Timothy Peck 4 min read 11th Grade, 12th Grade, College Lists

Top 10 Liberal Arts Colleges in New England

New England is a hotbed of liberal arts education—the region is home to five schools in the top 10 of U.S. News’s rankings of top liberal arts colleges and nine in the top 25. If you’ve dreamed of attending a top-rated LAC in New England, keep reading to learn more about the region’s offerings, admissions standards, acceptance rate, size, and what makes these schools unique. 

 

Best Liberal Arts Colleges in New England

 

1. Williams College

Location: Williamstown, MA 

Acceptance rate: 13%

U.S. News Ranking: 1

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1410-1550 SAT, 32-35 ACT

Enrollment: 2,078

 

An idyllic New England campus, intellectually curious students, and world-class faculty are just a few of the reasons why Williams College is the gold standard for a liberal arts education. Among the numerous characteristics that separate Williams from other schools is its 4-1-4 academic calendar, in which students take four classes first and second semester and one class for the month of January (usually a “non-academic” class—like Yoga or jazz—taken pass/fail). It also offers tutorials, which are small, essay-based classes that meet weekly. These courses are based on the renowned tutorial system at Oxford and Cambridge.

 

2. Amherst College

Location: Amherst, MA 

Acceptance rate: 11%

U.S. News Ranking: 2

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1410-1550 SAT, 31-34 ACT (composite scores)

Enrollment: 1,839

 

Amherst is perhaps best-known for its open curriculum; there are no general education requirements, so students have the freedom to explore many subjects. Another academic perk is the Five College Consortium, where students also can take classes at UMass Amherst, Smith College, Mount Holyoke, and Hampshire College. Forty-five percent of students study abroad, and financial aid applies to these programs; students will pay no more for study abroad than for a semester at Amherst.

 

3. Wellesley College

Location: Wellesley, MA 

Acceptance rate: 22%

U.S. News Ranking: 4

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1360-1530 SAT, 31-34 ACT

Enrollment: 2,519

 

Located just miles outside of Boston, Wellesley College delivers a gorgeous suburban campus with an abundance of green space and easy access to the city. One of the original Seven Sisters Colleges, Wellesley continues to attract the best and brightest women and provides them with an unequaled education. 

 

4. Bowdoin College

Location: Brunswick, ME 

Acceptance rate: 9%

U.S. News Ranking: 6

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1330-1520 SAT, 31 and 34 ACT

Enrollment: 1,835

 

Founded in 1794, Bowdoin College has a long and interesting history—for example, it was a men’s college for almost two centuries, and didn’t matriculate a coed class until 1971. Two years prior to the arrival of women students to campus, Bowdoin made news when it became one of only a select few highly selective schools to become test-optional.

 

5. Middlebury College

Location: Middlebury, VT

Acceptance rate: 15%

U.S. News Ranking: 9

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1360-1530 SAT, 32-34 ACT (composite scores)

Enrollment: 2,580

 

For more than 200 years (since 1800) Middlebury has been graduating lifetime learners—including Alexander Twilight, the first African-American to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in the U.S.. Its stunning campus is nestled between the Adirondack and Green Mountains. Like you might expect from a school in Vermont, skiing is a big part of the college’s culture; it owns and operates its own ski area, and numerous Olympic skiers have graduated from the school. Middlebury, however, is perhaps best known for its study abroad programs and summer language immersion programs. If you want to become fluent in a foreign language, this is your school!

Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.

6. Colby College

Location: Waterville, ME

Acceptance rate: 10%

U.S. News Ranking: 15 

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1380-1520 SAT, 31 and 34 ACT 

Enrollment: 2,003

 

You might think a college founded in 1814 would have its eyes on the past, but Colby is a college that’s looking to the future. Colby is one of just eight carbon-neutral colleges in the U.S., and its student-run organic garden produces a whopping two tons of vegetables annually. Like Williams College, Colby operates on a 4-1-4 academic calendar; their winter session is called the “Jan Plan” and gives students an opportunity to pursue a variety of academic interests. 

 

7. Smith College

Location: Northampton, MA 

Acceptance rate: 32%

U.S. News Ranking: 15

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1330-1520 SAT, 30-33 ACT

Enrollment:  2,531

 

Smith is another one of the original Seven Sister Colleges and today is one of the nation’s largest liberal arts colleges for women. Smith is part of the Five College Consortium with Amherst College; this partnership offers a multitude of benefits, including shared educational and cultural resources/facilities, a joint automated library system, open cross-registration, and intercampus transportation. The college is also one of the few in the country with an open curriculum, allowing students unparalleled flexibility in choosing their courses.

 

8. Wesleyan University

Location: Middletown, CT

Acceptance rate: 16%

U.S. News Ranking: 20 

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1320-1510 SAT, 31-34 ACT 

Enrollment: 3,018

 

Wesleyan is another college with an open curriculum, and it also allows students to design their own majors. The university is unique in that it also offers B.A./M.A. programs, PhD programs, and an engineering major. This is all extremely unusual for a liberal arts college! Wesleyan is also only two hours from NYC, and an even shorter drive from Hartford and New Haven.

 

9. Bates College

Location: Lewiston, ME

Acceptance rate: 12%

U.S. News Ranking: 22

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1270-1480 SAT, 29-33 ACT

Enrollment: 1,820

 

In addition to being one of the finest liberal arts colleges in New England, Bates has a well-earned reputation for diversity and inclusion. Founded by abolitionists, Bates has the distinction of being both the region’s first coeducational college, as well as being the first school to admit African-American students. Today, the school continues that mission—it maintains a 50-50 gender balance and nearly a quarter of its students come from under-represented groups. 

 

10. Mount Holyoke College

Location: South Hadley, MA 

Acceptance rate: 38%

U.S. News Ranking: 34

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1270-1490 SAT, 27-32 ACT 

Enrollment: 2,190

 

Founded in 1837, almost a century before women gained the right to vote, Mount Holyoke has the honor of being the first of the Seven Sisters Colleges. Today, Mount Holyoke continues to attract intelligent and ambitious women to its campus. Just because Mount Holyoke is a “women’s college,” don’t think there is an absence of diversity—all people but cisgender men are welcome to apply, and roughly a quarter of students come from outside the U.S. 

 

Wondering what your odds of admission are at a top 10 liberal arts college in New England? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S., including the top LACs. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Want more tips on improving your academic profile?

We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.


Timothy Peck
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.