Finding the right college for you can be a straightforward
and low-stress experience if you begin by looking at a key
issue: size. You've probably already heard lots of conflicting
theories about the pros and cons of big versus small and urban
versus rural. Large schools are usually the ones that get
all the press and hype with their largely funded sports programs
and research hospitals, but let's look past the hype to investigate
the benefits of a small-school education. For most high school
students, going to college is an opportunity to be in a completely
new situation with endless academic and social opportunities.
The idea is to jump into a new world--a world that has no
limitations. It makes sense that many of you will therefore
decide that bigger is better. If your first choice school
offers you 19 housing options, 10 different dining halls,
12 libraries and 62 majors to choose from, it's understandable
that you will feel compelled to apply. Isn't that what you've
been wanting all these years? Endless opportunity…
Kind of Opportunity Do I Want?
it's true that larger institutions, meaning research universities
with graduate programs and an undergraduate student body of
more than 8,000 students, might offer you Starbucks coffee
24 hours a day, the chance to live in a spacious suite with
your three best friends, and televised sports events, it will
also have some serious drawbacks you should carefully consider.
institutions, along with all the libraries and dining halls,
typically have lots of graduate students. This often means
that the faculty will be heavily involved with graduate thesis
projects, dissertation advising, in addition to their own
research. All this can add up to your professors having less
time to give their undergrad students attention. Many find
that developing strong relationships with professors is what
a great college experience is all about. If your professors
don't have the time to meet with you, or don't even know your
name, the school is probably too big for a quality undergraduate
large universities often have large classes. This can mean
that your freshman English class might have as many as 150
students. There may also be lecture classes with as many as
200-300 students. Many students enjoy this environment, however,
if you're the kind of student who needs to be in a small class
or you'd be afraid to raise your hand and say, "I don't understand
this week's assignment" or even, "I have a question about,"
or "strong feelings about," or "a thought about this week's
assignment," you need to think carefully about attending a
large institution. Many undergraduates have a great college
experience attend schools where they get to know their professors
well, and this usually happens in classes that are small enough
so that no student goes unnoticed.
colleges, schools with 2,500 students or fewer, are usually
teaching institutions with few or no graduate students. These
are colleges dedicated to providing undergraduates with a
strong sense of community and a first-rate academic experience.
Colleges that have classes with fewer than 15 students are
typically better able to meet students' individual academic
needs. These schools often have strong advising systems where
every student is matched with an advisor who can take the
time to get to know you. This kind of school can protect you
from being one of those students who slips through the cracks.
It's the kind of school where you can feel known, important,
and excited about what you're studying.
important to remember that it's not just endless opportunities
you're wanting, but more importantly, opportunities that meet
your specific interest and needs. A large school that has
62 majors will not necessarily allow you to co-author research
papers with professors or design your own interdisciplinary
major or write a play for your senior thesis. You need to
spend some time thinking about the kinds of opportunities
you'd most like to have, and seek out schools that can meet
interested in a school that is either bigger or smaller than
you're comfortable with, if at all possible, make a plan to
visit. During your visit, there are several things you can
do that will help you decide if the school is the right size
a class--this will give you important information about
the way teachers and students interact, the number of graduate
students in undergraduate classes, and the enthusiasm or
general disinterest of the students.
an overnight visit--if you're visiting a small school, the
geographic, ethnic, and academic diversity of the student
body might surprise you.
is a great place to find out whether or not the interviewer
graduated from that school, and if so, what his or her experience
was like. Ask lots of questions.
most people are successful if they think small for undergrad
and big for grad. This is a great formula to follow. It will
give you the consistent attention and quality opportunity
you need as an undergrad so that you can go onto that big
research university of your choice and make your mark. However,
if you are set on attending a large university, just make
sure you know what you are up against, but go for it and have
fun! Good luck!