5 Reasons Small Colleges Are Better

5 Reasons Small Colleges Are Better

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Beginning junior year of high school, students around the country start preparing for, arguably, the biggest decision they will make so far in their life. They complete their SATs and ACTs, write essays, apply for scholarships, and various other tasks in order to insure that they will have the opportunity to spend the next four years at the college of their choice.

When I began my journey in finding a college, the biggest struggle I faced in deciding where to attend was the size of the school. What I believed to be my top choice was a university that had roughly 22,000 students, and my other choice was a college of fewer than 2,000 students. After being accepted to both schools, a visit to the small college solidified my decision that life at a big university was not how I wished to spend my years in college. I fell in love with my small college located in small town Emory, Va., and getting ready to be in my third year, I could not imagine being anywhere else. Here’s why I love my small-sized Emory and Henry College and wouldn’t change it for the world.

1. You are a name, not a number.

Due to small class sizes of fewer than 30 students (a majority of the time under 20), it takes the professors, at most, two weeks to remember your name. This allows for you to truly learn the material and form a unique bond with faculty. Emory and Henry has a student-faculty ratio of 10:1, which goes on to even further the relationship between students and faculty. They truly care about you as not just a student, but also as a person, and when they ask, “How are you?” they aren’t just looking for you to reply with the usual “Good. How are you?” Instead, they want to hear about how all your classes are going, what you’ve been struggling with, your personal life, and if they can help you in anyway.

One professor I have is so invested in her students and their success that she doesn’t just end her relationship with them upon graduation day, but corresponds with them and keeps track of their success and has even created a bulletin board documenting where they are and where they are currently employed. I’ve even met an alumna who graduated in 2002, and when I mentioned the previous student to the professor she didn’t even hesitate in remembering whom I was talking about. I’ve met the President of my college, and see him around campus all the time. He’s always eating with students, or talking to them, and isn’t just locked away all the time. It’s crazy how much you really matter to faculty and the campus at a small college.

2. If you miss class you need to be sick, dying, or at a funeral.

For every college student out there reading this, I know that this sounds like something truly awful. Not having the option every single day of whether or not you want to miss class. Well, that just sucks. Starting out I hated the fact that my college had an attendance policy, that for the majority of classes only allows for three unexcused absences. Upon exceeding that number professors have the right to fail you or kick you out of the class. I’ve heard a story of one student who emailed the professor they were going to be unable to attend the class because they were “sick;” the professor then proceeded to make them dinner to take to them and check on them. Needless to say the student wasn’t sick and, more than likely, wasn’t “sick” again. Although the policy isn’t ideal, it really helps to motivate you to go to class and get the education that you are paying for.

When you go away to college you are usually leaving home and your parents who enforce what you can and can’t do. Although we are all typically adults when we go to college, it’s nice still having a little bit of structure and knowing that you can’t completely do whatever you want. It also makes it so that you have to email your professor if you are going to miss class and you learn how to professionally do so, this helps to prepares you for the real world, because when you graduate and gain a real job you can’t miss work whenever you choose.

3. Everyone knows everybody.

If I don’t know somebody’s name on campus, then odds are I know their face. This doesn’t just end with the campus however, at least not at Emory and Henry. There is only one Mexican restaurant in the area, and everyone usually has the same waiter -- good ole Juan. Then there was Jill who owned the closest tanning place; sadly she sold it to someone new, but we all still miss her.

If you chose to do something a little reckless on the weekend, give it five minutes and all of campus will know about it. It’s unfortunate that everyone knows your business, but I believe the good far outweighs the bad. Last year a professor's wife died and the whole campus was notified and sent cards and food; the same goes if a student experiences a loss, if someone gets engaged everyone will congratulate them for weeks, and if it’s your birthday expect a sea of “Happy Birthdays!” from everyone on your way to class (even people whose name you don’t know).

I can leave my stuff somewhere, unattended, and come back having nothing gone. I can walk campus alone, at night, and not worry about something happening to me; for a college aged girl comfort like that is hard to find. Everyone smiles, everyone waves, and for the most part everyone cares.

4. Tradition is kind of a big deal.

I’m sure that traditions can be found at every college, but I think there is something truly special about traditions at a small college. At my college, our football players have a tradition of touching a giant rock located in the stadium before every game in honor of a longtime assistant football coach, and in recognition of all who wore blue and gold before them.

All incoming freshman take part in a community service day, called Service Plunge, which helps them see how the college has a strong community outreach and volunteering base.

If it’s a Wednesday you can bet all your worth that there is fried chicken for lunch at Hometown, Fried Chicken Wednesday is truly a special thing. Every semester when finals roles around there is a late night breakfast that professors and faculty help serve to students to help them get through the long night of studying.

Greek life has the time honored tradition that involves girls, who have received bids from a sorority, walking out the doors of freshmen dormitory MaWa and then running towards the sorority whom they have chosen to accept the bid to. It’s really something crazy to watch and lots of tackling is involved. Life at a small college involves lots of traditions and students and members of the campus love them.

5. Alumni are amazing.

Pride in the college is tremendous since everyone loves the school, and they come back all the time and it’s great. Out of everything that alumni come back for, the thing that they get the most excited for is homecoming. Already the date for homecoming for 2016 has been set and marked on everyone’s calendars. Some people take off work on Friday and come down that day so that they are on campus early enough Saturday to take part in all festivities. Sororities, fraternities, and various other groups, for the most part, provide breakfast and a time for socializing before the game.

Tailgating set up begins almost immediately as the sun rises and there is a ridiculous amount of food. It’s an all-day event and many people don’t even make it to the game or -- if they do -- don’t pay attention because they are having their time of their lives catching up with old friends, teammates, sisters and brothers, and professors. Involvement from alumni does not stop there; a majority of college donations come from alumni, a lot of students who choose to attend the college hear about it from alumni, they provide students with connections, and the list can go on and on about all the things they do for their alma mater. Alumni are fantastic and homecoming is just one example of the display of support they give to the college and love that they have for everyone at Emory and Henry.

In the end the choice of where you go has to do with where you feel is home and I just happened to find that home at a small college. For the rest of my life I may have to explain to people where exactly my little college is, but I’ll also walk away from my four years having formed bonds with faculty, students, community members, and alumni, and I will walk away knowing with all my heart that I’ve at least made one decision right in my life. I found a second family that I will always have and a second home I can always return to.

Cover Image Credit: Emory & Henry College Facebook

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I Blame My Dad For My High Expectations

Dad, it's all your fault.
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I always tell my dad that no matter who I date, he's always my number one guy. Sometimes I say it as more of a routine thing. However, the meaning behind it is all too real. For as long as I can remember my dad has been my one true love, and it's going to be hard to find someone who can top him.

My dad loves me when I am difficult. He knows how to keep the perfect distance on the days when I'm in a mood, how to hold me on the days that are tough, and how to stand by me on the days that are good.

He listens to me rant for hours over people, my days at school, or the episode of 'Grey's Anatomy' I watched that night and never once loses interest.

He picks on me about my hair, outfit, shoes, and everything else after spending hours to get ready only to end by telling me, “You look good." And I know he means it.

He holds the door for me, carries my bags for me, and always buys my food. He goes out of his way to make me smile when he sees that I'm upset. He calls me randomly during the day to see how I'm doing and how my day is going and drops everything to answer the phone when I call.

When it comes to other people, my dad has a heart of gold. He will do anything for anyone, even his worst enemy. He will smile at strangers and compliment people he barely knows. He will strike up a conversation with anyone, even if it means going way out of his way, and he will always put himself last.

My dad also knows when to give tough love. He knows how to make me respect him without having to ask for it or enforce it. He knows how to make me want to be a better person just to make him proud. He has molded me into who I am today without ever pushing me too hard. He knew the exact times I needed to be reminded who I was.

Dad, you have my respect, trust, but most of all my heart. You have impacted my life most of all, and for that, I can never repay you. Without you, I wouldn't know what I to look for when I finally begin to search for who I want to spend the rest of my life with, but it might take some time to find someone who measures up to you.

To my future husband, I'm sorry. You have some huge shoes to fill, and most of all, I hope you can cook.

Cover Image Credit: Logan Photography

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10 Things DECA Taught Me For The Real World

This is for all of you that know the about the sacred nature of a DECA Glass.

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At every high school, I'm sure there's a myriad of clubs and organizations you can join. Throughout the US, one of the most popular ones is coined DECA. Though the acronym doesn't exactly have a meaning behind it that fits its purpose, DECA is essentially a student competition where you can compete in several different events in the following categories (and more): marketing, management, and entrepreneurship in business, finance, hospitality, and marketing sales and service. Though I am personally an education major and joined DECA in high school to have a chance at being able to compete at the Nationals conference in Anaheim, California, I quickly became talented at my event and thoroughly enjoyed DECA and what it had to offer for my future as a regular functioning adult.

Here are ten things DECA taught me that anyone can bring into the real world.

1. How to write a resume.

To be in DECA at my high school, we were required to take either a marketing, business, or finance class that was attached to the club. For this class, we all had a project where we had to write a resume for ourselves after we were taught how to write one. With some minor changes, I still use that resume to this day.

2. Public speaking/presentation skills.

If you get to the state or national level for DECA competition (or sometimes even district), you have to present your project or do a “role play" in front of 2-3 random judges for around 10 minutes. After 2 years of presenting 30-page business plans I created myself, I became a master public speaker. Although I did have a knack for it before I joined DECA, the practice and presentations over the years made me far better and more a more sophisticated.

3. How to work well with partners.

As a DECA competitor, you can choose to work alone, or with up to two other teammates. Most people that do writing events choose to have a partner or two to split up the writing, and so you do not have to give a 10ish minute presentation alone. Since this project is all your own and it isn’t up to you to complete it and be prepared for competitions, you learn to work efficiently and effectively with others and get the project done NO MATTER WHAT, even if not your partners leave you high and dry.

4. How to pack for a 10-day trip in one suitcase (and a carry-on).

This one is KEY people. Florida DECA states (CDC, Career Development Conference) is a 4-day trip & DECA ICDC (International Career Development Conference) can range from 4-10 days depending on how far you're traveling and how much you are doing in that area before/after the competition. Not only do you need your essential toiletries, regular clothes and stuff for traveling and being touristy, but you also need your business clothes, presentation materials, a steamer- because heaven forbid you to go into a presentation with wrinkled clothes, and literally so much more. This makes it almost impossible to pack it all in one suitcase, a carry-on, and a personal item. Guess what though? THAT'S ALL YOU GET!! So, you make it work. This mega packing skill will be something I forever treasure and take away from DECA.

5. Writing skills.

Full disclosure, I am an English Education major. I have always been an advanced writer and have enjoyed the creative process. However, typing up a business plan that you have to create yourself is an entirely new monster that I had to explore and figure out. My DECA advisors (Shoutout Mr. Goldfinger and Mrs. Lopez) tore apart every draft of my papers and significantly improved my writing and on-paper presentation skills. If you are in DECA, I'm sure your advisor(s) do the same, and as much as it may hurt your feelings or your pride at the moment, you will thank them to the end of the earth when you get to the "real world "and you write better than the average joe sitting next to you in ENC 1101 or at work.

6. How to use technology.

If you want to be the best and have a chance at doing well in the competition, your laptop becomes your best friend during DECA season. I think I was the only kid at my high school that religiously brought their computer to school, but learning how to make graphics, typing scripts, and putting together a paper takes TIME and you never know when a perfect idea or working moment will strike.

7. CREDIT. CARDS. 

I personally chose to take a personal finance type class to secure my spot in the DECA program. As part of that curriculum, my teacher taught us all about debit and credit cards, as well as different types of banks and bank accounts. Thank goodness someone taught me because without that class I would be literally clueless with my money.

8. The in and outs of Microsoft Office.

My last year in DECA, I switched over to the marketing track and invested some time in MOS (Microsoft Office Specialist) certifications. Through studying for the exams that I never even ended up taking, I learned how to navigate and became pretty efficient in using Microsoft word, powerpoint, excel, and outlook. This definitely turned out to be helpful in college, who knew!?

9. How to be a humble winner and a gracious loser.

DECA is inevitably a competition, so there is destined to be winners and losers. As hard as you work on your project, you only have around ten minutes to impress people that don't know you or how many sleepless nights you spent to prepare for this moment. It sucks to see your hard work not pay off, but remember to be happy for those people that did place and will be advancing. You never know until you're up on that stage accepting your glass trophy how much the support of your chapter members means.

10. How to be calm and collected... at all times.

DECA might as well stand for unDoubtedly Everything Could (go) Awry. My best advice to anyone in DECA, especially those traveling with their DECA chapter, EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED. My senior year, it was pouring rain on our presentation day and we planned to walk to the convention center and junior year we got stuck in traffic on Pacific Coast Highway in California and could've missed our flight. You just gotta stay calm and roll with the punches, and this is one of the best traits I've acquired through DECA that I have taken with me into my college/adult life.

To learn more about DECA, feel free to visit this website and to all of my fellow DECA alumni, I hope this made you remember the good times where all we cared about was meeting each other on the trips and deciding on which DECA diamond to throw in our pictures.

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