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Articulating the value of a liberal arts education

By: Career Services 

What is a liberal arts education? Recently, a Career Services staff member spent time with a First-Year Seminar class discussing this question and more. When asked to explain the meaning of a liberal arts education, the students responded:

  •  "A well-rounded education."
  •  "Curriculum that requires you to take classes in a variety of areas."
  •  "It means I'm learning things in areas other than science; I'm also learning history and philosophy to name a few."

Why will having a liberal arts education be a benefit to employers? How would you articulate that to an employer in an interview? These same students responded:

  • "Because I took a variety of classes and have skills in different areas."
  •  "I'm not sure exactly why that is a benefit; I was just told it was a good thing to have."

Because it is increasingly difficult to stand out in the job search process due to the overwhelming number of applications organizations receive, it is important for students to showcase and articulate what sets them apart from the crowd. A liberal arts education offers students countless opportunities to develop the skills that are highly sought by employers. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the top skills sought by employers have stayed virtually the same for the last decade.

  1. Ability to work in a team structure
  2. Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization
  3. Ability to make decisions and solve problems
  4. Ability to obtain and process information
  5. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
  6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
  7. Technical knowledge related to the job
  8. Proficiency with computer software programs
  9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
  10. Ability to sell or influence others

The benefit of a liberal arts education is that your son/daughter will work on projects and experience situations where he/she develops these skills. They just happen to be the same skills that define what a liberal arts education provides. The biggest challenge is helping students learn how to articulate these strengths and provide specific examples from their related experiences (e.g. internships, volunteer experiences, student employment, study abroad, summer jobs, etc.)  of when they've demonstrated them. Over winter break, we ask that you engage in a discussion with your son/daughter, regardless of whether he/she is a first year, sophomore, junior or senior, and talk about the value of a liberal arts education. It will not only help them to better understand and appreciate the education they are receiving, but will give them practice that will make them more successful in selling their skills when they interview for internships, jobs, graduate school or volunteer opportunities.

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