Big Schools vs. Small Schools

Many different aspects of a school factor into the big college decision.  One thing students often have their heart set on is either attending a big school or a small school.  Everybody has their reasons for both, but sometimes the idea sounds better than the reality.  Both can be great though!  And ultimately, you need to recognize the reality of the atmospheres each of these differently sized schools entails and determine which you would really be happiest living in.

The Big School: This can sound very exciting, moving to a campus with thousands of other students, being a part of something that is huge and well-known.  It is no surprise so many students strive to join in on the big school craze.  And truthfully, living amongst such crowded buzz every day can definitely be fun.  Taking a walk through campus is never quiet and never boring.  Football Saturdays (if this school happens to have a team) are absolutely electrifying and the streets are always flooding with people on a weekend night.  Additionally, a bigger school automatically guarantees more new people to meet.  Dorm floors will be longer, classes will be bigger, and clubs will exist in much greater amounts.  You will pass by new people every day and whether you interact with them or not, it can just give you a more “big city” feeling – which of course is only good if you are looking for that kind of vibe. 

The downfall of a big school is that although you’ll be among a lot more people, it will also be easier for you to get lost in the crowd.  If you’re the shy or nervous type, especially when it comes to moving out on your own for the first time, the endless sea of students may make it a bit more intimidating for you to get comfortably acclimated.  The university will not be able to coddle you as much as a small school will and advisors and professors may not always be able to give you as much personal attention.  This isn’t to say they won’t be there to help you, but it will usually take longer to develop a personal relationship with them.  College is all about growing up though, and a big school will certainly help you develop that independence quickly.

The Small School: As opposed to the “big city” feel of a large school, a small school can often feel like a small town.  On many levels, this can be great for your college experience.  Specifically beginning at orientation, you will find yourself connecting with a lot of students very quickly and closely.  Sort of like a summer camp, this small community allows you to bond faster on your close-knit dorm floors and adapt to your more personalized classroom environments with more confidence.  A small school is easier to get around and simpler to understand.  The fact that it’s smaller and probably lesser-known will give you a sense of pride different from that of bigger schools due to its feeling of exclusivity to only you and your fellow peers. 

But on the other hand, remember that this tiny campus means there will be less to discover each year.  As a matter of fact, you may uncover everything the campus has to offer during your freshman year.  You will also probably have met the majority of your classmates during your first year and may get tired of running into the same people over and over again.  Excitement can easily be lost after you’ve seen it all, but perhaps you’re the kind of person who enjoys having it all figured out so fast.  If you truly love everything about that tiny community and really like the people you’ve surrounded yourself with, then a small school will definitely fit you well.  But if you get bored easily and crave more opportunities, a small school may leave you feeling stifled and wishing you had gone after something more.

Regardless of the size, if you are happy with the school you picked, then you will be proud of it.  That colorful sense of community is universal on any college campus, no matter what size.  Plus, there are always exceptions to the stereotypes of what the student body number means in relation to your experience.  Freshman orientation at a big school may help you connect with people very well and you won’t always be “just a number” in a lecture hall.  Small schools may have some hidden gems that wait for you after freshman year and there may be a plethora of organizations you can get involved in to break away from the usual crowd you see on a daily basis.  All factors must be weighed out equally, so there are no be-all, end-all rules – just whatever makes you personally happy.