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    What is Liberal Arts? And Why Should You Care?

    Education Abroad Life in Ivy
    Bachelor's programs at Yale, Harvard, Stanford, and most other selective American universities follow a so-called Liberal Arts education model.

    Entire books discuss the difference between professional and liberal arts education systems. However, I will attempt to summarize the distinctiveness of Liberal Arts in two bullet points.

    First, the Liberal Arts model typically offers majors that have been taught for centuries. In this way, liberal arts universities have faculties such as mathematics, history, biology, and philosophy. Conversely, they typically do not offer Bachelor's degrees in business, engineering, or accounting. Yes, Yale, Harvard, and even Stanford do not offer undergraduate business majors.

    Top American universities identify some fields as foundational to others. For example, mathematics underlies many professional subjects such as engineering, accounting, and business. Selective universities implicitly assume that a mathematics degree would open doors to pursue narrower fields during graduate studies or through professional student clubs and internships.

    Another benefit of studying foundational fields is that they enable vast knowledge generated throughout most of human history. Plato established his philosophy academy about 2400 years ago, whereas Wharton reportedly established the world's first business degree in the 19th century. Classical subjects have naturally produced more breadth and depth of ideas to cover during a four-year program.

    Increasingly, Liberal Arts programs add professional majors such as computational sciences or engineering. But these subjects are often taught through the larger objective of pursuing foundational fields such as mathematics, so they do not provide much practical exposure.

    Second, the Liberal Arts will allow you to take different subjects, often unrelated to your university major. On the one hand, this allows students to explore various fields before they settle on a particular faculty. It is not uncommon when liberal arts students to change their majors in college. Sometimes, they switch between subjects as different as biology and global affairs.

    On the other hand, learning different subjects gives a multidisciplinary advantage to liberal arts students. Though rightfully a very contentious person recently, Mark Zuckerberg greatly benefited from taking psychology classes at Harvard. The intersection of his knowledge in technology and psychology was critical in helping him build Facebook in a way that retains users' attention.

    You may also want to read Jonah Lehrer's brilliant article ( in New Yorker, titled “Steve Jobs: Technology Alone Is Not Enough." In it, the author describes how Steve Jobs' liberal arts education at Reed College impacted his career and views on technology.

    It is a daunting task to condense the complexity of liberal arts in a blog post. Hopefully, at the very least, you feel compelled to further read into and explore the Liberal Arts model.