in today’s economy.

Truth

Of the 2.9 million good jobs created after the 2008 recession, 2.8 million went to college grads.

Source

Liberal arts grads can’t get tech jobs.

Lie

The share of liberal arts grads joining the tech workforce from 2010 to 2013 grew at a 10% higher rate than engineering and computer science grads.

Source

Students at smaller private colleges are more engaged citizens.

Truth

93% vote. Compare that to the 37% overall U.S. voter turnout in 2014.

Source

Dana R. Wright

My classroom experiences were immediately translatable into action and are the reason I was able to excel and be noticed within my work organization. I saw results immediately and was given responsibilities I don’t think I would have received if I hadn’t learned to be more assertive and use the gifts that my coursework allowed me to showcase.
Dana R. Wright Dana R. Wright First Deputy Chief of Police, Cook County Sheriff’s Office and Leadership Coach
Dana R. Wright

Dana R. Wright

First Deputy Chief of Police, Cook County Sheriff’s Office and Leadership Coach Benedictine University (IL)

Dana R. Wright is first deputy chief of police at the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Chicago, Illinois. She has 15 years of law enforcement and executive leadership experience. Wright is a graduate of the highly competitive FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, and in 2013 was named by Diversity MBA magazine as one of the Top 100 Under 50 Diverse Executive Leaders. That same year, she launched Wright Vision Consulting, LLC to mentor women in law enforcement. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Benedictine University in 2010.

Jeffery H. Boyd is the founder and managing director of Brothers Brook, LLC, a strategic investment firm. Currently chair of the board of directors of Priceline Group, Inc., he was CEO of Priceline from 2002 to 2013 and led the company from near bankruptcy to become one of the most successful internet businesses in the country. He began his undergraduate education at New England College and earned a bachelor’s degree in government from St. Lawrence University. He also earned a JD from Cornell Law School.
Jeffery H. Boyd Jeffery H. Boyd Chair of the Board of Directors, The Priceline Group, Inc.
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Ron Kirk

We’re living in a world where what you learn can be obsolete in three to four years. What employers are looking for are bright, energetic people who have the ability to adapt. I don’t think anything prepares you and gives you the skills to do that better than a liberal arts education.
Ron Kirk Ron Kirk Senior Counsel, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Former U.S. Trade Representative; and Former Dallas Mayor
Ron Kirk

Ron Kirk

Senior Counsel, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Former U.S. Trade Representative; and Former Dallas Mayor Austin College (TX)

From 2009 to 2013, Ambassador Ron Kirk was the U.S. Trade Representative, acting as President Obama’s principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on trade issues. Previously, Kirk served two terms as the first African American mayor of Dallas and was the secretary of state of Texas. Kirk currently is senior of counsel in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Dallas and Washington, DC, offices. Originally from Austin, Texas, Kirk graduated from Austin College and earned his law degree at the University of Texas School of Law.

Silhouette of a young adult holding a folder to her chest

What makes the liberal arts college experience work?

It’s not just what you can do with a liberal arts education, but what your college experience is like.

Because private liberal arts colleges are smaller, students get more personalized attention from advisors and professors (actual professors—not grad student teaching assistants like at many large universities). You’ll have more opportunities to lead in student organizations. And you can easily take classes in different subjects, which means you have more time to figure out the best fit for your talents or even discover new interests. The liberal arts college experience makes students more confident and helps them graduate faster.

Matt Wuerker

A liberal arts college serves up the most awesome smorgasbord of ideas and creativity, adventures and friendships that you will encounter in your lifetime. And what sets it apart from the standard college experience is that it’s not a fixed, narrow track but one that lets you find your individual path.
Matt Wuerker Matt Wuerker Political Cartoonist, Politico
Matt Wuerker

Matt Wuerker

Political Cartoonist, Politico Lewis & Clark College (OR)

Matt Wuerker is a political cartoonist for and founding staff member of Politico and winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. He was a finalist for the award in 2009 and 2010. Wuerker has published two collections of cartoons and illustrated a third. He graduated from Lewis & Clark College with a BA in 1979. While at Lewis & Clark, he served as the chief editorial cartoonist for The Pioneer Log, the weekly student newspaper.

Matthew Segal is the co-founder and executive editor of ATTN:, a new media company with a mission to inform, educate, and empower the millennial generation and encourage social change. He is a regular TV commentator for MSNBC and has been a recurring guest on the TODAY Show and CBS Evening News. Previously Segal was president and co-founder of OurTime.org, which led campaigns to extend job opportunities and voting rights. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Kenyon College.
Matthew Segal Matthew Segal Co-Founder, OurTime.org and Co-Founder and Executive Editor, ATTN:
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Two truths and a lie. Click the card to reveal the answer.

I’ll get more support at a smaller private college.

Truth

82%


of first-year students at smaller private colleges say they get the support they need to succeed academically.

Source

A grad student will probably teach my class.

Lie

80%


of students at smaller private colleges are never taught by a grad student.

Source

The student-faculty ratio is better at private colleges.

Truth

On average, for every professor at a private college, there are just 11 students.

Source

Terra Teague Hess

The faculty invested in me as a person, giving me the most valuable gift a liberal arts school can…its time. How many large state school students can say that their professors invited them into their home to get help editing a paper or to prep for a job interview? I would not be where I am today without the Alma College faculty, who cared enough to push me, to challenge me, to help me find my true passion.
Terra Teague Hess Terra Teague Hess Retail Industry Analyst, Google
Terra Teague Hess

Terra Teague Hess

Retail Industry Analyst, Google Alma College (MI)

Terra Teague Hess is a retail industry analyst for Google. Previously, she was a Google AdWords account manager. Prior to her employment with Google, Hess was senior analyst for online sales strategy at Unilever on the national Walmart account for frozen desserts. She graduated from Alma College in 2008 as a business major.

William Newsome is director of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute and investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. From 2013 to 2014, Newsome was co-chair of the National Institutes of Health working group that formed the scientific plan for the White house BRAIN initiative, which has been characterized as the “moonshot” of the 21st century. He earned a BS in physics from Stetson University and a PhD in biology from the California Institute of Technology.
William Newsome William Newsome Professor of Neuroscience, Stanford University, and Former Co-Chair, White House BRAIN Initiative
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David C. Hilmers

The variety of experiences I embraced at Cornell College made me fearless to attempt new endeavors. Its small size afforded me the liberty to participate in three sports. The absence of constraints on my course selection stimulated an intense intellectual curiosity. Never before or since have I felt such autonomy to explore, to become a leader, to think independently, and importantly, to work as part of a team.
David C. Hilmers David C. Hilmers Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, and Former Astronaut, NASA
David C. Hilmers

David C. Hilmers

Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, and Former Astronaut, NASA Cornell College (IA)

David C. Hilmers is an associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. His clinical pursuits have included international HIV, emergency medicine, tropical medicine, and international nutrition. He devotes significant time to volunteer service and disaster relief and has worked with the United Nations and the Centers for Disease Control. Prior to medical school, Hilmers was a Marine Corps colonel, aviator, and electrical engineer, and he served as a NASA astronaut on four space shuttle missions.

Silhouette of a young man reaching to the sky as money floats down over him

Will a liberal arts education pay off?

We get it. College sounds expensive. Aid can be confusing. And you read scary stories about student debt.

But if you look at the numbers, it’s clear that a college degree pays off. For starters, college graduates earn $1 million more over their lifetimes than those who hold just a high school diploma. Furthermore, tuition may seem much higher at a smaller private college than a public university, but the actual cost can be quite similar. That’s because private colleges often award generous aid, so you may only pay a fraction of the listed tuition. See for yourself.

Charise Flynn

Now that I am an employer, I look for people who are well-rounded, eager to learn, and entrepreneurial at heart. A liberal arts education can contribute to those qualities I look for because it teaches students to be flexible and to adapt to their surroundings. It opens their minds to the world and possibilities around them.
Charise Flynn Charise Flynn Chief Operations Officer, Dwolla
Charise Flynn

Charise Flynn

Chief Operations Officer, Dwolla Simpson College (IA)

As chief operations officer, Charise Flynn oversees the business development, sales, marketing, human resources, legal, compliance, risk, customer support, and finance operations for Dwolla, an online and mobile payment network. Since joining the team in early 2011, Flynn has played an instrumental role in guiding Dwolla’s growth, raising over $30 million in tier-one venture capital and overseeing the Des Moines-based company’s expansion to San Francisco and New York City.

Deanna Oppenheimer is founder of CameoWorks, LLC, a retail and financial services advisory firm. Previously she was CEO of Barclays Bank, U.K. and Western Europe and held a number of leadership positions at Washington Mutual, which she helped transform from a regional to a national lender. Oppenheimer graduated with honors from the University of Puget Sound and attended the executive education program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Deanna Oppenheimer Deanna Oppenheimer Former CEO of Barclays Bank, U.K. and Western Europe
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Two truths and a lie. Click the card to reveal the answer.

Students at private colleges receive generous financial aid.

Truth

On average, students at smaller private colleges pay just 46% of stated tuition, and 94% of first-year students receive aid.

Source

Most private college grads leave with a mountain of debt.

Lie

26%


of students at smaller private colleges graduate with no debt, and 48% graduate with less than $20,000 in debt.

Source

Private college grads make a good starting salary.

Truth

The average starting salary of grads of private nonprofit colleges in 2014 was $50,386.

Source

Edwin Keh

A liberal arts education allows graduates to “learn to learn” continuously and “future-proofs” their careers. Today as a business leader, I look for young people who have these types of educational experiences. It is usually easier for them to fast track careers and take on multiple opportunities.
Edwin Keh Edwin Keh CEO, Hong Kong Research Institute of Textile and Apparel
Edwin Keh

Edwin Keh

CEO, Hong Kong Research Institute of Textile and Apparel Whittier College (CA)

Edwin Keh is CEO of the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textile and Apparel, a public/private fund engaged in applied industrial research. He also is on the faculty of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches supply chain operations. Previously, Keh was senior vice president and chief operating officer of Wal-Mart Global Procurement and managed offices in more than 20 countries. He also has managed a consulting group specializing in supply chain manufacturing and worked for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. He lives in Hong Kong with his family.

Dzida Yador is a production manager for Viacom Media Networks, where she manages MTV’s Brand Creative Department. She also has worked as a freelance producer for Cinematic Music Group, Interscope Records, and Beats by Dr. Dre. She was nominated for an Emmy in 2014. Yador earned a bachelor’s degree in performance and communication arts from St. Lawrence University in 2011.
Dzifa Yador Dzifa Yador Production Manager, MTV
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Tim Kaiser

I have interviewed and hired hundreds of new college graduates, and I have concluded that those who are the best thinkers and problem solvers are the most well-rounded. Those who are best able to deal with the wide variety of demands of the entertainment industry undoubtedly have a background in liberal arts.
Tim Kaiser Tim Kaiser Executive Producer, Warner Bros. Television
Tim Kaiser

Tim Kaiser

Executive Producer, Warner Bros. Television

Tim Kaiser is an executive producer who worked to produce the long-running sitcoms Seinfeld and Will & Grace as well as newer sitcoms such as 2 Broke Girls. He graduated from Westminster College (PA) in 1985.

Silhouette of a college graduate proudly presenting her diploma

Can you picture yourself at a liberal arts college?

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