Bookish and newly single Jesse Fisher (Josh Radnor) is a university admissions counselor in his mid-thirties living in New York City who returns to his Ohio alma mater for a retirement dinner honoring Peter Hoburg (Richard Jenkins), his favorite English professor.
A chance meeting on campus with 19-year-old Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen) - a precocious undergrad who loves classical music, improv and Twilight - awakens in Jesse long-dormant feelings of possibility and connection. The pair strikes up a long-distance epistolary romance, prompting Jesse to return to campus for another visit.
Although Zibby appears beyond her years, the age-difference between the budding paramours weights heavily on Jesse, who is torn between moving forward in life, and holding on to the indelible memories of his own university years.
Featuring a rich assortment of peripheral characters, including a mystically upbeat party animal (Zac Efron), a brooding young depressive (John Magaro), and a feisty Romantics professor (Allison Janney), LIBERAL ARTS explores the emotional tug-of-war between youth and adulthood, as played out on a leafy Midwest campus that is both Eden-like and tumultuous - and entirely unforgettable.