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ColumnsDestination USA: Liberal arts a unique feature of higher education

Destination USA: Liberal arts a unique feature of higher education

Published: 12th Dec 2021 12:00 am

Many students and parents considering undergraduate (bachelor’s degree) programs in the United States enquire commonly about the liberal arts aspect of US colleges and universities. Today we discuss this topic in our special topic series on US higher education.

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The liberal arts philosophy is a unique feature of the US higher education system and offers a well-rounded academic education that develops the student’s verbal, written and reasoning skills. Students at a liberal arts college, or at a university with a strong liberal arts program, begin their undergraduate studies by taking classes in a wide variety of courses in humanities, languages, and the social and physical sciences. They then choose a subject in which to specialize and take about 25 to 50 per cent of their classes in the major area. This US liberal arts model allows students to explore a variety of courses from different disciplines, programs and faculties before declaring a major field of study, generally around the third year of their program.

The study of liberal arts and humanities prepares students to develop general knowledge and reasoning ability rather than specific skills offering a well-rounded education.

Some liberal arts colleges offer a smaller and more intimate setting and some students leaving home for the first time, especially traveling to another country, do much better in such an environment. These colleges are well equipped with the latest technology and facilities. Students can also easily get to know their professors and they will get to know the student better. There is always the option of transferring to a larger university at a later time.

A liberal arts education may also help students get better prepared for the ever-changing job market. The liberal arts tradition equips students with critical thinking and leadership skills, reasoning, multi-tasking, and excellent communication skills (both written & oral) that will be essential for obtaining employment in a new field. Emphasis on research and analysis across multiple fields of study in a liberal arts program also provides a strong foundation to students to continue their graduate level (master’s/Ph.D. programs) studies.

Overall, a liberal arts education is a unique feature of U.S. higher education preparing students for the next steps in their careers and education.

Monika Setia (Regional Officer and EducationUSA Adviser at the United States-India Educational Foundation based at the US Consulate General Hyderabad. Please visit for more information)


Q. As an international student, am I eligible for distance education courses at US universities? How should I find programs of distance learning in the United States? –Johnson
A. Online learning, also known as distance education, is a great way to experience the US educational system. International students are generally eligible for distance education courses offered by US universities.

US institutions offer a variety of full-time degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels as well as individual courses. To receive credit from a U.S. institution for distance learning, the student usually pays a tuition fee. In addition to full-time degree programs or individual courses, some U.S. institutions of higher education offer part-time blended programs that may be partially online and require occasional on-campus attendance, called “low-residency programs.”

To find accredited online distance learning programs, please search the following website of the Distance Education andTraining Council: The types of programs/certifications offered and application process may be found on individual university websites.

There are options now also available for online learning such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that are usually tuition-free, but in most cases do not offer credit. A few prominent MOOC providers include Coursera, Edx, and Udacity. You may check the website of each provider to understand the process of enrollment. The U.S. Department of State also facilitates a free in-person MOOC Camp program in many countries. You may visit for further details.

Q. I am starting my master’s program in the United States in Spring 2022. Can I open a bank account there and if so, how? — Kavita Reddy
A. You may open a bank account in the United States on an F1 student visa after entering the country. Look for a bank with branch near your residence or university campus. A ‘checking account’ is the most useful bank account as it allows you to write checks (cheques) in addition to providing a debit card.

The bank will need the following information from you to open the account: name and date of birth, street address, photograph, and passport number with country of issuance. Some banks may also ask for your mother’s maiden name. You will be required to present the following documents to open the bank account: Your passport, I-94 card, I-20 form, and proof of local mailing address (such as a signed lease). The bank may also ask for a minimum deposit for your bank account, either in the form of cash or a cheque. During the orientation week, US universities may also help international students in setting up back accounts, so do check with the office of international student services at your institution to know about any assistance they may be able to offer.

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