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What Does Getting A Private Liberal Arts Conservatory Education Mean?

A pair of feet en pointe in pointe shoes against a white background.

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Are you starting your college search? Not sure where to start?

My name is Rosalie Anthony and I attend Point Park University, earning my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance with a concentration in Ballet and a minor in Modern Languages- French.

There are so many different kinds of schools that can offer you a catered experience based on what field you are looking to enter. A way you can find where you belong is by taking Niche’s College Quiz.

Even if you do not know what you are looking for, I hope by sharing my experience you can make a more informed decision on where to attend.

Private School vs Public School

Something important to consider is if the college is private or public. The biggest difference between private and public colleges is that private colleges rely heavily on endowments and tuition and public colleges are government-funded, i.e. local, state, and federal.

This does not mean you cannot get any government funds for the private school by filling out the FAFSA. This is more of a generalization as to how the schools operate. 

Typically, a private university is more lenient when it comes to awarding aid on a first-come-first-serve process rather than if a student is in-state or out-of-state. This is dependent on the university and what quotas they are trying to meet.

Furthermore, just because you are an in-state student does not mean an out-of-state school will be more expensive. On Niche, you can view a college’s net price versus the average aid an institution gives and how many students are currently being offered financial aid. 

Since endowments play a part in what kind of aid is available, those funds can be an indicator of the school’s overall health and stability. The National Science Foundation compiles and publishes data on funding of higher educational institutions as well. 

Another point I want to stress is that not all private schools are small and not all public schools are big. By looking at the acceptance, yield, retention, and graduation rates, all of these percentages can help you gain an understanding about how many students are on campus and/or in your program. 

When it comes to course and/or major offerings, private schools commonly have less variety than public schools. If you know exactly what you want to do or the private school you are looking at specializes in the particular subject, then that may not affect your experience overall.

Moreover, this could lead to having smaller class sizes and getting more opportunities to work with professors one-on-one or on small independent research projects that align with your interests. However, they may not have the funds or resources to be able to match a public school’s research efforts.

Something else to look at is the availability of extracurricular activities. These can serve as valuable learning opportunities, so be sure to research any existing organizations that interest you. 

Liberal Arts Education

According to Princeton Universitys definition of a liberal arts education, it “offers an expansive intellectual grounding in all kinds of humanistic inquiry.”

In other words, it is any course theme that analyzes, aims to express, or invent ideas that improve the human condition. Some examples of this include:

  • History
  • Literature
  • Writing
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Creative/Performing Arts
  • Biology or Life Science
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Mathematics
  • Astronomy
  • Archeology
  • Religion
  • Linguistics
  • Ethics
  • Political Science
  • Philosophy of Law 
The Ultimate College Application Timeline

A strong, fundamental focus of going to a school that provides a liberal arts education is the goal to help with developing skills, or as some like to call them, soft skills, that can help you in experiences and/or challenges in life. A couple of examples are:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Communication
  • Creative Problem Solving
  • Self-Expression
  • Innovative Research
  • Lifelong Learning

There is a difference to note between a liberal arts college and liberal arts university. A big, public school may have a liberal arts college within their larger cohort of colleges that make up the school as a whole.

Going to a specific liberal arts university means that even if there are different categories of schools within the university, they are all still required to take the core curriculum classes that align with the liberal arts education and are treated with the same fundamental focus as mentioned above. 

When it comes to admissions to the college or university, there may not be any additional requirement or information necessary to be provided. A particular program may want you to submit alternative material. 

The culture at a private liberal arts school can be described as tight-knit, inclusive, and individualistic. Benefits of receiving a liberal arts education, including the development of the soft skills listed above, are further exploration of social responsibility, learning how you can positively impact your environment, and effectively implementing strategies that affect the community.  

Conservatory 

Attending a conservatory means getting an education that has a focused area or expertise level of study in the performing arts.

At my school, the conservatory includes the dance, theatre arts, and cinema arts departments. Compared to a “normal” college experience, my entire schedule includes classes that help me towards a professional field in the arts, or more specifically, dance.

I do take core curriculum courses but they distinctly take less of a priority in my educational experience. Even though my core classes have enriched my education and helped develop my soft skills, I mainly focus on my performance in my conservatory classes. 

I chose to attend Point Park and pursue a dance degree for a couple of reasons including: 

  1. Needing more time to hone my craft
  2. Learning a variety of genres of dance  
  3. Working towards post-undergraduate goals
  4. Making professional connections in my field
  5. Loving learning

My favorite thing about attending Point Park is the diversity and inclusion movements on campus. We have an office dedicated to ensuring the community is a safe place, and I feel my school is a community of people who make acceptance a priority.

The clubs on campus cater to almost everyone’s interests, and there are always events happening on campus. Furthermore, there is an emphasis on collaboration and participation. I believe my school aims to foster individuality and community participation.

 

If you are interested in majoring in a private liberal arts education, I encourage you to focus on finding out what a typical day is like for a student in the program you are interested in and hear about their experience.

Look at the alumni and what positions they hold in their field. Even if you cannot find a student to reach out to, ask an admissions many questions. They could even find a student for you to talk to if you ask. 

This type of program is not for everyone, which is completely valid as well. I hope sharing my experience helps you gain insight and further information about if this could be the right fit for you.

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Author: Rosalie Anthony

Rosalie is currently attending Point Park University earning her Dance- B.F.A degree with a minor in French. Previously, she attended and graduated from the Alabama School of Fine Arts in dance. She is passionate about learning, teaching and mentoring. In her spare time, she enjoys working out, chatting with friends, and discovering new places to go in Pittsburgh.