Colleges can be academically challenging without being competitive. They can serve high-achieving student populations without cultivating cut-throat academic atmospheres. In fact, small liberal arts colleges like Shimer are proud to offer collaborative, not competitive, learning environments.
According to research by Forbes, today’s employers look for an “ability to work in a team structure” before every other quality when looking to hire college graduates. Collaboration is the key to success in the world after graduation—giving students from small liberal arts colleges a marked advantage.
Here are three ways colleges like Shimer value collaboration over competition.
1. Keeping Class Sizes Small at Small Liberal Arts Colleges
A recent survey comparing student satisfaction at Ivy League schools and eight of our nation’s liberal arts colleges found that student SAT scores were similarly high between the two college types, yet students found their learning atmospheres to be very different. According to the survey, “60% of students at Ivy colleges said the academic environment at their school was ‘competitive’ to ‘highly competitive.’ On the other hand, 80% of Liberal Arts students said theirs was ‘collaborative’ to ‘highly collaborative.’”
Collaboration is easy in close-knit classrooms. Shimer enrolls fewer than 150 students at any given time, and class sizes are capped at 12 students each. If you were interested in natural sciences courses, for example, you would find no more than 11 student peers and one instructor present at each lesson, all grappling with everything from the theory of evolution to quantum physics together.
With space for everyone at the table, no Shimer student falls through the cracks. In these classes, everyone knows everyone else’s name, and every voice is heard and valued.
2. Building Curricula Around Discussing & Understanding Other Points of View
In small liberal arts classrooms like those at Shimer, the curriculum at hand is always built to be tackled together. That’s part of what makes our classes so exciting!
Discussion and collaboration are at the core of everything we do at Shimer, and high grades are rewarded not to the most competitive students, but to those who excel at engaging with others. Students are encouraged to ask genuine questions, not questions that showcase their own knowledge. Discussions conclude not with a decision on which student is most correct, but with opposing students agreeing that the other has done full justice to his or her position.
If you study here your progress can be measured by your ability to recapitulate someone else’s point of view—a useful skill for a wide range of professions and post-graduate pursuits.
3. Valuing Collaborative Decision-Making at Small Liberal Arts Colleges
Small liberal arts colleges like Shimer also aim to create informed and engaged citizens. Our nation’s collaborative democratic process is mirrored by our college’s own methods of governance.
From your natural sciences studies classroom to the meetings of our college trustees, collaboration and shared accountability are fundamental to the functioning of every Shimer space. We are a political community that represents ideas and beliefs from across the spectrum. Each member of our community, including each and every Shimer student, has one vote in our college’s self-governing “Assembly.”
Early entrants, homeschoolers, veterans, transfers, and a wide assortment of students with diverse talents and backgrounds all come together to make the decisions that impact our campus.
With a collaborative classroom setting, curriculum, and campus at large, you can enjoy academic rigour without divisive competition, and build skills and friendships to last a lifetime.
Are you interested in joining the conversation at one of Chicago’s great small liberal arts colleges?
Visit Shimer to learn more about getting started.