I have a freshman at Carleton. When he was putting his list together he was leaning towards something urban or suburban, but after visiting Carleton that is where he chose to be. They have regularly scheduled buses into Minneapolis if you want to do things in a city, but he's been very busy just with the things that are available at the school.
I always ask students that want to be in a big city because they want things to do...what is it in the big city that you will be doing that your campus will lack? And will you have the funds or time to do this? How often will you be in the city doing said activities? Would being able to get to a city on occasion be enough?
The more rural colleges have a lot of arts/music/activities on campus that are free or of nominal charge. A free movie on campus is easier on the college budget than a ten dollar flick in the city. At Carleton, for example, you can watch their comedy troupe, go to a variety of concerts (I believe the Decemberists were just there), go canoeing like in the above post, take in a lecture----there is a lot going on. Go to the website and look at the events schedule.
As for the smaller student population, my son sees it as a plus. He has really been able to get involved in his activities as a freshman--actually had a piece published for example--instead of sitting on the sidelines. It's a personal decision. He came from a very large high school that did not have enough space for everyone that wanted to compete/join to do so. He prefers a smaller campus where you can participate.
That being said, what do you consider "large" or "small"? Do you consider large 20,000+ or 10,000+? or 55,000+ like here at UT!
Because Northfield does have two small colleges (St. Olaf's/Carleton) there are quite a few students there.
These are just some of the questions you should apply to all the schools on your list as you try to find the several where you would be most happiest.
Lunified: fireflyscout was inquiring about the sailing club because the links were down. Could you go to that thread (it's here in the Carleton forum) and explain more about canoeing?