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This is how you and your child select the right college

Dave_BerryDave_Berry CC Admissions Expert Posts: 2,741 Senior Member
"Darron Collins, president of the private College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, advises families on the best way to decide on a college" ...


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

  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 3,222 Senior Member
    Terrific suggestions. Our son wants to really be engaged with his teachers in college so I've been thinking he would have to stick to LACs. He's only a sophomore and we're not sure what he will think of such small schools when we start visiting. He's been to camp at University of Wisconsin and loved it. I've told him, though, that when we start looking more closely at schools, such a big school might not be his cup of tea. This article suggests that a big school can be just as engaging depending on the professors. We will definitely be using the tips in the article to figure out if some of the bigger schools on his radar can still offer him what he wants in terms of access to his teachers.
  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 3,222 Senior Member
    @blossom, Hm. I went to a mid-sized highly selective university and I would say, for the first two years, I was taught by TAs or grad students. I know kids were not having dinner at the professor's houses like they might at a LAC.

    Also, some big research universities don't prioritize undergrads. I have many friends with kids in college now and the kids at the LACs are having very different experiences (maybe not better, but different). There's more discussion in the small classes and the relationships with their professors are far more personal. How can a professor with 150-200 kids in a lecture class know his students? Many of them have office hours, I'm sure, but I doubt the majority of them are going to take personal interest in a freshman or a sophomore.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 72,316 Senior Member
    I went to a large public university back in the Stone Age. One of my kids went to a large private university graduating in 2007. Both of us had dinner at mentor professors houses.

    I don't think that is the hallmark of college selection, however.

    Not sure the purpose of this article.
  • romanigypsyeyesromanigypsyeyes Registered User Posts: 33,742 Senior Member
    My undergrad had about 40k undergrads and another 10k or so grads. I was close to several professors and still talk to some 4 years out of undergrad.

    I'm painfully shy to boot.

    Now I'm a grad student in another big u and professors have their doors open but undergrads don't come. That's not the prof's fault if students don't come to office hours or reach out.
  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone Registered User Posts: 19,563 Senior Member
    Only on CC do people actually believe that a college has to small or tiny for students to engage with professors.

    I never understand why everyone thinks small classes are so wonderful. Did everyone seek out high schools with only 20 students per class for their kids? At the high schools (three different ones) my kids attended, there were limits on the class size for the 'regular' sections (usually 25 by state law or school policy) but those limits didn't apply to fine arts or honors or AP classes, and they often had 35-40 in those (more in drama, band, orchestra, etc). Most of the honors or AP classes had more than 30 students in them. Most of my college classes at a big flagship had 30-40 students in them and we had no problem discussing books, movies, essays. Law school classes have 70-85 students in each section and discussions happen, people participate, they meet with their professors.

  • blevineblevine Registered User Posts: 856 Member
    Not everyone thrives in the same environment, and there are always pros and cons.
    We visited large and small schools, often on back to backs days of the college tours, with each of our kids.

    While I lived the charming small campus and close knit community of the small colleges, there was definitely a lack of courses and professors in each department. In your major, you may have the same prof in many courses if the entire department has only 3-4 profs. To some this is a very good thing, to others not so much (also depends on the 3-4 profs). But what is hard to argue, after fresh/soph year, there are slim choices as to upper level electives at tiny colleges. Not all that matters, but your main purpose in college is to take classes, and they have less to offer in that regard. To me the ideal is a small college for freshmen/soph years and then transfer to a large univ for junior year.
    Have close personal attention in intro courses, then move on to a big school that has advanced courses. Socially not a desirable option, but academically the way to go. Since most don't want to do this, one must pick whether to cherish your fresh/soph years or your junior/senior years.

    Personally a mid size college that has a nice blend of options to explore yet not too large and impersonal is the balance to seek, IMO.
  • ShrimpBurritoShrimpBurrito Registered User Posts: 1,381 Senior Member
    @blevine It seems many large public universities' honors colleges and first year seminars do a pretty good job of providing the best of both worlds.
  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 Registered User Posts: 11,945 Senior Member
    @twoinanddone I never understand why everyone thinks small classes are so wonderful. Did everyone seek out high schools with only 20 students per class for their kids?

    Yes, in fact, we did.

    Small classes do allow profs to do some things that those with huge classes cannot. One of my kids had a writing intensive course with a prof who went over her drafts with her, making comments and suggestions before she turned them in for credit. I can't see that being possible in a class of 100+ kids, even if only some of them wanted that kind of help.

    As the article points out, smaller student load allows a prof to assign more papers and projects and things that take a lot of time to grade.

    None of that means small colleges are right for everyone, there are small classes at big Us also, and ways to make the large feel small. But it's kind of expected at the smaller colleges. IME.
  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 3,222 Senior Member
    Smaller classes are always better IMO. Our son's high school English Honors class is 25 kids this year versus only 18 last year and he's already complaining that 25 is too big. LOL. Maybe as he gets older in the next couple years, it won't prove to be such a priority for him. Only time will tell.
  • MiddleburyDad2MiddleburyDad2 Registered User Posts: 718 Member
    edited February 2017
    Regarding the honors college option at large flagship ... ask yourself why they're even there in the first place. What are they trying to offer that is unique to the honors college? Why bother with the double application (as we did)? If I were at the large flagship, but not in the honors college, I would certainly wonder what the special kids are getting that isn't generally available to me.

    It's a marketing response to a demand. Of course you can meet a prof. at Ohio State who will have lunch with you and take a personal interest in your development. Of course, that can happen.

    Is it routine? Is it really the same level of dialogue in an 850 seat auditorium as it is in a 15 student seminar? To borrow another CC poster's line, anyone who tries to take on that argument is working way too hard to make a point.

    As a law school graduate, and a man who spent 3 years in the lovely give and take of the socratic method, I can tell you from personal experience that kind of thing works much better in small rather than bigger ... and it doesn't work at all in mega big.
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