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Top 10 Most Popular Liberal Arts Colleges

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Love em or hate em, people pay attention to college rankings. According to U.S. News and World Report, one of the best indicators of a school’s popularity among students is the school’s yield, or the percentage of applicants accepted by the college that end up enrolling there in the fall.

Published on January 25, 2011, U.S. News staff compiled a list of the most popular liberal arts colleges in America based on the number of students accepted vs. the number of students that ultimately enrolled.

Liberal arts colleges are schools that place an emphasis on undergraduate education and award at least 50 percent of their degrees in the liberal arts. Below you can find information about the top ten most popular liberal arts colleges in America. (You can view the complete U.S. News list here.)

#1 United States Naval Academy

The U.S. Naval Academy is located in Annapolis, Maryland. It is a four-year co-ed federal service academy established in 1845, making it the second-oldest of the five service academies in the United States. It educates officers for commissioning primarily into the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Candidates for admission to the academy must apply directly and receive a nomination from an official source, usually a congressman or senator.

  • 1464 students accepted Fall 2009; 1251 students enrolled Fall 2009; yield 85.5%

#2 United States Military Academy

The United States Military Academy at West Point is located in West Point, New York. Often called USMA, West Point or Army, it is a four-year co-ed federal service academy established in 1802 which makes it the oldest of the five service academies in the United States. Candidates for admission to USMA must apply directly and receive a nomination from an official source, usually a congressman or senator.

  • 1640 students accepted Fall 2009; 1262 students enrolled Fall 2009; yield 77.0%

#3 Berea College

Berea College is a private undergraduate liberal arts work college in Berea, Kentucky. Established in 1855, the college provides a low-cost education to students from low-income families by charging no tuition. Every admitted student receives the equivalent of a four-year, full-tuition scholarship. Berea was also the first college in the Southern United States to become co-ed and racially integrated.

  • 516 students accepted Fall 2009; 392 students enrolled Fall 2009; yield 76.0%

#4 Principia College

Principia College is a four-year private co-ed liberal arts college in Elsah, Illinois known as a college for Christian Scientists. Established in 1910, the Principia campus was designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior in 1993. The school is currently well-known for its solar car team.

  • 155 students accepted Fall 2009; 111 students enrolled Fall 2009; yield 71.6%

#5 Thomas Aquinas College

Thomas Aquinas College is a Roman Catholic liberal arts college located in Santa Paula, California. The college offers a single integrated academic program— Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts. Coursework is the same for all students throughout the program and the college and is based on the Great Books of the Western Tradition as opposed to textbooks. The college has accreditation from the American Academy for Liberal Education and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

  • 144 students accepted Fall 2009; 102 students enrolled Fall 2009; yield 70.8%

#6 Atlantic Union College

Atlantic Union College is a Seventh-day Adventist professions-based college in South Lancaster, Massachusetts. The college views itself as a resource center for life-long learning, serving the educational needs of adults who cannot study in conventional programs and offering programs designed for students ranging from prep students to retired adults. The college was placed on probation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges in 2008 due to “failure to meet Standard on Financial Resources” and will lose its regional accreditation as of July 31, 2011.

  • 133 students accepted Fall 2009; 89 students enrolled Fall 2009; yield 66.9%

#7 University of Wisconsin—Parkside

The University of Wisconsin—Parkside is a four-year public university located in Kenosha and Somers, Wisconsin. It was officially founded in July 1968 when it took over two-year University of Wisconsin centers in Kenosha and Racine, Wisconsin to give students the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree without incurring the cost of moving to and living in another part of the state.

  • 1452 students accepted Fall 2009; 890 students enrolled Fall 2009; yield 61.3%

#8 Grove City College

Grove City College is a Christian liberal arts college in Grove City, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1876, the college emphasizes a humanities core curriculum which endorses the Judeo-Christian Western tradition. It is non-denominational and does not require students to sign a statement of faith as many other Christian colleges do. Students are required to attend sixteen chapel services per semester.

  • 1123 students accepted Fall 2009; 633 students enrolled Fall 2009; yield 56.4%

#9 Stephens College

Stephens College is a women’s college located in Columbia, Missouri. Founded in 1833, Stephens is the second-oldest all-female college that is still a women’s college in the United States. Approximately forty percent of all Stephens students major in the visual or performing arts, and the three most popular majors are dance, theatre, and fashion design.

  • 486 students accepted Fall 2009; 269 students enrolled Fall 2009; yield 55.3%

#10 North Greenville University

North Greenville University is a Christian liberal arts college located in Tigerville, South Carolina. Established in 1891, the school is affiliated with South Carolina Baptist Convention and accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award Associate degrees, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

  • 893 students accepted Fall 2009; 494 students enrolled Fall 2009; yield 55.3%

Top 2000 Ranked Universities

For more information about these popular liberal arts colleges or any other college or university in the United States, be sure to visit the StateUniversity.com Top 2000 Ranked Universities for Highest Overall School Score Ranking.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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