Membership Programs Meetings Publications LEAP Press Room About AAC&U
Association of American Colleges and Universities
Search Web Site
Resources on:
Liberal Education
General Education
Student Success
Institutional Change
Civic Engagement
Global Learning
Science & Health
Connect with AACU:
Join Our Email List
RSS Feed
Follow us on Twitter
LEAP Toolkit
Support AACU
Online Giving Form

What Are Students Saying About College Learning?

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater students Liza Stenz and Eleanor Jacobson created this video to show what LEAP means to them.


Rebecca Korf, a rising senior at Whitworth University, wrote an essay discussing the value of the liberal arts. Korf notes that, "When I tell people that I'm majoring in biochemistry and minoring in philosophy, they're usually pretty surprised. Philosophy, or any of the general education classes I have taken, often seem irrelevant to a person like me who wants to study and manipulate molecules for a living. I have found, however, that my liberal arts education actually makes me a better scientist... The liberal arts produces graduates who are effective and versatile employees, informed and well-reasoned citizens, confident communicators, and fulfilled and engaged human beings as a whole. I so very much appreciate the education that I'm currently receiving at Whitworth University, and I am confident that the liberal arts have positioned me and my classmates for future success."

Nick Voutsinos, Opinions Editor at the University of Pittsburgh's The Pitt News, wrote an op-ed titled, "New Student Guide: Do not conform to the status quo, overcome it." The author notes, "Additionally, for those on the job hunt, the prototypical “college student” definition can’t inform your prospective employers of your leadership skills, ingenuity, charisma or dedication. AAC&U described “The ability to work well in teams — especially with people different from yourself” as the number one skill employers look for in college graduates. This will not be apparent to them if you only spend nine percent of your time involved with student organizations while spending the rest of your time outside of class playing Xbox."

Sara Rose Funderburg, a student at the University of Texas at Tyler in Tyler, Texas, wrote an op-ed titled, "Liberal Arts Degrees ARE Important." The author notes, "Eventually, the only jobs that will remain after artificial-intelligent machines take over will require creativity and critical thinking, not just memorization of certain knowledge or technical skills. Steve Jobs, who was neither a computer programmer nor a hardware engineer, famously told graduates of Stanford University in 2005 that one of the most influential and lasting experiences in his brief tenure at Reed College was his dabbling in calligraphy, according to the Public Broadcast Service.  This just goes to show that liberal arts classes are important. They offer many of the characteristics that employers look for and without them, there would be no music, movies, art or books. Perhaps, if we, as a nation, want to create another Jobs, we should invest in degrees that contain more than just technology at its core."

Nabi Menai, a student at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA, wrote an op-ed titled "Liberal Arts Education Provides Breadth of Knowledge." The author notes,
"A successful education is one that is integrative and leads to original and imaginative productivity. To make the most of four years, the key is to explore all areas possible. Once interest and passion have been sparked, they can only evolve. For the most part, it is a myth that the liberal arts leads to unemployment. The world is teeming with opportunities—you just have to seize as many of them as you can."

Brandeis boasts a perfect mix between research and the liberal arts. There aren’t many more avenues of learning beyond this. A successful education is one that is integrative and leads to original and imaginative productivity. To make the most of four years, the key is to explore all the areas possible. Once interest and passion have been sparked, they can only evolve. For the most part, it is a myth that the liberal arts leads to unemployment. The world is teeming with opportunities—you just have to seize as many of them as you can. - See more at:
Brandeis boasts a perfect mix between research and the liberal arts. There aren’t many more avenues of learning beyond this. A successful education is one that is integrative and leads to original and imaginative productivity. To make the most of four years, the key is to explore all the areas possible. Once interest and passion have been sparked, they can only evolve. For the most part, it is a myth that the liberal arts leads to unemployment. The world is teeming with opportunities—you just have to seize as many of them as you can. - See more at:
Brandeis boasts a perfect mix between research and the liberal arts. There aren’t many more avenues of learning beyond this. A successful education is one that is integrative and leads to original and imaginative productivity. To make the most of four years, the key is to explore all the areas possible. Once interest and passion have been sparked, they can only evolve. For the most part, it is a myth that the liberal arts leads to unemployment. The world is teeming with opportunities—you just have to seize as many of them as you can. - See more at:
Brandeis boasts a perfect mix between research and the liberal arts. There aren’t many more avenues of learning beyond this. A successful education is one that is integrative and leads to original and imaginative productivity. To make the most of four years, the key is to explore all the areas possible. Once interest and passion have been sparked, they can only evolve. For the most part, it is a myth that the liberal arts leads to unemployment. The world is teeming with opportunities—you just have to seize as many of them as you can. - See more at:

Chelsea Lobey, a student at Portland State University, wrote an article titled, "Liberal Arts, Not Career Specific Majors." The author notes, "In an April 2013 survey of employers, AAC&U found that ‘nearly all those surveyed agree, ‘a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.’ That same study also found that 90 percent of employers say ‘it is important that those they hire demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity, intercultural skills and the capacity for continued new learning.’ Wouldn’t you know it, the things employers are looking for are precisely what a Liberal Arts education provides."

Jessica Mardo, a recent graduate of Stonehill College, wrote a blog post titled, "The Value of the Liberal Arts." The blogger notes, "My liberal arts education has given me not just the confidence that I have skills applicable to a wide variety of professional disciplines, but also an understanding that the world is bigger than just me and my paycheck and that perhaps, just perhaps, a career well spent is one giving back."

Evan Ward, a student at the University of Alabama wrote an op-ed titled, "Seize a Well-Rounded Education, Pursue the Liberal Arts." The author notes, " The arts expose us to great thinkers and works that remove ourselves from our own time. They grant perspective. They are at once able to link us to a human past, while equipping us to ask the broad moral and social questions that need to be answered before we can construct a better future. Asking such questions is a responsibility everyone should bear, but we shirk it as we leave the humanities in the dust."

Ronit Patnaik, a sophomore in the College of Engineering at Purdue University, wrote an op-ed titled, "Liberal Arts Complement Engineering." The author notes, " It’s commonly believed that engineers dominate Silicon Valley and that there is a correlation between the capacity for innovation and an education in a science, technology, engineering or math field. Both assumptions are grossly false. America’s progress has occurred due to collaborations between liberal arts and STEM disciplines. Purdue students should embrace the differences between students in STEM and liberal arts."

Danielle Charette, a student at Swarthmore College, wrote an column for the Daily Gazette titled, "The Art of Conserving." The author notes, "I’ll agree that many students really are happier and better served through vocational training, on-the-job experience, or professional school. Nonetheless, I’m a student who yawps about the merits of a good, old-fashioned liberal arts education. Maybe liberal arts are a consumer good. Certainly they are a gift. Furthermore, I suspect that the fruits of a liberal arts education are, interestingly, conservative in nature."

The Editorial Board of the Stanford Daily wrote an editorial titled, "The Value of a Liberal Education." The board notes, " But the fact that college education is becoming increasingly specialized further warrants liberal education requirements. We are entering a workforce and society where having knowledge in just one field will not suffice.... And in an increasingly technology-dependent world, it is important that those majoring in the humanities and social sciences have college-level exposure to math, science and engineering if their major does not already require it."

Ida Eskamani, a student at the University of Central Florida, wrote an op-ed for the UCF Central Florida Future titled, "Protect the Liberal Arts Majors from Governor Scott." She notes, "[Gov. Soctt should] probably realize that many of the skills gained through liberal arts degree programs actually help to create jobs. As the Sun Sentinel rightfully states, many entrepreneurs, some of Scott's favorite people, come from various educational backgrounds. Steve Jobs accredited his inspiration for designing the Macintosh desktop to a calligraphy course he sat in on. And as Jobs said himself, without that course, Mac and Windows would not have been the same systems we use every day."

Eshley Spitzer, a student at Indiana University, wrote an op-ed for the Indiana Daily Student titled, "Value of a Liberal Arts Education." She notes, " Not only should [students] be preparing ourselves to enter the work force, we should be benefiting from the liberal arts education, the cultural events, the speakers and the programs that expand our minds and enrich our understandings. The ability to think critically inspires growth that does not end when we are handed our diplomas. We use the outlets available on a liberal arts campus to become more well-rounded individuals, enhanced additions to the world where the job market no longer caters to a single lifetime career."

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published six powerful commentaries by Stanford students enrolled in the Structured Liberal Education Program. The students reflect on their educational experiences in relation to their life goals. The students compare themselves to their peers at Stanford, noting, “What is a major in the humanities worth? Should we measure worth by career utility or by some other value—cognitive, aesthetic, moral? By our skills or by our knowledge? No doubt many students can attack those questions and reach the same breadth of benefits outside the humanities. At Stanford, many of our classmates are scientists, social scientists, and engineers, and we have great respect for and interest in their studies—not only for their work's clear practical applications but also for the ways in which those students grapple with the world. We argue that our education is just as significant, and just as irreplaceable, as theirs."

Nathaniel French, a 2011 graduate of Southern Methodist University, wrote an op-ed for The St. Petersburg Times titled, "College Degrees Can't Be Measured in Dollars Alone." French notes," But I take exception to the notion that the [recent report by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce titled, "What's It Worth?: The Economic Value of College Majors,"] somehow proves one degree more useful or valuable than another. Earning potential is important, but it is not the only measure of a degree's worth. The fulfillment a field gives its students, the way it broadens their hearts and minds, is just as vital. The arts and humanities represent the best in all of us. The great ages of human history have been known not only for their commerce and feats of engineering but also for their literary and artistic achievements. We celebrate ancient Greece for both Euclid's geometry and Aristotle's Poetics. It's this vastness of pursuits that makes the human experience so exciting. Why shouldn't we study something so essential?"

Kristian Bailey, a Stanford University student, wrote an op-ed for The Stanford Daily titled, "The Advantages of a Liberal Education." Bailey notes, "Stanford: Structured Liberal Education (SLE) is the most rewarding intellectual and personal experience I’ve undergone — and it’s not ever over yet! With two full quarters of the 'great thinkers' behind me, and with seven weeks of influential modern thought ahead, I find myself asking 'the big questions' every day. This past week, I’ve been having issues over what it means to be human, whether or not I can understand inherently who I am (and if I’m even close to doing so) and why we need to have so much social and governmental interference in our individual lives. This introspection is not a recent phenomenon — my roommate, dormmates and I have been having conversations around questions like these all year."

Several liberal studies majors at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan express their thoughts on their experiences in the YouTube video, "Liberal Studies Student Perspectives." GVSU student Murani Lewis says, "My liberal studies major allowed me the freedom to try things, and to learn the path that was right for me." Returning student Julie Plugar said, "The liberal studies major is individualized. My major helps me to think of things in different ways." Josh Sleutel, who earned his liberal studies degree in 2010, said, "Being a liberal studies major was really rewarding. I was able to choose courses based on plans for my career after college."

Lauren Scherr, a Georgetown University student and Case Foundation intern, wrote a blog post for The Case Foundation blog titled, "Creating Change On-Campus and Beyond with Bringing Theory to Practice." The author notes," As a college student, it can be easy to live in the bubble of academia and to ignore what is going on in the outside world. The [Bringing Theory to Practice] conference [on November 13-14, 2010] challenged students to step outside of that bubble and view themselves as engaged learners, active citizens, and agents of change.

Marieke Van der Vaart, a staff writer for the Hillsdale Collegian (Hillsdale College, MI), wrote an op-ed titled, "Don’t Just Study –– Learn." The author notes, "You see my friends, it's all about personal responsibility. When you start learning for its own sake, you take responsibility for that learning and such an approach is anything but strategic and time-managing. Instead of skimming material and merely recording what authors and thinkers say, learning means weighing those arguments and personalizing them. For four years, we're given the opportunity to study where we fit into this cosmos and what is really true, if it's possible to ever really know the truth." 

Chris Sopher, a staff writer for the University of North Carolina Daily Tar Heel, wrote an article titled, "Does Your Major Matter?" Sopher notes, "But for all the attention the major gets, does it really matter to your future, your career, or your education? The simple but unsatisfying answer is that it depends on what the particular student wants and expects from college. Those wants and expectations often fall under one of four goals: a liberal education, admission to graduate schools, immediate employment and vocational skills."

Chris Kennedy, a staff writer for the Fordham University Ram, wrote an op-ed titled, "Point-Counterpoint: Liberal Arts Education." Kennedy notes, "The value of a liberal arts education has been demonstrated over thousands of years. In our fast-paced age, it may seem like it is time to throw it all out and replace it with vocational training in order to prepare this generation for the careers of tomorrow. But some skills never disappear: the ones that Fordham and other liberal arts colleges teach us so well. I am proud to say that the value of my education will not dry up until the benefits of good communication and problem solving do."

The editorial Board of The Elm, the student newspaper of Washington College, wrote an editorial titled, "The Liberal Arts: Not As Scary As You Think." The author notes, "In her book, Not for Profit: WhyDemocracy Needs the Humanities, Martha Nussbaum summarizesit quite well by declaring that the decline in popularity of the liberal arts produces 'generations of useful machines, rather than complete citizens who can think for themselves.' I couldn’t agree more.

Three undergraduate students from University of Wisconsin System campuses have been named recipients of the fifth annual UW System Liberal Arts Essay Scholarship Competition. The competition was established to support and promote liberal arts and science education throughout the state’s public university system. Students were invited to discuss the transformative nature of their educations by focusing on an experience that changed how they viewed themselves and the world. This year’s winners are: Colleen Jurkiewicz – UW Milwaukee, for “Liberal Education: A Metamorphosis of the Soul”; Adria Kaurman, UW-Marinette, for “With Which to Paint Our World”; and Evan Mast, UW-Madison, for “The Importance of Cartography.”

College student Joshua Petersen wrote a blog post entitled, "A Liberal Education: Education for Life." The author notes, " AAC&U upholds that when liberal learning is engaged in collectively, it 'cultivates social responsibility' and 'contributes to the renewal of social values in human organizations and to the sustaining of a productive, democratic, and pluralistic society' And so a liberal education builds a man who is inclined to make the best decisions for himself and for his democratic government."

Ben Dalgetty, a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, wrote a column for The Occidental Weekly entitled, "The Liberal Arts Legacy." The author notes, “AAC&U’s Web site says this liberal arts education translates into ‘a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.’”

Paul Chen, a student at the University of Virginia, wrote a column for The Cavalier Daily entitled, "Defending the Liberal Arts: A Well-Rounded Curriculum Serves as the Foundation for a Quality Education." He states, " To answer such an encompassing question as to the purpose of the universe and our role in it, we need to possess a fundamental understanding in many branches of knowledge. This is the appeal of a liberal education. The classical Western tradition defines the seven Artes Liberales: the audrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music) and the trivium (grammar, logic and rhetoric), which form the basis of the modern liberal arts curriculum. Those disciplines are believed to be essential in humanity’s intellectual instruction to fully understand the world. Social sciences inform us about the failures and successes of human institutions. Theology and philosophy guide us in our quest for the meaning of our existence. Literature and fine arts cultivate our appreciation for beauty. The sciences enable us to understand the physical workings of the universe. Commerce teaches us the modes by which we exchange goods."

Daniel Hudock, a student at Robert Morris University wrote a column for The Sentry entitled, "Value of a liberal education." He states, " The main reason for pursuing a liberal education is to develop critical thinking skills. A college education is more than job training. A student is expected to learn how to evaluate data and observations in order to make informed decisions."

Christopher Marsicano, a student at Davidson College, wrote a column for The Davidsonian entitled, "Diversity key to the liberal arts." He states, "The question of why diversity is vitally important to this institution can only be answered by the 'students and faculty who would… grow to have a lasting love for the institution.' Davidson College commits itself to the liberal arts education. We are not a professional school and thus encourage broad majors, value interdisciplinary studies and seek a full understanding of how our subjects interact to ensure a truly holistic perspective."

Alexis L. Morris, a student at Elizabethtown College, wrote a column for The Etownian entitled, "Liberal arts education enriches future." She states, "Also, one gains a greater insight on the world through a liberal arts program. With our core of non-western cultural heritage, social sciences, humanities and western cultural heritage, we have many options to choose classes that will teach us about foreign cultures, history and society. In addition, the power of language core for modern or ancient language will teach us about the countries in which people speak the language we are learning."

Anna Giarratana, a senior chemistry major at Bryn Mawr College, wrote a column for The Bryn Mawr College News entitled, "Liberal Arts for Science Majors." She states, "The traditional notion is that a liberal arts college gives students the opportunity to broaden their minds with the study of varied topics. As Albert Einstein said, “It is not so very important for a person to learn facts. For that he does not really need a college. He can learn them from books. The value of an education at a liberal arts college is not learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.” While Einstein had a valid point, I think a liberal arts education today offers something even more vital to students—freedom."

Michael Collins, an anthropology major at Princeton University, wrote a column for The Daily Princetonian about the cost of pursuing a college education. He writes, "Unfortunately, the search for economic “value” in colleges has obscured this deeper discussion, which needs to occur on college campuses. The fundamental goals and structure of liberal arts education needs to be re-evaluated. In the wake of a devastating economic recession, America is finally starting the painful process of reassessing what types of schools the government and individuals should invest time and money in."

Andrew Myszewski, a 2009 graduate of The University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote an essay for Liberal Education as an undergraduate student. The updated essay was published in AAC&U's Gallery of Writing. The author writes, "More than ever, a liberal arts education—the intensive study of history, art, politics, foreign languages, literature, the physical and natural sciences, human cultures past and present—offers the best possible preparation for life in the chaotic world we continue to find ourselves. A liberal arts education provides students with a broad framework to approach both the known challenges and opportunities of today and the unknown ones of tomorrow."

Derrick McMahon, a senior history education student at Florida A&M University, wrote a column for The Famuan about his struggle to pursue a liberal education within his academic institution. He notes, " College shouldn’t be solely about exams, scores and grades on report cards.
Students should come to college expecting to get a liberal education where their previous views are challenged, so that they may become more knowledgeable and sympathetic towards the world around them."

Thomas Shattuck, a junior at Vanderbilt University, wrote a column for Inside about the value and curriculum of a traditional liberal arts degree. He notes, "There is a purpose to the liberal arts; they’re just a little dated. The goal of a college education is to provide a solid background for students to succeed. Unfortunately, unless colleges and universities augment core requirements, they’re continuously sending out students who are not ready to face the realities of an increasingly complex world."

Gabbi Seltzer, a regular columnist for The Virginia Tech Collegiate Times, wrote a column about how to incorporate liberal education into every student's curriculum. The author states, "I began to realize how strangely rare it is here at Virginia Tech to find someone who is not resistent to getting a liberal education. One of the most important aspects of getting a liberal education is widening one's view of the world to dispel ignorance and open our minds to new ideas. They are also meant to broaden understanding the social, political, environmental, and other implications of what we do and learn."

Ben Schmidt, the 2009 Student Commencement Speaker at the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, delivered a speech in which he outlines the value of a liberal education. The author states, "Because we chose to attend UW-Green Bay, we’ve gained the opportunity to enhance our liberal arts education by taking advantage of interdisciplinary fields of study. The actual end or goal of a liberal arts education, at least in my view, is the betterment of our lives as human beings, to find our purpose in life and to care for our souls."

Cornell University student Munier Salem writes about the poor emphasis higher education has placed on math and science in The Cornell Daily Sun article, Enjoying All Mathematical Explorations. He states, "Since Cornell was founded, math, science, and engineering have progressed exponentially. But has the liberal arts education kept pace? Countless people studying outside the sciences at Cornell decide to evade math and science by ducking into watered down survey courses designed to appease the humanities major."

Francesca T. Gilberti writes about the value of a liberal education for Harvard students in The Harvard Crimson article, What's the Use? What does a liberal arts education mean for Harvard students today? She states, "While most of the nation's top universities - including Harvard - still slant their curricula heavily toward the liberal arts, the effect is that many students spend their college days reading about everything from dinosaurs to Descartes, but then leave Cambridge for jobs completely unrelated to their course work. This begs the question, just how relevant are the liberal arts to the lives of undergraduates?"

Wheaton College student Austin Simko wrote Bridging the Divide: How My Internship Connected College to the World about his internship experience at OSRAM-Sylvania in the Industry Relations and Standards Department. He states, "Internships are critical vehicles with which students can bridge the divide between college and the world. By interning in corporate, governmental, and non-governmental entities, students can begin to apply knowledge learned in the classroom to concrete, authentic, and 'real' contexts."

Student Voices from the AAC&U Publication, What Will I Learn in College? What You Need to Know Now to Get Ready for College Success

The Association of American Colleges and Universities published What Will I Learn in College?: What You Need to Know Now to Get Ready for College Success in 2008. See selected student perspectives from this guide below:

"College isn't about how many facts you can remember but more about your application of those facts. Applied learning takes more study time because you have to know the material in more depth, as opposed to simply remembering the "five Ws."
-Michael S. Austin, third-year student, Xavier University of Louisiana

"What I'm learning at college in my liberal education is to have an open mind and to continually reevaluate my assumptions."
-Austin Simko, fourth-year student, Wheaton College, Massachusetts

"My college education is going to help me link everything together, all my interests in politics, international issues, speech, and debate. I think college will also be a good push for me to accomplish more in other subjects that aren't my main interests, so I can see all the connections."
-Natalie Brown, first-year student, American University

"Possessing good communication skills is extremely important to achieve success in college for a number of reasons. In addition to the obvious reasons - that writing and speaking effectively are necessary to do well in classes - being able to communicate will make a difference outside of the classroom, too. During interviews for internships and jobs, one's communication skills are tested. During my time at college, I have participated in many phone interviews where the only skill I had to impress the interviewer was my ability to clearly communicate my ideas. In the end, I believe that my ability to articulate my thoughts gave me the advantage I needed to attain my internship positions."
-Carrie Finklestein, third-year student, Goucher College