30 Best Small Colleges for a Classical Education

Updated November 16, 2022

By BVS Staff December 2017 As trends in education come and go, there is one academic tenet that has never managed to disappear entirely — the classical education. Throughout history, millions of students have received an education in the classics, from kings and their courtiers, to Winston Churchill and Mark Zuckerberg. The pursuit of knowledge ...

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By BVS Staff
July 2020

As trends in education come and go, there is one academic tenet that has never managed to disappear entirely — the classical education. Throughout history, millions of students have received an education in the classics, from kings and their courtiers, to Winston Churchill and Mark Zuckerberg. The pursuit of knowledge about what is good, true, and beautiful has never gone out of style.

What is Classical Education?
There is a fundamental difference between training and education, and classical education falls squarely into the latter category. A classical education is rooted in three pillars: the classic languages (Greek and Latin), art and music, and mathematics. An education focusing on these core subjects not only teaches a student how to think, but the value of always seeking the good, the true, and the beautiful. Classical education is timeless, provides knowledge, virtue, and desirable skills, and can enhance the understanding of any other subject. And while classical education is often associated with the Christian tradition (to understand Western Heritage, one must necessarily have a knowledge of the Bible), classical education is not dependent upon any religion.

While there aren't necessarily classical colleges in the way that there are classical schools for grades K-12 (the Great Books schools do come close), there are certain schools where classically educated students, or those students seeking a classical education, would be most happy. To organize our list of the 30 Best Small College for a Classical Education, we began by looking at those institutions which espouse the liberal arts, as liberal arts curricula inherently espouse many of the same principles. Then we narrowed down our list based on factors such as: core curriculum, the number of classically themed majors, the existence and reputation of a Classics department, and classical opportunities available both on and off campus.

Amherst College Amherst, MA
Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
Baylor University Waco, TX
Belhaven University Jackson, MS
Biola University La Mirada, CA
Brandeis University Waltham, MA
Bryn Mawr College Bryn Mawr, PA
Calvin College Grand Rapids, MI
Carleton College Northfield, MN
Colgate University Hamilton, NY

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  • Amherst College

    Amherst, MA

    If the chance to study at one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country isn't enough to entice classically inclined students, then certainly Amherst's strong Classics Department will prove enough to sway them. The department focuses on Greco-Romano history, with classes on Greek and Latin, ancient literature, archaeology, history, mythology, religion, and more. If reading some of the Western Heritage's most beautiful texts isn't enough, students can supplement their education in the Classics by taking part in a study abroad program in Rome or Athens, or an excavation trip to Greece.

  • Bard College

    Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

    No matter what element of classical education a student finds most appealing, Bard College will have something for them. Students have their choice of two interdisciplinary focuses: Classical Studies or Ancient Studies. Each focus includes classes on history, philosophy, rhetoric, art historic, and literature, to name but a few, plus opportunities to attend lectures and gatherings in New York City and beyond.

  • Baylor University

    Waco, TX

    This nationally ranked Christian university in Texas isn't exclusively a liberal arts college, though it can provide a solid classical education for those who seek it. Specifically, students can choose to join the Honors College, from which they can then pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Great Texts of the Western Tradition. This classical major is one of the best of its kind, and many of its graduates go on to teach at some of the top classical schools in the country.

  • Belhaven University

    Jackson, MS

    Though Belhaven University does not offer a Classics major like so many other schools on our list, the university is still an ideal choice for students wishing to pursue or continue a classical education. Belhaven offers a wide variety of established majors, though students can also choose to build their own Classics major through the "Omega College" or pursue a degree in Classical Education Studies, a major within the Education department. Furthermore, as a dedicated Christian institution, each class is taught from the Christian perspective by a committed Christian faculty member.

  • Biola University

    La Mirada, CA

    Biola University is home to the Torrey Honors Institute, through which students can pursue a Christian-centered Great Books education. Students complete a series of required courses, plus a capstone project that can be either a 12,000-word paper or a 100-hour project. By participating in Torrey, students are given a number of unique opportunities that range from reading and discussing the classics at Cambridge, participating in a Scholar's Semester at Oxford, staging a theater production, or taking part in an off-campus study program in Nashville or Uganda.

  • Brandeis University

    Waltham, MA

    Brandeis University is one of the best small colleges for classical education thanks to its strong Department of Classical Studies. Brandeis students choosing to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Classical Studies or a Master's degree in Ancient Greek and Roman Studies have the benefit of studying in a department dedicated to seeking the good, the true, and the beautiful. Another benefit of obtaining a classical education at Brandeis is the number of opportunities to gain fieldwork experience in places like Israel, Petra, Greece, and more.

  • Bryn Mawr College

    Bryn Mawr, PA

    Bryn Mawr's Department of Greek, Latin, & Classical Studies is well known even internationally, and students seeking a classical education come from all over to study with professors who specialize in everything from Roman archaeology to Greek magic. Many students studying in this department read and contribute to the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, the internet's second-oldest scholarly journal with a humanities theme. The college also hosts its Classics Colloquia, a gathering for students and faculty that features distinguished figures speaking about literature, archaeology, and history.

  • Calvin College

    Grand Rapids, MI

    Classically inclined students at Calvin College have the option of joining a top-ranked Classics department. The department is especially strong in its classes relating to the ancient world, including Biblical studies, history, and archaeology. Fans of Latin will also love the Biduum Latinum Calvinianum, Calvin's annual two-day themed conference during which Latin is spoken.

  • Carleton College

    Northfield, MN

    Carleton College offers classically minded students a solid Classics Department where they can immerse themselves in the histories, literatures, and languages of ancient Rome and ancient Greece. Students can choose to major in Classical Studies, Latin, Greek, or Classical Languages, and each major requires both a junior skills portfolio and a senior symposium. Because of the nature of their studies, students are also encouraged to study abroad in either Rome or Athens.

  • Colgate University

    Hamilton, NY

    Colgate University's reputation as a top-ranked liberal arts school is just one of many reasons it's one of our best small colleges for classical education. Colgate is home to a fantastic Classics department, in which students have the option of minoring in classics, or going the whole nine yards and majoring in classics, classical studies, Greek, or Latin. Consistent with a true classical education, the classes explore the Greco-Roman heritage from mythology and language, to history and politics, and every angle in between. Classics students also have the unique opportunity of completing a three-week extended study in either Greece or Italy.

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