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5 Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Ohio

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It’s a misconception that the best academic institutions are located only on the East and West Coasts. Some of the top colleges in the country call Ohio their home. Don’t believe us? We’ve rounded up a list of the best liberal arts colleges right in the Buckeye State. Keep reading to find out what sets them apart.


How are Liberal Arts Colleges Different?


The most noticeable difference between LACs and research universities is that liberal arts colleges feature much smaller enrollments. The majority of LACs have well under 3,000 students, and the average class size is usually around 15-20 people. This allows students to have a more intimate academic and social experience.


Inside the classroom, professors are more focused on teaching, rather than research. Professors teach their own classes and hold regular office hours where students can ask questions and get guidance on course content. Most liberal arts colleges don’t have graduate schools either, allowing profs to focus on undergraduate students. 


LACs also typically focus on helping students develop a range of core skills that will benefit them in their careers, as well as their lives in general. The goal is to nurture engaged citizens, strong critical thinkers, and innovative contributors to society. To that end, most schools have broad general education requirements, encouraging students to gain knowledge and skills across many disciplines. On the flip side, some schools have an open curriculum, meaning that there are no gen-ed requirements. This is also meant to encourage students to take a wide variety of classes.


For more about what sets LACs apart, read our post What is a Liberal Arts College, and How Are They Different?


Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Ohio


1. Denison University

Location: Granville

Acceptance rate: 29%

U.S. News Ranking: 43

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1200-1410 SAT, 27-31 ACT

Enrollment: 2,300


Founded in 1831, Denison College is steeped in tradition. The college offers more than 50 majors, including Studio Art (both B.A. and B.F.A.), Music with four different emphases, and Queer Studies. 


One unique offering is the Summer Scholars program, in which students can pursue intellectual passions, and grapple and experiment with questions and ideas. Under the guidance and supervision of a faculty member, 120 students propose projects across different fields and receive a stipend to pursue research for up to 10 weeks. 


2. College of Wooster

Location: Wooster

Acceptance rate: 54%

U.S. News Ranking: 66 

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1230-1380 SAT, 24-30 ACT

Enrollment: 2,000


Research is the cornerstone of your education at the College of Wooster. Beginning with a First-Year Seminar, in which you’ll build writing and critical thinking skills, your four years will culminate in an Independent Study project. During your time at Wooster, you’ll also choose courses in three areas: arts and humanities, history and social sciences, and mathematical and natural sciences. You’ll work closely with faculty, who will serve as your mentors.

3. Kenyon College

Location: Gambier

Acceptance rate: 34%

U.S. News Ranking: 27

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1270-1460 SAT, 29-33 ACT

Enrollment: 1,730


The oldest private college in Ohio is situated in scenic Gambier and has a “quirky,” intellectual student body. The flexible curriculum allows students to choose from around 50 majors or design their own, as well as add interdisciplinary concentrations. Any curriculum you choose emphasizes writing and discussion.


There’s a wide range of extracurricular activities available, too, whether you’re interested in joining a Division III sports team or quiz bowl club. It’s also the birthplace of the renowned Kenyon Review, a literary magazine.


4. Oberlin College

Location: Oberlin

Acceptance rate: 36%

U.S. News Ranking: 33

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1340-1530 SAT, 31-34 ACT

Enrollment: 2,785


The first coeducational institution of higher learning and one of the earliest colleges to admit African-American students in the United States, Oberlin has a rich history and continues to be known for its prestigious academic programs and student activism. A large percentage of students volunteer regularly.


Oberlin is equally renowned for its College of Arts and Science and Conservatory of Music. Through the Experimental College, students have the opportunity to teach nontraditional courses. The school offers numerous exceptional programs, including a Creative Writing major and many interdisciplinary programs — not to mention the famous conservatory. Even if you’re not a musician yourself, you can enjoy the hundreds of annual concerts performed annually. The Allen Memorial Art Museum is one of the top college art museums in the country. Through the Art Rental Program, students are able to rent two original works of art per semester for $5 apiece.


5. Ohio Wesleyan

Location: Delaware

Acceptance rate: 69%

U.S. News Ranking: 92

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1080-1320 SAT, 22-28 ACT

Enrollment: 1,497


Founded by Methodist leaders as a nonsectarian school of higher learning, OWU prides itself on its inclusivity and liberal values; in fact, the school was one of the earliest to admit students regardless of race or religion. Today, the institution remains culturally diverse.


OWU offers more than 90 majors, and nearly a third of students double-major. Exceptional students may participate in the Honors Program, pursuing research with faculty mentors, independent studies, and more. Through “Theory to Practice” opportunities, students can create project applications to conduct research. There is also an abundance of study abroad opportunities.


Hoping to attend a liberal arts college in Ohio or somewhere else? We can help you meet your goals. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account to access tools including a school list builder and chancing engine to estimate your real chances of acceptance, along with guidance to up your odds of success.

Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.