When you’re applying to college, one of the first things you’ll see as a selling point among many is that they’re small. This can leave you with more questions however. What does small mean exactly? Are they understaffed with teachers? Is the campus hard to find on a map?
The short answer is, a small college has approximately 5,000 students or less, and a student to professor ratio of 10:1 – with many that have an even lower ratio than that. Large colleges can have classes of 100-300 strong. Some people thrive in that kind of environment, others do not.
If you’re applying to a smaller college, but aren’t sure if “small” is a selling point for you, consider the following seven benefits of smaller colleges.
1. Smaller Classes
Depending on how you like to learn, a smaller college may be perfect for you. If you’re someone who needs a hands-on approach, needs to ask questions, or participate in a discussion then a small college will provide you with the right environment. A large university can – more or less – swallow you up.
Classrooms in large colleges can be filled with hundreds of students, making discussion virtually impossible – in fact, this is why many larger schools will have two back-to-back classes featuring lecture and then discussion.
Smaller colleges though invite a more intimate learning environment. You can ask questions and if it goes beyond the allotted class time, professors typically have more time for office hours to address more questions.
Office hours are another big reason why smaller colleges are beneficial, the office hours for your professors at larger universities can easily house 20 to 50 people all anxious to get their questions answered.
2. Professors are Eager to Teach
It’s one thing to be eager to learn, and another to be eager to teach. Something you need to understand is the inner bureaucracy of universities. In large research schools for instance, professors looking to be tenured need to quantify their value. This usually comes in the form of research papers and case studies. This is their primary agenda and teaching is secondary.
Meanwhile, at a small college, rapport with students is often the main (if not the only) criteria for advancement. This means that they’re teaching for you; if the class is a good experience, then both of you benefit.
3. Faster Improvement
In a large college, professors may be grading as many as 400+ papers. That’s a sizable amount of reading. As a result, your work will often be graded and returned with the bare minimum of feedback. Moreover, it is more likely to be graded by an aide as opposed to the professor. This can make it challenging if you receive a low grade or a grade wildly different from the last paper you submitted. It adds stress and time to figuring out what was wrong with it and how you can improve. Most of the time, professors don’t even remember your paper and need you to bring it so they can look over it a “second” time.
In small colleges however, the professor is grading your work and providing feedback. Because so much of the class’ (and their) success is dependent on you, they’re going to cater to your learning style, tell you what needs to be fixed, and how you can improve.
4. More Career Prospects
It’s not simply a matter of office hours, but you actually build a personal relationship with your professors. Why is that important? It goes well beyond your education and into the job world. By building a personal relationship with your professor, they get to know your work ethic and when you graduate and start looking for a job, they can be the ideal reference.
Never underestimate the power of a reference. Even if your interview is mediocre, a reference can carry you to a follow-up interview or even get you the job. Plus, although it’s not common, some professors may have businesses on the side and after you graduate may turn to you if they have an open position.
5. Curriculum Flexibility
An unfounded fear of some students attending a small college is that, due to the limited amount of professors, there will be a class they absolutely need and no professor to teach it. Small colleges actually use their size to their advantage in this regard however.
Being a smaller college means they need to take into account that there will be people with other interests. People who may want a major or a minor in something the university does not provide. As a result, if you can imagine it, most small universities enable you to pursue it. You can substitute classes where you see fit or attend a community college for a specific class concurrently.
Moreover, if you find you’re not alone in wanting a specific element incorporated into your college, you can be part of the pioneer the change for future students to come!
6. Less Stress for Enrollment
Whether you’ve attended a large university in the past or had a sibling that did, then you’re probably keenly familiar with the midnight or 5:00AM enrollment periods. At larger colleges, they open up enrollment for classes at inconvenient times (to say the least), and often with younger students being put on the backburner.
At small colleges however, you don’t need to worry about a class filling up, or waking up at the crack of dawn to make sure you’ve secured a spot in your classes.
This helps especially with students who want to pursue athletics as well. In larger colleges, the classes they need could fill up, leaving them to choose classes at awful times or waiting until the following semester. At small colleges however, you can enroll in the time that’s convenient for the rest of your schedule.
7. Feel like you Matter
Some argue that it’s part of the college experience to be anonymous; to be faceless in a crowd; blend in and learn some humility. Again, some people may thrive in that environment, but smaller colleges tend to nurture the other type of student. The one who feels like they’re making a difference each day they show up to class; the one who is actively learning instead of passively participating; the one who wants to excel.
Again, small colleges aren’t for everyone, but for those looking for an environment (listed above), they’re definitely the right choice for you.
Guest post by:
Dale is the Vice President for Enrollment and Marketing at Warner Pacific and has over 25 years’ experience in promoting and advancing private colleges. He is passionate about helping students see the opportunities that college can provide and identifying what strengths and insight they each bring to enrich the campus community. Dale loves to travel and has had the opportunity to visit 26 countries.