Whether you are still in high school or choosing a grad school, deciding whether or not to head off to a small or large university is a big decision that most students are faced with at one point or another.
Even if you have your heart set on one type of school over the other, sometimes finances (or other factors) force you to make a choice that you don’t necessarily want to make.
Perhaps you can’t afford the small, private school in the city, but the larger, in-state university is much more within your reach.
Maybe you want to head to the big school, but the private college is offering you a scholarship. Perhaps your parents are alumni of a certain school and want you to go for their alma mater.
You may not be happy about the school you end up choosing, but there are pros and cons to both small and large universities that you should be aware of when making your decision.
Thankfully, I transferred from a small college to a large university so I have insights that you may not be able to find elsewhere.
Social life can encompass many things: from making friends and going to parties to clubs, organizations, and the overall “scene” at your school, your social life is an important aspect of the school you choose.
What You Can Expect From the Small School:
Pro: Heading to a small college can be like heading to a new high school; you will most likely know the players in the game after your first semester and they will know you.
Con: Friendships can be cliquish, tight-knit, and everyone will always know your business (that is, if you have business to be known). Know that the potential for high levels of drama is correlated with a low student population.
Pro: You will always see people you know around campus and have classes with the same people (assuming you don’t switch your major). You will have the opportunity to make a lot of really close friends and get to know other groups of people through class, your dormitory, and partying.
Con: Don’t expect to leave your dorm without running into someone you may or may not want to see. Think you can avoid that bad hookup? Not a chance at a small school.
Pro: Parties tend to be filled with just friends and not a bunch of rando’s. Parties will be a great opportunity to strengthen the friendships you have made and possibly make a few more.
Con: Parties will be on a smaller-scale and they will be more exclusive as there will be fewer of them. Your school may skip the parties all-together and be a “bar school,” but that would depend on the location of the school. This can be tough if you are either under 21 or don’t have a fake ID.
Pro: Your school will probably have some type of scene you can identify with whether you are a huge sports fan, into philanthropy, or making new friends, there will surely be opportunities for everyone.
Con: There may be a prevalent Greek or sports system that may dominate the social scene, meaning if you are not a part of either, you may find yourself feeling like an outsider.
Pro: You will most likely be surrounded by people just like you.
Con: A small school = less diversity and you will have less of an opportunity to expand your cultural horizons.
What You Can Expect From the Large University:
Going from high school to a large university is a huge adjustment (unless you went to a high school with 10,000+ students). You may feel overwhelmed at first, but all it takes is time to adjust.
Pro: You will be surrounded by thousands of other students which means thousands of opportunities to make new friends. More students means bigger parties and more of them. Get ready to have your social life rocked.
Con: Being only one person in a crowd can be difficult for someone who is shy or nervous about making friends. Going to tons of parties packed with people you don’t know can get old fast.
Pro: Massive amounts of clubs, organizations, events and all sorts of things on-campus that will not only keep you occupied, but will also give you another chance to meet people and make friends. With so many different organizations, you are sure to find SOMETHING that suits your interests and personality.
Con: With so much going on, it can be overwhelming and intimidating to try new things.
Pro: With so many students, there usually isn’t one dominant social scene; whether you are into sports, Greek life, clubs, or whatever, there will always be people who like the same things and people who don’t.
Con: Even these groups of people CAN get cliquish, but you will typically have many types of friends from all different scenes, even if you personally belong to one specific group.
Pro: Plenty of people to date and hookup with. You and your friends won’t be competing for the same people (hopefully) and you can be sure that there is less “in-breeding” going on, meaning the same people hooking up with each other.
Con: A big school can mean lots of secrets; the person you are crushing on may have a list that goes down the hall and beyond, but you may never know about it.
Pro: Tons of different types of people; you will never be bored or see the same face twice. Every time you go to class, the cafeteria, or walk on-campus, you will see new people mixed with familiar faces, but mostly new faces.
Con: Never seeing the same face twice can literally mean just that; forget about seeing that cute guy/girl again because they tend to disappear as quickly as you saw them.