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Small private schools vs big state schools?

hugo17hugo17 Posts: 43Registered User Junior Member
edited November 2012 in College Search & Selection
Other than the difference between cost and small classrooms, what are the pros and cons of going to a big state school compared to a small private school?
Post edited by hugo17 on

Replies to: Small private schools vs big state schools?

  • M's MomM's Mom Posts: 4,562Registered User Senior Member
    Do a search here on LACs vs. Unis. This topic has been discussed many times and inmany contexts. Here's one example : http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/1351636-drunk-lac-kool-aid.html?highlight=lacs+vs+uni
  • tk21769tk21769 Posts: 7,474Registered User Senior Member
    Of all the criteria that drive college rankings, average class size is in my opinion perhaps the most significant. Smaller classes generally translate to more opportunities for discussion, writing assignments, and feedback from professors. Only a handful of research universities can compete with LACs for this advantage.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Posts: 36,005Registered User Senior Member
    However, there are tradeoffs at small schools. Some students will maximize the advantages of small schools and minimize the disadvantages, while other students will maximize the disadvantages of small schools and minimize the advantages.

    It is also possible that the optimal fit for a student is a match-level small school, but a big school is most appropriate for the student to use as a safety, since the big school may be more likely to have enough students above the modal level of ability and motivation to offer appropriately challenging and rigorous courses and degree programs.
  • zobrowardzobroward Posts: 1,556Registered User Senior Member
    small schools always trump big schools undergrad(IMO)
    unless you are just going for the football and basketball.
  • tk21769tk21769 Posts: 7,474Registered User Senior Member
    ^ Always?
    Small schools necessarily have fewer course offerings.
    Usually they have fewer majors. Many small colleges (LACs) have no engineering or other pre-professional programs. They may lack very advanced laboratory equipment or significant library holdings in many fields. Even in some fairly popular fields, they may only have a few faculty members.

    Personally, I think small classes and a high level of student-faculty engagement do tend to trump all these disadvantages. However, that won't be the case for everyone.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Posts: 36,005Registered User Senior Member
    zbroward wrote:
    small schools always trump big schools undergrad(IMO)

    A student unsure of major may find a small school to be limiting. For example, suppose a student attending South Dakota Mines wants to switch to a humanities or social studies major, or a student attending Sarah Lawrence wants to switch to a science major. Even when a major is offered, it may not be particularly good, such as computer science at Amherst.

    A student who is very advanced in his/her major may find the more limited course offerings at a small school to be too limiting.

    In other words, it depends on the student whether a small or large school is the best fit.
  • warblersrulewarblersrule Posts: 8,649Super Moderator Senior Member
    M's Mom wrote:
    Do a search here on LACs vs. Unis.
    tk21769 wrote:
    Many small colleges (LACs) have...
    The OP did not ask about liberal arts colleges. The question was about small private colleges and large publics. I would place not only LACs in the former category, but also universities like Yale, Tufts, Duke, Chicago, Rice, and other small private universities that are far more similar to LACs in enrollment and class size than to large public universities like UCSD or UT Austin. Outside of the research university category, you could also add schools like Elon and LMU.

    Such universities are often the best of both worlds - relatively small classes but a wide variety of courses and majors. Aside from cost, I think there are relatively few drawbacks.

    The primary drawback to small colleges, and the primary advantage of large ones, is the size and diversity of the student body. Because of the large student bodies at universities like UCLA, you can have student organizations like a Korean Christian group, a gay Jewish group, a Turkish student group, etc. that would be less feasible at a smaller university or a LAC that lacks the numbers to support them.
  • BeanTownGirlBeanTownGirl Posts: 2,725Registered User Senior Member
    Warbler is spot on! Smaller universities like the ones mentioned often represent the best of both worlds and get lost in debates such as this.
  • ahsmuohahsmuoh Posts: 1,092Registered User Senior Member
    And don't forget about big state schools honors college - personally my dd thinks this is the best of both worlds. Smaller classes, interaction with professors and football!
  • hugo17hugo17 Posts: 43Registered User Junior Member
    thanks for the replies, im intending on majoring in business, Im looking at Indiana, Penn State then smaller places like Richmond and Bentley
  • M's MomM's Mom Posts: 4,562Registered User Senior Member
    LACS vs. Unis threads are useful in this situation because they make the trade-offs between large and small schools starker: If you can pinpoint what matters to you, what you are willing to trade off in order to get something else, then it's easier to come up with schools that will fit, rather than disappoint. A student who understands the trade offs associated with, for example, a small student body (tight community vs. less diversity, less vs. more privacy, more personal engagement in ECs vs. higher quality semi-pro ECs, etc...) - can then look at the mid-sized and small unis as a way to get the best (and sometimes the worst) of both worlds.
  • OivoivOivoiv Posts: 194- Junior Member
    There's a reason that when large universities want to give certain students an extra-good education, they steer them to an honors program that simulates a small-college environment.
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