These days, one hears much in the media about the cost of pursuing higher education. And while this is an important topic for both students and parents to be sure, another factor that affects both a student’s academic career, and whether they in fact obtain a degree, is where they decide to go to school. It would seem that given the enormous amount of time and money that is expended on pursuing a degree, that making sure that students and schools truly click should be a priority. However, many students allow their choices to be guided by reputation, amenities, geographical location, and cost. In many cases, students end up socially isolated or academically underwhelmed or overwhelmed. In many cases, they drop out and don’t return to complete a degree. Potential students should understand that higher education is offered in distinct physical sizes. The size of the institution can often have an affect on how a student does both academically and socially there.
While some students thrive at a larger school, it can be overwhelming for others. But they may have heard that smaller colleges are:
- more expensive
- offer very limited degrees
- are geographically isolated
and are therefore reluctant to apply. However, not only is this not true about most smaller schools, there are other reasons why these institutions could be right for many students.
1. You’ll Be Instructed By Actual College Professors
Wait! Isn’t that everyone’s college experience? Not at larger schools with graduate programs, where many labs and other classes are taught by graduate students, who have little experience. Professors at smaller colleges are more likely to be tenured, which means that as a new student, your chances of being instructed by a “green” professor is less.
2. Smaller School Instructors Are Actually Focused On…..Instructing
You’ve heard the expression “publish or perish” but what does it actually mean? If it’s at a large institution, it means that instructors are focusing on research and writing to win tenure, instead of at smaller schools, where the emphasis is placed on teaching time to win tenure. As a result, students at smaller schools can count on more carefully prepared classes, plus opportunities for new courses on a regular basis.
3. Smaller Classes
Classes at many large schools are held in huge lecture halls, with hundreds of students. Opportunities for classroom Q&A are limited, as are private appointments with instructors. But student sizes in smaller college classes don’t exceed fifty and are often closer to twenty, allowing for much more comfortable student-teacher interactions.
4. You And Your Work Matter More
At large schools, professors and their aides, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of students, tend to rush through grading tests and papers, often unable to offer much feedback. At smaller schools, professors get to know students and are able to offer feedback and constructive criticism, making it easier for them to improve and reap more benefits over the course period.
5. You Can Have The Curriculum That Fits Your Needs
The curriculum requirements at smaller schools tend to be much more flexible than at big ones, where mandatory, “pre-requisite” courses are often required that have little to do with a major. Some smaller schools even work with students to design specialized majors.
Smaller colleges do lack graduate programs. Many increasingly aren’t offering on-campus events or extracurricular activities. And as enrollment declines at these schools, money is tight. But for students looking for a more community-oriented, immersive academic experience, matriculating at a smaller college may mean the difference between a degree and a failed, negative college experience.