A liberal arts college has several features that distinguish it from a university or community college. In general, a liberal arts college is characterized by the following:
- Undergraduate focus - the number of graduate students at a liberal arts college is low or zero
- Baccalaureate degrees - most degrees awarded from a liberal arts college are four-year bachelor's degrees such as a B.A. (bachelor of arts) or B.S. (bachelor of science)
- Small size - Nearly all liberal arts colleges have fewer than 5,000 students, and most are in the 1,000 to 2,500 student range
- Liberal arts curriculum - liberal arts colleges focus on broad skills in thinking and writing, not narrow preprofessional skills. Courses such as religion, philosophy, literature and sociology are often required of all students.
- Faculty focus on teaching - At a large university, professors are often evaluated for their research and publishing first, and teaching second. At most liberal arts colleges, teaching has the top priority.
- Focus on community - Because of their small size, liberal arts colleges often highly value the interaction of faculty and students. The overall educational environment tends to be more intimate and personal than at larger universities.
- Residential - The majority of students at liberal arts colleges live at college and attend full time. You'll find far more commuter students and part-time students at public universities and community colleges.