Life at a small private college is not the "college experience" that you see in the movies. In the movies, college looks like one big party where students don't have to study more than an hour and turn in papers that they never took time to actually write. They spend their weekends at parties or traveling. They spend their nights out, and their mornings in. In fact, I'm not sure that college students actually go to classes in the movies.
The point is, movies about college aren't accurate depictions of a college culture. That being said, there are plenty of variations of college culture that are dependent on their location, type (Technical, Liberal Arts, University, etc.), size, affiliation, etc. When looking for a college it is important to realize these nuances.
When I was looking at colleges I didn't understand the full effects these characteristics of schools would affect my "college experience."
You Got Options
I was looking at a wide variety of schools but ultimately decided on a Private, Christian, Liberal Arts College. Being a Christian, I liked the idea of going to a Christian school. But as a young woman with a rebellious streak and a tendency to question authority, I may not have made the best choice.
Don't get me wrong, I've learned more than I probably would have ever learned at a state school from my professors here. I grew in my faith and was baptized (publically acknowledged and dedicated myself to God) because of the relationships I have built here. The classes I have taken have challenged me to not accept the status quo and to challenge what doesn't sit well with me. But (and this is a major but) I don't feel as though my voice, as a student, can be heard on my small Christian campus.
I know that this is a bold statement that may shock many readers, but my college has to function within boundaries established by those who do not live on or even near the campus. These boundaries were set for the administration, and sometimes don't even align with the ultimate goals of those on campus with "power."
Know this while you are looking for a college:
Private colleges are not just funded by your tuition, but by trustees and donations.
That means that those with the most money have the most power over the decisions of the school. As a student, you can try to fight for issues you believe in or even challenge rules that have been established for years, but if it does not align with the goals of those with the most money, you will be starting an uphill battle.
Some causes will be worth fighting for, but others that may seem simple will never be able to come to fruition. You have to be more strategic at private institutions, particularly those with religious affiliations. You will have to work harder to start the ripples of change, but in the end, it will have been worth the fight.
Some final advice: Be conscious of the type of school you pick, because that's where you'll live for the next four years of your life. Can you live with the rules in the long run?