The Pros And Cons Of Attending A Small School

I've known since I was in high school that I wanted to attend a small college. When describing my ideal school to my parents, I would say that I would be happy going somewhere small enough that people greeted me by name as I walked between classes. At Rollins College, that's exactly what I got. There are dozens of other reasons going to a small school is an experience like no other—some great, some a little annoying. Still, I'm happy with my decision and wouldn't change it if I could. Here's what I've learned about small schools that set them apart.

Pro: Everyone knows you.

It can really lift your spirits to see someone excitedly waving at you from across the dining hall, and more often than not, you'll run into quite a few familiar faces in your new classes—which is great when you didn't write down the homework. Your friend circles overlap, staff and faculty recognize and remember details about you, and you feel more at home.

Con: Everyone knows you.

Yes, this can be a con as much as a pro. When you just want to roll out of bed and go to class in your pajamas and bedhead, chances are you're going to run into six people you know on your 2 minute commute from your dorm to your first class. Also, because friend groups overlap and everybody knows everybody, small schools make it hard to fly under the radar if you're trying to keep anything on the down low.

Pro: Smaller class sizes.

Your teachers know your name and how well you're doing, and can work with you personally to help you succeed. They’re understanding if something is happening in your life, and are enthusiastic about your endeavors in and out of the classroom. Small group discussions and classroom unity are common and you can really get down and dirty with what you're learning, rather than just sitting in a massive lecture hall.

Pro: It's a more personalized experience.

There's more wiggle room when something doesn't suit your needs or learning style. I once had a professor email me the night before a presentation making sure I was still up for it, and when I said that I was, but have bad presentation anxiety, he asked if I had any ideas for a replacement assignment, and I ended up writing him an essay instead. Another time, after seeing “world chocolate day” marked on the dining hall calendar, I emailed the head chef asking if one of the special desserts they planned to celebrate with could be vegan. He responded, “why wait?” and had a vegan chocolate cake waiting for me in the dining hall that Friday. Not all professors and staff members are this kind and lenient, but it's certainly more feasible in small schools, and I’m very grateful!

Con: You can't skate by in class without it going unnoticed.

If you were unwilling to put in the effort for an assignment because you're exhausted or too busy, your professor will likely notice. When you're an A student and get a C on a test, don't be surprised if your professor writes "what happened?" on your exam. Class participation is frequently emphasized (and graded), as is recorded attendance: you're expected to give as much to the class as your professor is. In these ways, going to a small college can be reminiscent of high school.

Pro: It's easier to get involved.

If you have an idea—a new club, a project, an event you want to bring to campus—there’s always a faculty member excited to talk to you about it. With small schools, it's easy to see how much the faculty wants you to succeed, and wants to see you soar.

Pro: More nuanced traditions.

Sure, at big schools you have famous football teams and school spirit that expands well outside of your campus, but there’s something heartwarming about the little schools with characteristics only those who have experienced can truly appreciate. At Rollins College, for one day every spring, a fox statue will appear on the main lawn, indicating that classes are canceled for the day and events like a picnic, face painting, and waterslides will soon follow. It’s traditions like Fox Day that make Rollins unique and loveable. It also creates a sense of fellowship. When you attend a 40,000-student university, seeing a stranger on the other side of the country wearing a shirt from your school may make you say, “woo, go [campus mascot]s!” When that happens for a small school, though, the coincidence results in ecstatic camaraderie and storytelling.

Picking a school is really left to personal preference. There are days where I groan and think, maybe I should have gone with a something different. But that’s something everyone in college thinks from time to time, and if I had picked something different, there are so many wonderful things here I would have missed out on. I think Rollins College was a great choice for me, and its small size is definitely a big factor!

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