Small schools that feel like bigger schools?

I have a rising senior and we need to get his college list down.

I’m wondering about what schools do you think of when you hear smaller school with a big school feel?
Or what privates feel like publics?
Or what schools feel bigger due to location with lots to do?

For this discussion, lets leave out any T20’s or any schools in Chicago, Boston, NYC, or LA.

(Bonus points if its a school with decent music opportunities that a 3.3 GPA might get into).

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The College of Charleston may work with the gpa and interests. CoC has a unique LAC feel while serving a larger student population in a state university. (Opposite of one of your requests -but uniquely fits the bill perhaps.) They recently celebrated the 250 year mark, making it one of the oldest colleges in the country.

The music department has some very dedicated staff who are passionate about their work. There are also many local opportunities in music - varied by interest.

Students who stick around in the summer can find opportunities helping with Spoleto- an international festival with music, theater, and the arts.


Why is it important for him to go to a private U if he wants a public feel?

First thing that comes to mind to fit your stated criteria is Belmont, in Nashville. Fun town with lots to do, Mid-sized private (around 7000 undergrads), known for music, and has its own school spirit-y stuff (including a non-marching pep band), but musicians can also join Vanderbilt’s Spirit Of Gold Marching band (reportedly about 40% of members are from Belmont and other Nashville schools other than Vandy). And Belmont’s median GPA is about 3.5, so not necessarily out of range for a 3.3 musician.

Providence College? Huge spirit around basketball. Median GPA a litlte under 3.5. Around 4000 undergrads. Majors in Music Ed and Music Tech/Production as well as the regular music major and a music track of musical theater. The city of Providence has a lot to offer, plus it’s quite easy to take the train to Boston.

Maybe SMU as a reach? 3.64 median, 7000 undergrads, Meadows School of the Arts… big city, spirited school.

Mayyybe UDenver/Lamont School of Music?


Belmont was the first to come to mind, so I’ll second that.

I’ll come back later with more… need to garden before it gets too hot!


I dont think our situation is unique and maybe others will find the answers useful as well.

OOS publics can often be more expensive than private schools.

My child in particular may like smaller classes and some of the aspects of a LAC yet prefers the location to offer more options to explore. The college experience for him will go beyond what he learns in classes. However he acknowledges that classes are still important.


So are you thinking maybe private colleges in big (but not huge) cities? Places like Augsburg and Hamline in Mpls/St. Paul? Or maybe some of the Jesuit schools like Marquette or St. Louis University or Loyola New Orleans? Not sure about their music though. Agree with Belmont as a possibility.

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Macalester College in St Paul, MN. You can walk off campus to stores and restaurants. It’s in a very nice neighborhood but only 10-15 minutes from downtown St Paul and Minneapolis. All professional sports play close by. They have a great theatre and music program we are told. It’s my 2023’s top choice, part of the reason is she feels like she will never run out of things to do there.


Duquesne in Pittsburgh might be an option. I don’t know about music opportunities for those who aren’t music majors. The college is located a very short walk from the downtown area. Pittsburgh has professional baseball, football, hockey all not far from the college.


Sorry, but is that likely with a 3.3 gpa?


Check out Loyola New Orleans.


Any of the Claremont Colleges schools – Pomona, Claremont, Pitzer, Scripps or Harvey Mudd. Individually each is a traditional small LAC but collectively they become a big school campus. Not really in LA – an hour away and feels nothing like it. Some are T20 but not all. Though all my be a reach for a 3.3.

Yes, like that. He isn’t against huge cities, I just think that most people are aware of the schools available in Chicago, NY, LA, and Boston and we wanted to think beyond that.

As noted, Loyola New Orleans is a small school. However it neighboring Tulane and being in close proximity to New Orleans likely makes it feel bigger.

I think lots of kids may be lured into the excitement of a bigger city or a thriving community yet not want to attend a school with 20k students.

My son is not totally ruling out OOS publics or big schools (Syracuse is on his list as is U-Minn Twin Cities and U of Louisiana-Lafayette). A recent tour to Lawrence in WI just brought up the discussion and thought I would throw out the question to help other kids like him find their unicorns. :slight_smile:


Rollins near Orlando may be worth a look. Absolutely gorgeous campus and plenty of opportunities for music on and off campus. Rollins has sports plus Orlando has professional sports teams.

I’m not sure this one would meet the public school feel though… There are some joint activities with UCF.


The Frost School of Music within the University of Miami is a small community that extends beyond the school but has the benefit of the larger, beautiful campus and top-notch amenities. Miami is also a hot cultural spot for music production and performance from Pitbull to jazz at Frost to Afro-Caribbean to the New World Orchestra.


Would a school like Baldwin Wallace appeal at all? I’m not sure of the music opportunities for non-conservatory kids but may be worth researching. It’s in a suburb of Cleveland which has a lot to do.

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UNC-Asheville is a small public. I’m not sure what you mean by “feels like a bigger school”, though? Are you thinking more course offerings or lots of sports? Asheville is a great town with tons to do.

Maybe Elon? Lots of people love it. It’s pretty preppy and wasn’t for my unconventional kids, but might work for yours.

Is University of Vermont too big?

Is Roanoke too small?

Maybe Truman State? It is a a public LAC, but it is relatively large for a LAC and offers music majors. It is also relatively inexpensive (even for out-of-state students), and 3.3 HS GPA with 26 ACT or 1230 SAT gives some scholarship money.


Agree that with a GPA of 3.3, Macalester would be a reach. But a substitute in basically the same neighborhood might be St. Thomas. All these schools (including nearby St. Kates, Hamline and Augsburg) have a consortium agreement for classes. And St. Thomas has D1 sports now.


Sorry I missed that…I agree it’s a reach then.

Check out Xavier in Cincinnati. Great midsize school with good music opportunities, and they are very generous with merit aide. Cincinnati has a lot to offer. Also, amazing school spirit, caring administration and faculty. Truly educate the whole person.