Libby, a college student, discusses with counselor Art what the "liberal arts" really means.
When I chose a “liberal arts” college, some of my friends thought I was training to be an artist!
“Liberal arts” comes from a Latin phrase, and it’s often misunderstood.
Yeah, my dad thought “liberal” was about politics.
Nope, “liberal” in Latin means being free, rather than being a slave.
And what about the “art” part—Art?
In Latin, art means a way of doing something or an ability. For example: “the art of living well.”
Hmm. So, when I put liberal and art together, I get, uh…freeway??
Ha-ha. No, Libby. Liberal arts means the abilities or skills appropriate to a person who’s free.
That’s pretty cool. So liberal arts study is “liberating”!
Your translation skills are getting better, Libby.
What Are the Liberal Arts?
A liberal arts education means studying broadly—taking classes in
many different subjects—and building skills that are geared toward more
than just one profession. By studying the liberal arts, students develop
strong critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills.
Liberal arts students learn to approach questions flexibly and to think
across multiple disciplines. These are skills employers say they value most, even more than a specific major. In today’s labor market, career paths are
changing rapidly, and graduates must draw from a variety of skillsets to
adapt to challenges and capitalize on opportunities.
You might be surprised by the kinds of subjects and majors that are
included in the liberal arts. They include much more than studio art
and English classes (though those are great!)—they range from
mathematics to Mandarin, from statistics to sociology. At liberal arts
colleges and universities students can study the sciences—such as
biology, chemistry, and physics—and social sciences—including economics,
political science, and psychology. Students can study newer subjects,
such as environmental science and neuroscience, and traditional ones,
At liberal arts colleges and universities, students have the
opportunity to test out different areas of interest while progressing
toward a degree. If you’ve already made up your mind about what you
want to do after you graduate, a liberal arts education can help you
think more creatively about your future profession and prepare you for
The liberal arts will prepare you for a career in law,
medicine, and business and for careers you’ve never heard of, but might
be just right for you. Whatever path you pursue as a liberal arts
student, you can explore many interests that will enrich not only your
professional credentials but also your personal life and community
impact. To read how the liberal arts has affected graduates and
influenced their careers, visit Who Studies the Liberal Arts?