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.