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This is how you and your child select the right college

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Replies to: This is how you and your child select the right college

  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 982 Member
    @MiddleburyDad2 Thanks for your posts. You've been able to verbalize what I've been thinking for a while now. I went to Northwestern for undergrad and only had one class with less than 100 kids for the first year and a half. Maybe I just wasn't the type of 18 year old to approach my professor at office hours, but I know I wasn't the only one. It's certainly more intimidating when you go to see a professor who won't even recognize you. It got better as I was focusing on my major and classes got smaller, some as small as 12. Our neighbors sent their kids to Bowdoin and Carleton and they had nothing but good things to say...and one of my friend's sons is at Midd and loving it!

    I can't wait to see if you S19 will take to a smaller environment when we start visiting schools. So far, he's only been to NU, U of C, and Madison (for XC camp). He has no idea what a Carleton or Bowdoin would look like! His GC thinks LAC is the way to go for him. We just have to find the right one.
  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 982 Member
    @romanigypsyeyes Of course there are profs who work hard to have relationships with their students at all schools. I didn't mean to imply otherwise. For some kids, though, they wouldn't thrive at such a big school. I think our S19 is one of them. Our younger daughter could quite possibly be the opposite and I would hope she would find plenty of involved teachers at a big school if she prefers to go that route.
  • romanigypsyeyesromanigypsyeyes Registered User Posts: 31,663 Senior Member
    @homerdog I wasn't responding to you or anyone in particular really. The closest I was responding to was: "Not everyone thrives in the same environment, and there are always pros and cons." from blevine.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 23,300 Senior Member
    And it's not necessarily the size of the college, but the size of the dept. Who cares if there are umpteen thousand in some dept you won't spend time in? And after a couple of years, even in a large humanities dept, you may be dealing mostly with faculty in your specialty.
  • MiddleburyDad2MiddleburyDad2 Registered User Posts: 718 Member
    edited February 6
    "I do not pretend that colleges are one-size-fits-all but there is a trope on CC that at large unis, you become "just a number." It's just not universally true and it's insulting to those of us who work hard at these unis to forge relationships with our students."

    I hope that I didn't insult you in my prior post, and I hope that I don't now. I try to be honest on here, and my views tend to be unwashed for sensitivities.

    I attended Stanford. Not exactly the large flagship, but not quite a LAC in scale either. Certainly not the physical plant, which is one of the largest (and lovely) in the world. Stanford, to an 18 year old, can be overwhelming.

    I was well educated there. But even with the very high standards of Stanford in mind, were I to do it over again, I likely would have chosen a highly selective LAC over the prestige of the 'Harvard of the West'. Then again, not in any version of the past, nor in any dimension of time, would I have known then what I know now, so it's academic at this point.

    That all said, while I acknowledge that there are many professors like you who want to make the large, public flagship small, it doesn't quite make it in my view. I can't prove it, but I suspect you and your other well-meaning colleagues are the exception to the rule. The disadvantage of the large, state, flagship university is the impersonal nature, and thinly-spread resources, of the first two, sometimes three, years of the undergraduate experience. Moreover, at the flagships with vaunted departments or graduate schools, often the survey courses are designed to "weed" and thus favor those who are for whatever reason ready for college exams but may not necessarily be the most talented in the long-run. And that latter comment is coming from a guy with three IB kids, who as a group do tend to be quite ready for college right out of the gate.

    There is little to no incubation at the large university. Sometimes, the best of the best were not the best of the best at the outset, and at a huge school you may lose that kid or drive them to another field of study. In an environment where the prof's job is to cut down on the applications to the flavor-of-the-day department (CS for example), or the highly ranked biz school or the overly-subscribed engineering department, your very bright and hard working kid may not fare well. That prof. will assign an incredibly low mean grade and run the class in a very Darwinian way. That's not the ideal for a great education in any way, shape or form. A lot of my HS classmates who attended the University of Washington described it just that way. And they would also say, yes, they were for the most part, just a number.

    Like I said, it's not personal; it just is what it is.
  • MiddleburyDad2MiddleburyDad2 Registered User Posts: 718 Member
    @thumper1 , fortunately, there are many great choices between the extreme of 900 and the 70,000 that is Ohio State.
  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 Registered User Posts: 9,377 Senior Member
    At Ohio State you can certainly get small classes and seminars but it won't likely be until your third or fourth year and probably only in your major. So say my friends who are at or have graduated from OSU.
  • MiddleburyDad2MiddleburyDad2 Registered User Posts: 718 Member
    edited February 6
    "And it's not necessarily the size of the college, but the size of the dept. Who cares if there are umpteen thousand in some dept you won't spend time in? And after a couple of years, even in a large humanities dept, you may be dealing mostly with faculty in your specialty."

    Well, if they'd give me those first two years at a discount to reflect less attention and resources for my kid, then your point would be more compelling.

    I ask again, what is the purpose of an honors college at a large flagship? Why did those come about? What are they attempting to mimic, and why??????? And, finally, why are they reserved for a caliber of student that is well above the statistical average of the rest of enrolled students? What is this "college within a college" anyway?

    Who cares? I care. I want my kid's reading of Chaucer or her introduction to micro economics to be in an environment where she'll be called upon to answer a question and a follow-on question and another and another. In an environment in which the professor will get to know her learning style, her strengths, her shortcomings, reflect on a paper she wrote and have THAT reflection show up in his or her lectures.

    All four years matter. You don't just get your education your junior and senior years. It all counts.

    And then, as I said in another post, there's the weeding, which is another issue altogether.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 23,300 Senior Member
    edited February 6
    @MiddleburyDad2 "you may lose that kid or drive them to another field of study." That's a concern even at colleges much smaller than the mega universities, depending on the major. It's a concern of adcoms, not so much because of sheer size of the school or dept, but the overall competitiveness, the level of the peers, in that major. That kid who's lacking, say, rigorous math or the sorts of thinking, (but thinks cs or engineering would be oh, so interesting,) would be starting behind. Even at a smaller college, there may not be the level of hand holding that kid would need.

    And smaller colleges are simply not immune to weeding,eg, pre-meds. One needs to look further. Sometimes, not pick a "smaller" environment, but a less rigorous, less competitive one.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 61,967 Senior Member
    @MiddleburyDad2

    I went to Ohio University...about 27,000 when I was a student there.

    I had plenty of opportunity there to also develop relationships with my professors.
  • MiddleburyDad2MiddleburyDad2 Registered User Posts: 718 Member
    @lookingforward , yes, I agree. There are no panaceas. That said, I'm not talking about hand-holding, and I'm not talking about a kid being in an class or school in which he/she does not belong because they are unprepared.

    This gets back to my first post about subtlety and things that are not obvious or easily reducible to a "gotcha" retort.

    There is a skill that some kids master early when it comes to passively sitting in class, figuring out what's going to be on the test and being very ready to take it. Sometimes people who are learning for learning's sake, who are perhaps pretty deep thinkers and who have, in the long run, a great deal of potential aren't necessarily the same people who will survive that Darwinian gauntlet. Often times, they are the same people.

    But, of course, if you don't belong at Swarthmore and somehow you snuck in, you are going to find out soon enough the hard way.

    Nobody and nothing is immune to anything. I'm talking about the big picture.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 61,967 Senior Member
    Oh...and even at my teeny tiny college...psychology 101 and 102 were in a lecture hall with 100 students in it. Required courses for just about every major back then!
  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 982 Member
    I have to agree about the weeding out process early on at non-LACs. I was an engineering major at NU and had advanced placed out of some calc and chem. My first classes were so hard for me. I'll never forget the chem test where a 28% was the mean. What's up with that? Had I been at a smaller school, I maybe would have gotten more attention or at least someone would have acknowledged that I was struggling. It would have been easier for me to find resources to help. As it was, I just gave up and switched majors. I didn't have any advisor to offer other options. In hindsight, I can blame myself for not being the kind of student who found those resources for myself. I remember thinking that I should seek out my TAs but they hardly spoke English and they weren't much help in our small break-out groups, so I just decided engineering must not be for me (even though I was a very strong math and science student in high school.)
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