When picking a college to attend, a prospective student can have an incredibly hard time deciding what they want, and what will be best for them. One of the biggest considerations to make is the size of the campus itself; picking a large or small campus can very much dictate how the next few years of your education are spent. There are a lot of factors to consider as this decision is weighed; many of them depend on your own needs as per your education. In this essay, we will examine the virtues and detriments of small versus large college campuses. It is our belief that it is important to find a good balance between the greater access to help and closeness that a small school offers, and the tremendous resources and networking opportunities that a larger school could provide.
When discussing small and large college campuses, the size of the surrounding area also plays a part. In a large city, a student also has the benefits of the rest of the city’s resources to draw from, regardless of campus size; therefore, their campus will not feel small, no matter what.
However, in the case of rural college towns, having a small campus is par for the course, and often the college campus is a large part of the town’s efforts toward tourism and income, playing a large part in the town’s economy. Students who attend a rural college town will often find that their campus is the most interesting thing around them. While they may enjoy their campus experience, students may also feel somewhat trapped there. (Jones, 2011)
In smaller schools, there will be less incentive to strike out of the dorm room and get an apartment; that option is far more feasible in a larger city, with greater housing options available. This makes the student very much connected to the campus itself for a longer period of time, as they will not move out after just their first couple of years. As a result, they can be more closely tied to their peers and not isolate themselves. (“Rural vs. Urban Campuses,” 2011)
This sense of isolation in a small college campus can often be both good and bad for the student. In one sense, a small campus is very advantageous, because the smaller class and campus sizes mean a greater sense of community with the other students - the same students see each other more often, and thus are given more opportunities to socialize and get to know one another. The smaller class sizes also permit camaraderie among an entire classroom, as opposed to clusters of friends and colleagues that can be found on a larger campus. Student organizations can have a much bigger impact on the campus as a whole, even with fewer than average members, and can host events that are noticed or appreciated by a greater swath of the student body. (Robertson, 2011)
In a large city, however, there is less of a sense of belonging. A new student, with no preestablished friends, can feel more alienated in an environment such as this, as there are too many people to keep track of, and he or she may not feel as though they have a sufficient social foothold. A small campus is a much better environment for individuals with less than ideal social skills to find him or herself in; there is less pressure to fit in, and there are fewer people to manage relationships with. For those individuals who are extroverted, however, a large college campus can provide many benefits, as they will take the initiative to locate the peer groups that they want. (Robertson, 2011)
Students can feel much less alienated in a smaller campus; deindividualization can happen when a student reaches a large campus, and they do not get as much of a chance to stand out in a crowd. They also do not get to test their own sense of responsibility, as more people in a group can mean less accountability for one’s actions, leading to diminished character-building. Greek systems also have the potential to be more tightly knit in smaller schools; fraternity and sorority sizes are smaller, and as such the pledges and members will have a more intimate, familial experience with each other. Greeks can also hold a greater influence on student life, hosting philanthropic and social events that affect a greater proportion of the campus’ population. (Levine et al., 2010)
Transportation and distance is another factor to consider when picking a small or large school. A small campus is preferable when considering this particular phase, as classes and social gatherings can be much easier to reach when the campus is not as spread out as in a large campus. It can be argued that class attendance can be affected by the distance between the student’s residence and the classroom; the further away the classroom is, the less likely the student would feel ready or willing to go to that class. In a larger school, walks to class can be interminable, especially in the winter months, and many dormitories are further away from each other, and so social circles tend to be more localized to sections of the campus where dorms are adjacent to one other. The more manageable travel distances within a small campus makes forming campus-wide relationships substantially easier. (Robertson, 2011)
In the case of quality of education, there are advantages and disadvantages to both large and small campuses. Large campuses are often assumed to be greater for an education, as they are often populated with the most qualified teachers, and equipped with the greatest resources. Larger schools have bigger budgets, and as such are much more likely to get specialized equipment, reputable guest speakers, experienced attending professors, and higher quality facilities. On the other hand, if a student requires a more hands-on approach to their education, and learns best from personal interaction from a professor, then the small campus is the obvious choice. (Raywid, 1997)
With smaller campus sizes come smaller class sizes, and as a result the professor can communicate more often and in greater detail with a particular student. This facilitates a greater understanding of the material than would a student who needed the same help, but went to a larger school. The professor, having to juggle a far greater number of students, would not have as much time for that particular student on a one on one basis, leaving that student with less help than he would be afforded while at the smaller campus. Studies have concluded that “students in small schools were more likely than those in large schools to pass major subjects and progress toward graduation.” (Raywid, 1997) That result is due to a more comprehensive education provided by the smaller school – in a larger school, it is much more probable for the entire semester to pass without being able to speak to a professor. This places the favor, in terms of quality of education, squarely in the hands of smaller campuses.
Small campuses carry a greater variety of students as well. With large schools, socioeconomic lines tend to be much more clearly defined, and those students who come from wealthier or more advantaged families get ahead, while those dealing with money troubles fall behind. While this sort of divide still exists in a small school, it is much less prevalent, and there is a greater homogenizing of the student body in a beneficial way. In a smaller school, students from all socioeconomic backgrounds are increasingly eager to get along and form relationships, as opposed to the alienation that occurs in bigger campuses.(Raywid, 1997)
Large campuses still have their pros in the realm of education, however, especially as a student majors and takes classes in fields that involve a great amount of expensive equipment and advanced facilities, such as the sciences. Biology, chemistry and the like all require machines, labs, and the like, all of which demand a specific environment that is expensive to maintain. This requires a school with a substantial budget to allot to these facilities. In these instances, it is often very helpful to enroll in a large school with the financial resources to afford that equipment. With greater access to resources, a sciences student has the tools that he or she needs to perform their studies and have more marketable job skills in their future career. This is not quite as true with smaller schools, as they may not necessarily have the budget to update their equipment at the same frequency as a smaller school. (Jones, 2011)
When weighing the pros and cons of small and large campuses, it is also necessary to look beyond undergraduate and graduate education and consider the benefits that the school can offer to a future career. Often, larger schools will have the benefit of greater name recognition, more well-known professors, and more advantageous networking and job-placement opportunities. The larger the campus, the more people there are to network with. Also, larger schools will have the bigger budget to bring programs and companies to their campus in search of prospective employees, an opportunity that is not as prevalent on a smaller campus. Smaller campuses allow you the opportunity to make a bigger impression on an individual, however, due to the greater amount of face time you can have with an influential teacher or faculty member, or even a student who can extend an opportunity to you in the future. However, the faculty and staff who reside in a larger campus in a bigger city can often be thought to have connections that staff of smaller campuses do not have. When comparing the capabilities of the two campus sizes in light of what would benefit a future career more, the advantage goes to larger campuses. (Jones, 2011)
With that in mind, the decision is entirely up to what the student would like to get out of their college experience. For the most part, a student looking for a greater social experience and personal growth will gain more from a smaller school, whereas someone who wishes to have a lucrative career, particularly in the sciences, would do well to invest in a larger school. The students in a smaller school can enjoy a more tightly knit community of faculty and students that create more lasting bonds, whereas the larger schools can offer the resources required for forward-thinking, business-oriented individuals to have the chance to make their mark soon after college (if not during). There is no one right answer as to which campus is better; it varies according to student preference.
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