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Small College vs. Large College

BamaBaller95BamaBaller95 Registered User Posts: 57 Junior Member
-Alabama resident
-I've lived in an urban environment my entire life
-I've gone to a boarding school for my last three years for high school
-Major: Chem E

Just recently I got accepted to Purdue, but my mom isn't letting me go OOS, so I'm stuck between the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and Auburn. To tell you a little about myself, I love sports with a passion. I am, in fact, an Auburn fan and think Auburn's campus is beautiful. I would love to go to football games and tailgate, and be a part of intramural basketball and volleyball. I'm also very interested in Student Government and not because it's something people love to put on a resume. I love being a leader and love offering myself for others. However, I believe my chances for Student Government at Auburn would be very, very low because of the enormous amount of students the school has.

To give y'all a little insight about UAH, UAH is a fairly new school in Huntsville and has roughly 8k undergrads. Their engineering college is almost identically ranked to that of Auburn's, and they're located in the 2nd largest research park in the country. They don't have a football team, but they do have a Division 1 ice hockey team and a very good Division 2 basketball team, which happen to be my favorite two sports. Because they don't have a football team, their tradition strives around their basketball and hockey teams, which I don't mind at all, I just don't know how I'd be able to have fun in college without a football team.

Like I said previously, I am very interested in leading. In my opinion, I would have a much greater shot at holding numerous leadership positions at UAH than Auburn. Also, the fraternities at UAH are very driven towards scholarship and leadership, but so are the ones at Auburn. What it's really coming down to is where I would most likely succeed from a leadership and academic standpoint at the same time.

So I have two questions:
1. My first question is what benefits do smaller colleges tend to bring that larger colleges don't?
And 2. For those who have attended smaller colleges, what are the social and Greek life scenes like? I take school very seriously but at the same time it is college and I'm looking to have the best 4 years of my life.


Replies to: Small College vs. Large College

  • DescuffDescuff Registered User Posts: 4,031 Senior Member
    Ah man, I go to Purdue and honestly that's a sad choice BUT understandable as it is quite expensive if you're coming from OOS. I can only speak from a Purdue big school (+40,000) perspective but I can tell you what I heard about small schools.

    Basically with smaller schools you're more likely to feel part of a close-knit community. Also you won't have to deal with at least 100+ (potentially) students in a classroom. You're more likely to have more regular sized classroom setting (around 30 people average) and you can more easily ask the prof questions. Basically the big thing: Less people to deal with.

    However being at a big college I can tell you that not once I never felt like there was too many people (Except for that one day with a full lecture (it was just that one day too)). Most of my classes have less than 40 people actually. Only the lectures have the big number. Hell, you could easily find a seat in the front for a big lecture room. But a smaller lecture hall won't even be a problem as long as you don't sit in the very back. Also I find that the people here kinda have the close-knit feel but with more options for who you meet. I would say that studying in the library can (and will) get a bit noisy and crowded and personally I can't study in an environment like that. I suspect smaller university have less crowded library and lobbies and not as annoying.

    Consider reading this: I think it's a good read. https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/find-colleges/how-to-find-your-college-fit/sizing-up-colleges-big-vs-small

    Sorry I couldn't answer question two lol.
  • happyramenhappyramen Registered User Posts: 128 Junior Member
    I go to a smaller/medium sized school around 6,000 students and I'm also studying Engineering too. I can tell you the pros and cons of what I've come to really enjoyed and what I've wished was better from my experiences.

    Pros/the Good Stuff
    - There is a very good community feel, I can walk around campus and while I definitely don't know everybody I can still see familiar faces quite often. It's like living in a small town where you know most of the people, but still have a good amount of people you don't know to meet.
    - It's very easy to escape, I'm from a large city but I can be a private person and being in a less crowded school I can go off into the woods, trees something to have alone time.
    - Class sizes are small, most professors I've had know my name. The largest class I have are the intro science classes which cap at around 80 students which is actually pretty good compared to most university intro science courses.
    - Service is great and it's easier to get things done. Less lines when doing things like eating at halls, turning in forms, working with the offices.
    - Generally less competition to join sports teams and different organizations. Also means it's easier to get leadership positions.

    - There are a few clubs/organizations that I would have wanted to be a part of but they aren't offered here.
    - I'm a really well-rounded person and like to diversify. There are a few classes outside my major that I now realize I would like to take class in but they aren't offered here.

    Overall, I enjoy it a lot!
  • baktraxbaktrax Registered User Posts: 2,563 Senior Member
    edited January 2014
    I went to a big state school, so take everything I say with that perspective.

    If you're main reason for wanting to go to a smaller school is that you have a better chance of being in student government, then I would definitely recommend you take that off your list of requirements or, at the very least, make it less important. For one thing, yes, there may be more people competing against you, but most of the students at the school probably aren't interested in being in student government at all. The pool you're competing against may not be nearly as big as you think it is. Also, there are many, many ways to get involved with student government or other leadership positions without being voted into a particular student government office. You can volunteer at a lot of different student run things (like putting on huge events, helping to organize events or fundraise for them). There are tons of clubs where you can get involved in leadership positions, and many of them have tons of openings for leadership roles, where you can get really involved. A lot of school offices (like counseling offices, the administration, the deans) have interns or other student workers, and that's another way to really get involved or informed about what's going on in school. I wouldn't count out a big school because you think you won't have as many opportunities to get involved with leadership roles. If this is something that's important to you, then I don't have a doubt in my mind that you'll be able to find tons of leadership opportunities, even if it's not necessarily being president of the student government (though I definitely wouldn't count that out, especially if you want to get involved with Greek life).

    Whether a small school or a large school is right for you, really depends on you and the kind of person you are. I will say that my friends at smaller schools have felt a little stifled there, whether it's from an academic, extracurricular, or social standpoint. I don't know anything about the particular school you're looking at, but these are things to keep in mind. For example, I've had friends who felt like their small school was a lot like high school socially. You knew a lot of the people in your class, there were cliques, sometimes it was hard to avoid drama because the school was so small, and for some people, not fitting in was a really difficult situation because there wasn't really anywhere else to turn. I'm not saying that's everyone's experience, but it's something to consider. I've known people who felt like they didn't have as many research opportunities because they went to a smaller school with just less research going on in their field and more competition for spots. To be fair, I've also had people tell me the opposite--because they weren't necessarily competing with grad students or huge hoards of people, they felt like they had more opportunities. But it's something to look into. I've also had friends whose schools didn't have as many options for classes because there just weren't enough students to support more "niche" classes or specific topics. For example, my friend went to a much smaller school than I did, and we both had the same major. My school offered many more health and medically oriented upper-division electives than her school did, simply because (I think) there was the larger population of students to support that and a huge interest in those topics. Some schools get around this by allowing students to take classes at other nearby schools, but it's something you might want to look into.

    It really just depends on what you're looking for, but I would look more at which school would be a better academic fit for you. If you're a driven student who works hard, you can standout at a large school or a small school. But if one school doesn't have the opportunities that you want (or even the social environment that you want), it's a lot harder to create those opportunities or that environment yourself. I went to a large school, and I liked that I could feel like "one of the many" when I wanted to but I could also standout when I wanted to. Some teachers knew my name and some didn't, and I kind of liked that I had that control over whether I wanted to standout or not. It just depends on what you want. I've had friends who went to small schools and loved it, and I've had friends who went to small schools and hated it.
  • NROTCgradNROTCgrad Registered User Posts: 1,730 Senior Member
    You won't believe this, but I went to Auburn and my sisters went to UAH.... but that was a couple of decades back. Still, you might want to know that both my sisters were in a sorority and loved it. One sister was President of the UAH SGA.

    Personally, I was glad that I went to Auburn. It did not feel like a large college to me.

    My sisters were happy they went to UAH. At the time UAH was a commuter school, and almost all the students lived with their parents (as my sisters did). Maybe this is still the case. I do not know. UAH, back then, was kind of like advanced high school. Again, I do not know how it is now.

    Sounds to me like the student government aspect is extremely important to you. It is definitely true that you would have a better chance at becoming an SGA officer at UAH than Auburn. However, Auburn is actually only about three times as big as UAH (not like ten times), and there are tons of clubs and organizations which you could become a leader in. Beside, who knows, you still might become SGA president or VP.

    Also, if you want a lot of choices then Auburn might be better. It ain't all football. Lots of intramural sports. Tons of weekend activities. It will have students from all over Alabama, plus about 40% are from out of state. So, you would meet a lot of interesting people in "The Loveliest Village on The Plains."
  • LuckyObserverLuckyObserver Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
    edited January 2014
    Rather than deciding based on how large the school is, you should visit these schools in person and decide what you like better. I go to a university of 25,000+ students, and some lectures are like 200 people. The largest class offered had 1,000 students enrolled. It sounds scary, but lectures are when professors basically talk at you for an hour or more. You don't have time to socialize anyway. But it's buffered by discussion sections, which never have more than 25 people. It's similar with school clubs and Greek life as well. The organization seems big, but usually there are only like 40 or so active members. Some frats and sororities only have 20 or so active members. As for student government, it's always the same handful of people who are interested in that aspect of college. I don't think size is a huge factor. So I'd choose a school based on cost, the professors you want to have, the "feel" of the school, etc. and not on the size.

    Edit/ grammar
  • NROTCgradNROTCgrad Registered User Posts: 1,730 Senior Member
    Follow up...
    Strictly speaking UAH is not a small college. It is medium sized. Birmingham Southern College is small (1,300 students). Even Samford University (almost 4,500 students total) is medium size. The transition from small to medium begins at about 2,500 to 3,000 students. Medium size runs from about 3,000 to maybe 10,000 students.

    During the freshman year at Auburn you might have a class of 75 to 100 students (not 1,000 as mentioned above). But probably only one or two such classes. Then sophomore year classes will get much smaller.

    Purdue is an excellent school. Better than Auburn? Probably, but not in a major way. Purdue is not MIT. Auburn has an excellent engineering department which will definitely challenge you. For your family, the value per dollar spent will be much better at Auburn than Purdue. Plus, the winter weather in Indiana is terrible. I know, because I got my masters from Indiana University. If you have spent all your life in Alabama, winters at Purdue would be a huge adjustment.
  • WiscongeneWiscongene Registered User Posts: 1,355 Senior Member
    I'll tell ya what: You can make a big school small but ya can't make a small school big.
  • BamaBaller95BamaBaller95 Registered User Posts: 57 Junior Member
    Thank you everyone! I have my mind set on Auburn University and am proud to be a Tiger next year! My major is still chemical engineering, I am currently a rushee in Greek Life, and I have taken my math placement exam and signed a lease for an off-campus apartment! Your responses mean a lot to me! War Damn!
This discussion has been closed.