You’ve probably heard a lot about big colleges and universities, or maybe you’ve seen their football teams play during competitions such as the Rose Bowl. These schools are well known throughout the country and the world as mega-universities. While these schools have excellent programs and are extremely popular, when you begin the college search and application process, don’t overlook the smaller colleges and universities that might be able to meet your needs just as well—or even better—than their larger counterparts.
It’s Not All about Sports
While being part of a throng of enthusiastic, face-painted fans has its benefits and appeal, remember that student involvement and school pride aren’t limited to sprawling Big Ten campuses. Many smaller schools offer not only boundless opportunities to get involved, but also the safety, individualized attention, and cost savings that many students need in order to succeed within their chosen field.
Other Advantages of Small Schools
- Small class sizes. Often at large universities, especially in your first year as a freshman, classes in lecture halls are common. Sometimes 200–300 students can be in a class at one time. At smaller schools, this is not as common as class size is much smaller, allowing for more student-professor interaction. You will be more than “just a number” at a smaller school—you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get to know both your instructors and your classmates.
- Individually-designed majors. Because small colleges don’t often have the vast array of majors to choose from, small colleges—such as Goshen College and Oberlin College—often allow their students to create their own major. Bear in mind that there will still be general prerequisites you will have to complete, but you will be able to work with your advisor in choosing additional classes that interest you.
- Strong sense of community While small schools don’t always have massive athletic programs or huge social events, there are still opportunities available. Unique extracurricular activities abound for students with interests as diverse as politics, art, outdoor recreation, music, and academic competition. If you do well in small group environments, this is a major plus for you.
- Professors, not graduate students, teach classes. As a student, you will want to be taught by the best and brightest your university has to offer. At a small college it’s very common for PhD-holding professors to lead classes—an advantage that’s even sweeter when coupled with the fact that small-institution professors often know students’ names and personalities.