When are the most appropriate times to receive a liberal arts and sciences education? The liberal arts and sciences model is meant to achieve aims that include general cognitive abilities, moral and social growth, and interdisciplinary understanding. This paper considers the case for studying the liberal arts and sciences in secondary school in comparison with studying them in college/university. Success in fostering cognitive skills such as critical thinking is used as a basis for comparison of these two settings. A review of empirical research suggests that general cognitive gains are not unique to the liberal arts and sciences nor to tertiary education, but that social and moral education may constitute a more unique advantage of the liberal arts. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications for the justification of the liberal arts and sciences in China.