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Admissions Counselor on the Mission of Liberal Arts


Mark Montgomery, expert educational consultant, reads the missions statement of Bowdoin College to demonstrate the ethos behind liberal arts education. Students looking for the right college should consider whether they’re after professional training or something with more breadth.


I’m here on the campus of Bowdoin College, a small liberal arts college in Brunswick, Maine, and I just finished walking through the music building, and before that I was in the science building, and then I went to the theater building over here, and then there’s a humanities building over here. All within very close proximity. And that made me start thinking about what is a liberal arts education, and then I looked at what the mission of Bowdoin is, and there is what they call the Offer of Bowdoin College. It was written over 100 years ago, and I think it’s a really great explanation of what a liberal arts education is all about. The Offer was written in 1906 and it says this:

To be at home in all lands and all ages; to count Nature a familiar acquaintance,
and Art an intimate friend; to carry the keys of the world’s library in your pocket,
and feel its resources behind you in whatever task you undertake; to make hosts of friends…who are to be leaders in all walks of life; to lose yourself in generous enthusiasms and cooperate with others for common ends –this is the offer of the college for the best four years of your life.

A liberal arts education is not at all a vocational preparation. Rather, it’s a way for a young person to expand his or her mind, gain knowledge, gain skills, that will carry you throughout all of your life, not only in your profession, but also in the other activities that we do in our lives to contribute to society. Also in the ways that we interact with our fellow human beings. This is really a liberal arts education. It’s not just about getting a job. It’s about training for life, for intellectual pursuits, spiritual pursuits, and human pursuits. So a liberal arts education really is different from those kinds of technical schools where you’re learning to prepare for a particular job. In a liberal arts college, the whole philosophy is different. You’re preparing yourself for life.


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