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The 24 Best Liberal Arts Colleges in America

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Despite being considered “soft” majors, liberal-arts students can still become just as successful as their math and science counterparts.

We pulled the top liberal-arts schools from our seventh annual list of the best colleges in America, where we asked over 1,000 Business Insider readers to choose the colleges that best prepare their students for success after graduation.

[Related: 8 Best Colleges for Budding Feminists]

We then combined those results with each school’s average SAT score from the college-data website College Board and the median starting salary from the employer-information website PayScale to come up with the final ranking. You can read the full methodology here.

Read on to see which schools are giving liberal arts a great name.

24. Lafayette College

Average SAT score: 1935
Median starting salary: $57,000

Post-graduation, Lafayette students immediately begin to make their mark in the world: Within six months, 95 percent of grads are employed, enrolled in graduate school, completing internships, or volunteering. Students get real-world experience prior to graduation as well, as 78 percent complete internships by senior year.

[Related: 8 Apps to Make Going Back to School Just a Little Bit Easier]

23. Carleton College

Average SAT score: 2115
Median starting salary: $43,700

Carleton’s main focus is to give students a true liberal-arts education by teaching them to be lifelong learners. In this quest, the school, located in Northfield, Minnesota, offers courses across 37 departments, including everything from linguistics to sociology to economics. US News also named Carleton the No. 8 best liberal-arts college in the US.

22. Haverford College

Average SAT score: 2115
Median starting salary: $38,600

With fewer than 2,000 students, Haverford’s small size allows students to receive a highly personalized college experience. Students at the Haverford, Pennsylvania-based school don’t officially declare a major until the end of sophomore year, and are required to take classes across three major academic divisions, resulting in a diverse and well-rounded education.

21. Colby College

Average SAT score: 2000
Median starting salary: $47,800

Colby College in Waterville, Maine aims to prepare students “for postgraduate success in nearly every field imaginable.” And it does: On graduation day, 71 percent of Colby seniors from the class of 2014 had either received employment offers or been accepted into graduate school, and graduates landed coveted spots at name-brand companies, such as Bain & Co., Oracle, and JP Morgan, to boot.

20. College of the Holy Cross

Average SAT score: 1965
Median starting salary: $48,500

Not only does College of the Holy Cross prepare students to join the workforce after graduation, but it equips them to further their education as well. In fact, graduates from the Worcester, Massachusetts-based school have a 91 percent acceptance rate into both medical and law schools. The most popular majors include economics, political science, English, and psychology.

[Related: 7 Shows That Will Make You Excited to Go Back to School]

19. Bates College

Average SAT score: 2040
Median starting salary: $44,700

This year, a whopping 19 Bates students—14 of whom are undergraduates—earned Fulbright fellowships, garnering the school a “Fulbright Top Producer” distinction. Six months after graduation, 74 percent of the class of 2014 from the Lewiston, Maine-based school were employed full-time, with several students at top companies including Google, Accenture, and Chevron.

18. Vassar College

Average SAT score: 2110
Median starting salary: Unavailable

Originally a women’s college, Vassar now provides both men and women with a top-notch liberal-arts education, and is ranked the No. 11 best liberal-arts college in the country by US News.

In addition to internships and study abroad programs, more than 500 students from the Poughkeepsie, New York-based school participate in a semester of field work, where they are placed in community organizations, nonprofits, government agencies, human services organizations, and businesses, typically in the Poughkeepsie area.

17. Wellesley College

Average SAT score: 2095
Median starting salary: $45,900

This women’s college in Wellesley, Massachusetts, was ranked the No. 4 best liberal-arts school in the country by US News. Graduates go on to do great things, and the school’s notable alumni include presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

16. Wesleyan University

Average SAT score: 2090
Median starting salary: $44,400

Wesleyan University, located in Middletown, Connecticut, offers over 1,000 unique classes across 45 areas of study. The most popular majors for the class of 2013 included psychology, English language and literature, and economics. Students also take advantage of opportunities off-campus, with more than 300 studying or completing internships abroad.

15. Davidson College

Average SAT score: 2000
Median starting salary: $47,200

Within six months of graduation, 89.1 percent of Davidson’s class of 2014 were either employed full-time, interning, volunteering, serving in the military, or enrolled in graduate school. Not only that, but students from the Davidson, North Carolina-based school who joined the workforce landed jobs at elite companies, such as Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and PepsiCo. Davidson grads enrolled in top graduate programs as well, including Johns Hopkins University and Baylor College of Medicine.

14. Hamilton College

Average SAT score: 2085
Median starting salary: $57,600

The small liberal-arts college in Clinton, New York, takes only top talent—75 percent of the class of 2018 were in the top 10% of their graduating high school classes, and 94 percent were in the top 20 percent. Hamilton grads have a great track record of earning prestigious awards; 92 were granted Fulbright Scholarships and 18 took Goldwater Scholarships in the last 15 years.

13. Pomona College

Average SAT score: 2195
Median starting salary: $46,700

Named the overall No. 1 school in the country by Forbes and the No. 5 liberal-arts college by US News, Pomona offers small class sizes, 47 areas of study, and numerous opportunities to participate in faculty-led research. As a part of California’s Claremont Colleges consortium, Pomona also allows students to take classes at any of its fellow Claremont schools, including Harvey Mudd and Claremont McKenna.

12. Claremont McKenna College

Average SAT score: 2155
Median starting salary: $50,100

One of the Claremont colleges, Claremont McKenna shares athletic, academic, health, and dining resources with the seven other colleges in the consortium. CMC’s curriculum leans heavily on humanities, providing students with a well-rounded education and real-world work experience.

11. Washington and Lee University

Average SAT score: 2075
Median starting salary: $50,700

At Washington and Lee, undergraduate students can choose from 37 majors and 29 minors, as well as a number of interdisciplinary programs. The Lexington, Virginia-based school’s unique calendar—divided into two 12-week periods followed by a four-week one—allows students to pursue a focused course of study during the end of spring. Students can also use this time to fit in studying abroad.

10. Bucknell University

Average SAT score: 1960
Median starting salary: $56,800

A whopping 97 percent of Bucknell students report being employed, in graduate school, volunteering, or some combination thereof within nine months of graduation.

And if you think the median starting salary for Bucknell grads is high, it’s important to note that the alumni median lifetime earnings are equally high; the Lewisburg, Pennsylvania-based school ranks No. 5 among liberal-arts colleges surveyed by PayScale.

9. Swarthmore College

Average SAT score: 2175
Median starting salary: $51,000

The small liberal-arts school in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, offers its undergrads more than 600 courses and a challenging honors program, reserved for a select group of top students. Modeled on the tutorial system at Oxford University, Swarthmore’s honors program is the only one of its kind in the US.

8. Colgate University

Average SAT score: 2063
Median starting salary: $54,000

Colgate, in Hamilton, New York, has an impressive track record of sending grads to top graduate schools (Columbia, New York University, Harvard, Cornell, and Penn are among them) as well as top employment positions.

“For work in finance, and especially on Wall Street, Colgate has a solid reputation for sending very successful and well-prepared graduates,” one Colgate alum who took our survey noted. “My classmate recently retired as the CEO of the NYSE. We have an extensive network of graduates in the industry.”

7. Middlebury College

Average SAT score: 2065
Median starting salary: $51,900

Middlebury may be in the middle of rural Vermont, but it’s not shut off from the world; in fact, the school is a leader in language instruction and international studies, and it offers 10 foreign-language tracks.

An emphasis on writing in all classes broadens students’ ability for critical thinking and expression.

6. Bowdoin College

Average SAT score: 2170
Median starting salary: Unavailable

Bowdoin College directs its liberal-arts education “toward the common good.” More than half of students at the Brunswick, Maine-based school choose to study abroad in one of 46 countries, and many others participate in international volunteer or research opportunities through Bowdoin.

5. Williams College

Average SAT score: 2190
Median starting salary: $50,200

Often considered one of the best liberal-arts colleges in the country (and, this year, the second-best overall college in America by Forbes), Williams considers its education more than a four-year program. The Williamstown, Massachusetts, school takes “an approach to living and learning that prepares students for the ‘real world’ and instills lifelong connections with each other and with Williams,” the website says.

4. United States Military Academy

Average SAT score: 1880
Median starting salary: $75,100

Getting into the Military Academy at West Point, located in the eponymous New York town, is no small feat: The Academy accepts only about 9% of applicants. For accepted students, each major—ranging from American politics to nuclear engineering—is tailored to train “officer-leaders of character to serve the Army and the Nation.”

3. United States Naval Academy

Average SAT score: 1913
Median starting salary: $80,700

As a military school, the Annapolis, Maryland-based Naval Academy rigorously prepares students for a career in the Navy, with a focus on military education, professional training, character development, and physical fitness. The Academy boasts a trove of notable alumni, including 52 astronauts, 48 Rhodes Scholars, and President Jimmy Carter.

2. Amherst College

Average SAT score: 2170
Median starting salary: Unavailable

Amherst is part of the Five College Consortium, a community of colleges made up of Amherst, Smith, UMass at Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Hampshire that allows students to take classes at any of the schools. This gives students a broader access to different kinds of classes and learning styles and the ability to meet and network with different kinds of students.

1. Harvey Mudd College

Average SAT score: 2215
Median starting salary: $75,600

While Harvey Mudd is best known for its engineering and computer science programs, the Claremont, California-based school is first and foremost a liberal-arts college, as well as a member of the Claremont Colleges consortium. The school makes sure its students learn in all areas with a solid core curriculum that incorporates humanities and social sciences in with math and science.

This article was originally published on Business Insider.

Photo: Mike Timberlake/ Flickr

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