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Five Big Reasons to Choose a Small University

While large institutions have a lot going for them, small colleges and universities have plenty to offer as well. Let’s count down five reasons why bigger does not necessarily mean better when it comes to higher education.

Sep 6, 2023
  • Student Tips
Five Big Reasons to Choose a Small University

While large institutions have a lot going for them, small colleges and universities have plenty to offer as well. Let’s count down five reasons why bigger does not necessarily mean better when it comes to higher education.

1. You Won’t Get Lost in the Crowd

university campus with gothic buildings

Imagine heading to class alongside a couple million of your closest friends. That’s the reality for students at some of the world’s largest universities. This can be overwhelming -- particularly when you’re getting acclimated to a new environment and way of life.

From smaller classroom environments to a more intimate campus feel, many students at smaller institutions appreciate the opportunity to stand out from the crowd -- as opposed to getting lost in it. Not to mention that if you’ve ever been alone in a new, strange place, you’re likely familiar with how good it feels to see a face you know.

But the concept of not “getting lost in the crowd” also has literal applications: Smaller campuses are often more walkable, simpler to navigate and easier to get around than their larger counterparts.

2. It’s Easier to Connect With Professors

The teacher in the classroom on greenboard background.

The supersized classes, massive enrollments, and graduate-level teaching assistants at some larger universities mean that undergraduates and professors rarely interact. In choosing a smaller school where the focus is entirely on educating undergraduates, you gain very different viewpoint -- and more interactive experience -- than the one found in the back row of a crowded lecture hall.

In fact, there are many benefits to selecting a college where classes are taught entirely by professors -- from better teaching to more thorough evaluations to face-to-face networking opportunities. Along with this access comes the chance to make an impression -- an invaluable advantage when it comes time to ask for recommendations for an internship, graduate school or a job.

3. The Alumni Community is Active

Pretty, young business woman giving a presentation in a conference/meeting setting (shallow DOF; color toned image)

What alumni networks at small colleges may lack in size they make up in strength. In fact, most graduates head out into the world with strong bonds capable of lasting a lifetime thanks to the remarkable strength of the alumni networks cultivated by the small college experience.

The connections made between students on smaller campuses don’t end on graduation day. When it comes time to start planning for graduate school or your career, you’ll be grateful to look toward this community for assistance along the way.

Conversely, when you join the rank of alumni, you’ll be well-positioned to reach out to the next generation of grads to return the favor.

4. You’ll Be Viewed as an Individual

College students

Colleges and universities which enroll smaller number of students are often less bureaucratic than larger schools where long lines, closed classes, and stiff competition for everything from parking to housing are par for the course. If you’re looking for an easier, more manageable system, a smaller setting may be more likely to deliver.

You’ll also find less red tape when it comes to the curriculum. Want to customize your own major or avoid arbitrary course requirements which have nothing to do with your planned path? A smaller college may offer these benefits and more. From working with a professor on an independent study project with a syllabi aimed at your specific interests to an academic advisor who understands you and your goals, there are many opportunities to distinguish yourself.

5. You Can Make a Meaningful Contribution

Portrait of perfect student at the university

The challenges of navigating a large campus aren’t just physical. It can also be difficult for students to find their places. At a small college, you’re likely to find a strong sense of community which might be missing from a larger setting.

Additionally, many students on smaller campuses find it easier to jump right into to clubs, sports and other extracurriculars, while fewer people also means taking on leadership roles while participating in these activities is more feasible. Think of it this way: giving back doesn’t have to wait until you’ve graduated. On smaller campuses, students can immediately begin making vital contributions.

If you’ve ever watched an old episode of the 80s television show Cheers, than you’re likely familiar the lyrics to its catchy theme song, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” Many students seek out small colleges for exactly this reason. Not only do they deliver premier learning opportunities, but also a warm, welcoming setting in which to learn.

Joanna Hughes

Author

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.