Choosing the Shape of Your College

Monday, May 6, 2013

Choosing the Shape of Your College

High school juniors who are college-bound can expect to be wooed by many, many colleges and universities. For those rare few who know exactly what they want and how to go about getting it, this article will have no other merit than just thoughtful fodder. For the vast majority of high school students in the midst of deciding on whether to choose a small college or large university, this article may help shed some light on the often neglected option: the small college.
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Student admissions can be set at a higher standard at a small college; however admission counselors at smaller colleges are looking for unique personalities and not just the test scores. Small colleges often allow students whose test scores may not be top-notch, but whose personalities are unique. They look for the student who they think would thrive within the small campus environment. Small colleges can be a fantastic place for a student who would feel overwhelmed by a larger campus. This is something an admission counselor can recognize in most students whom they interview.

Teaching Strategies

For students who appreciate a more personal experience with others, and cherish long discussions with instructors, a small college is perfect. Small colleges not only offer smaller number of students, they also offer professors who actually teach the class instead of an assistant! In a smaller learning environment, chances are you will not experience the anxiety of a professor who is involved in research; you will find professors who are thoughtful and responsive to you and your questions. Also, expect to see small-college faculty at student events outside of the classroom.

Professors at small colleges often use their own creative and innovative pedagogies. For those students who are flexible about how learning and teaching can be reciprocal by nature, a small college may be perfect. A professor at a small college who is teaching a group of 12 to 14 students, notices students who are struggling or not attending the class. A student at a large university is virtually invisible in a giant lecture hall that seats thousands of students. 


“Getting lost in a crowd,” is a reality on large campuses. Many students may become frustrated and worried about finding their way around the jumble of buildings that typically make up the physical grounds of a large university. Since a small college is usually defined as one in which there are approximately 2,500 students, the campus area will be proportionate to that number. A small physical environment, one in which a student can easily navigate from building to a building, can create a friendly and calming effect, this may lead to an introverted student becoming more participatory.


At a small college, there is a greater chance that a student can individualize his or her major. Since faculty and staff members know each other, there is open communication between all parties. This candid openness is ideal for partnerships and collaborative efforts between the student and many different departments.

Examine the Pros and Cons

It’s best to keep in mind that small colleges are not for everyone. A student should review all his options. Here is a list of pros and cons for a student struggling with the question of whether to attend a small college or a large university. Students should try to come up with their own lists as each will look for entirely different components.

Small College Pros

Personal, unique admission process
Professors usually involved with students on campus
Everyone knows everyone
Navigation is easier
Faculty is sensitive to the needs of each student
Generally, a unique, personalized teaching methodology with the added benefit of designing your major

Small College Cons

Not as many majors from which to choose
Research facilities cannot provide as many resources 
Fewer scholarship opportunities
Meal plans are not as fancy
Less social activities and far fewer clubs

About the author-

Daniel Phillips is a professional blogger. He provides news and information for art and design colleges and institutions.

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