The very idea of applying to and attending college can be daunting. This is especially true in one’s freshman year and throughout the admissions process. However, applying to and attending a small college can dramatically cut down on the amount of stress that you encounter, as well as offer a much more personal education throughout your years at the college.
At larger schools, the admissions office and the financial office do not have the time to speak at length and give guidance to each student. The red tape is often unbearable, and much communication is conducted with bulk emails and through websites, rather than on a personal basis. This is not to say that small schools will not have their fair share of red tape and frustrations, but it is often much easier to get ahold of the proper people and to get help, guidance, and academic when it is needed.
In terms of the actual education that you will receive at college, small schools are much better if you prefer individual attention and appreciate when a professor knows your name. At small colleges, class sizes are not overwhelming and it will not become intimidating to ask questions or to approach your professor after class.
Many small colleges will also offer a higher number of professor that are actually teaching courses, rather than graduate students or TA’s as you would find at larger schools. Such personal attention in the classroom will often lead to a better understanding of the subject matter, and will make it easier to ask the professor for recommendations, references, or even help in other courses, later on in your college career.
Socially, smaller colleges are best for people who like a feeling of community and of being able to know everyone that they run into. Certainly, this is a positive aspect of smaller colleges for many people, but if you are looking for many anonymous encounters with fellow students, then a small school is not for you. The sense of community that is fostered within the setting of a smaller college is often comforting, and helps students to feel a sense of security.
This is often helpful for those first few weeks as a freshman, but as your friendships strengthen and your social life expands, the fact that you know nearly everyone on campus, or at least in your major, helps to make the campus your actual home. It also makes it easier to borrow notes and arrange study groups when you are friends or at least acquaintances with nearly everyone in your major.
Small colleges have their ups and downs, but if you feel most comfortable and at home as a member of a close-knit community, want an excellent and personal education, a small college may be a smart consideration as you begin the search for the perfect college.