Advice on size





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Discus: College Search and Selection: June 2004 Archive: Advice on size
By Nannydramabug (Nannydramabug) on Tuesday, June 08, 2004 - 11:27 am: Edit

Hello,
Most people know if they want to go urban or rural, large school or small school, etc., but I am lost.
I attend a laaaarge, public, suburban high school (and by large I mean larger than most liberal arts colleges) that's very diverse, although Asians take the cake. I live in a big, metropolitan area as well. My school is very cliqueish, and this is something I don't like about it. Because of this trait, I don't fit in a well as I think I would at a different school. Also, it's very preppy, which is another thing I don't like.
At my school, I love to take the most challenging classes to learn (because I love the learn). So, even though the social situation is dismal for me, I still love school so much that I miss it immensely during the summer.
As for student/teacher interaction, I'm not sure. I mean discussion is okay, but I find it depends on the teacher. When the teacher is excellent (like a few years ago), I like to join in discussions. But I think the reason that I don't do so as much now is because I've become quite shy and self-conscious lately. I'm not as apt to throw out ideas or I find that once I want to, someone's already said what I wanted to say, so I retreat. I might want to work on this in college? I sometimes get to know my teachers, but I enjoy learning more from my peers (discussing with them and figuring out homework together) than from my teachers.
Politically, I don't have a preference, although staunch liberals might annoy me as I'm not terribly concerned with politics. However, I looove learning about people who are different than me and interesting, quirky people are always fun. I'm also very interested in studying abroad, especially in India or Europe.
I'm not sure what I'd like to study, but maybe medicine or journalism (I am pretty sure I am NOT going premed). I guess I might like to explore a bit. I also like languages and musical theater.
Rural or urban? Well, I think a rural environment (even those that are an hour away from a major city) would be too confining. I visited my cousin's college campus, which was set up like this, and the isolation scared me. Also, I am not into Greek life, drinking, partying, the outdoors, or sports. I think I'd be willing to try an urban area, and NYC intrigues me. I think it's because it's in the East (I'm from the East but had to move a while back). I'm also not sure about an all-girls school because I'm shy and have enough trouble meeting guys in high school.
So, the colleges I've considered are:
Columbia U
UChicago
maybe McGill
UC Berkeley
You may say: What about LAC? Well, I'm afraid the isolation of these colleges would get to me, as well as the small size (remember, I'm from a very large high school). Also, I like options and don't think I'd like everyone knowing what I'm doing and such. And please, I don't want a Southern college.
Alright, sorry for the long post, but I need some help.

By Lkcrhcp (Lkcrhcp) on Tuesday, June 08, 2004 - 12:25 pm: Edit

why so quick to dismiss all southern schools?

By Nannydramabug (Nannydramabug) on Tuesday, June 08, 2004 - 12:42 pm: Edit

Southern culture is very unique, and if you've tried it and found you don't really fit with it, then this is a problem. To elaborate, I've lived in the South for a few years and found the cultural adjustment quite difficult. I think I feel more comfortable, no offense, in most places other than the South. For example, I've visited most of the US and have enjoyed it. So, I have nothing against the South, it's just that, personally, the South is not where I am most comfortable. However, I am considering Rice.
Any advice?

By Lkcrhcp (Lkcrhcp) on Tuesday, June 08, 2004 - 12:59 pm: Edit

Rice is an awesome school, but it's not as big as the other schools you listed. I think it has a little less than 3,000 undergrads.

By Nannydramabug (Nannydramabug) on Tuesday, June 08, 2004 - 01:29 pm: Edit

Yeah. I think I like the medium-sized undergrad school within a larger school, like the other schools I mentioned. And I don't think I'd actually go to Rice, it's just an option. It doesn't have a core or anything, it's just a good school. But, from reading my post, do you think I sound like I'd be more comfortable at a bigger or smaller school?

By Noodleman (Noodleman) on Tuesday, June 08, 2004 - 02:49 pm: Edit

Have you considered The School of Human Ecology at Cornell? It is kind of like a small LAC wrapped up in a big uni. Best of both worlds.

Kinda rural, though.

Hum Ec has some interesting med-related stuff, too.

By Er222 (Er222) on Tuesday, June 08, 2004 - 04:45 pm: Edit

I'm glad to see University of Chicago on your list. My daughter -- who sounds a bit like you -- is starting there next September, and I think that it may offer a lot of what you're looking for. It does combine some of the best aspects of a small liberal arts college (only 4000 students, with class sizes averaging around 20, and well over 80% of the classes taught by full professors) with the resources of one of the great research universities in the world. Add to that a beautiful urban campus in a functioning, multi-racial neighborhood, a few miles from the center of an exciting city, and that's a lot. There is, of course, its reputation as a school that has a tough curriculum, hard-working students, and not a lot of partying, but many of the students will tell you that they find lots of ways to have fun. Good luck in your search.

By Arizonamom (Arizonamom) on Tuesday, June 08, 2004 - 10:04 pm: Edit

I would visit schools of all sizes as you may surprise yourself. My son was adamant that he wanted a large or mediun sized school and would not even consider a small school. His visits and students at these schools totally changed his mind to my great amazement. A small school in college is nothing at all like a small school in HS. Before you mke up your mind visit different schools and spend a night. That is the only true way to know. You can read and philosophize all you want but being in the actual environment changes your prospective or at least clarifies it.good luck!

By Missmolly (Missmolly) on Tuesday, June 08, 2004 - 10:23 pm: Edit

Don't overlook Washington University in St Louis.
It's a great college, especially when it comes to exploring different subjects. The school is medium size, and from what I hear most of the students are NOT cliquish.

By Reidmc (Reidmc) on Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - 12:56 am: Edit

Some good suggestions above - there are many fine mid-size universities and LACs in urban or close-to-urban areas.

Rice, Washington U, U of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon, Case Western Reserve and Northwestern (biggest, at 8000 ug) are in the mid-size uni camp.

First-rate LACs in urban or suburban locations include the Claremont Colleges, Occidental, Reed, Macalester, Swarthmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Trinity (CT) and Trinity (TX).

I'm sure other posters will drop a few more in each category. Assuming strong grades and test scores I'd look hard at Pomona (Claremont), Reed, Swarthmore, Macalester, Johns Hopkins and Chicago.

By Jnm123 (Jnm123) on Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - 09:10 am: Edit

I think a lot of HS juniors 'think' they have an idea of whether to go small/large, rural/urban, Greek/not, conservative/liberal as far as attributes of a college go.

As a parent, I think it's important to expose your child to varied styles of campuses--we've looked at beautiful Miami/Ohio; gothic, forested Duke; bustling Illinois, rural Iowa and will be checking out urban Boston U. in the Back Bay, and resort-like U. of Miami.

All have pros & cons, and once the money issues are resolved, inevitably it will be up to D to decide for herself what's going to be the best fit--a pretty tall order for a 17-year-old...

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Wednesday, June 09, 2004 - 01:33 pm: Edit

>> I attend a laaaarge, public, suburban high school (and by large I mean larger than most liberal arts colleges) that's very diverse, although Asians take the cake. I live in a big, metropolitan area as well. My school is very cliqueish, and this is something I don't like about it. Because of this trait, I don't fit in a well as I think I would at a different school. Also, it's very preppy, which is another thing I don't like.
At my school, I love to take the most challenging classes to learn (because I love the learn). So, even though the social situation is dismal for me, I still love school so much that I miss it immensely during the summer.
As for student/teacher interaction, I'm not sure. I mean discussion is okay, but I find it depends on the teacher. When the teacher is excellent (like a few years ago), I like to join in discussions. But I think the reason that I don't do so as much now is because I've become quite shy and self-conscious lately. I'm not as apt to throw out ideas or I find that once I want to, someone's already said what I wanted to say, so I retreat. I might want to work on this in college? I sometimes get to know my teachers, but I enjoy learning more from my peers (discussing with them and figuring out homework together) than from my teachers.

You should consider all types of schools and decide which is best for you. It's all good. However, after reading your rather detailed (and honest) description, I have some general observations.

First, the "clique" thing is absolutely normal for almost all high schools, large or small. It is less of an issue at college, although you will probably find more "cliquishness" at large universities than you will at a small liberal arts college. It's a bit of a natural consequence of having 5000 undergrads -- people have to break up into smaller "social" circles.

The "speaking up in class" and "shyness" issues caught my eye. If you were my son/daughter with these specific thoughts, I would be more inclined to recommend a small liberal arts college than a large university setting. Why? Because the large university setting makes it easier for a "shy" student to spend four anonymous years, sitting in the back of lecture classes, not being aggressive enough to fully immerse themselves in the educational experience. If anything, I think larger university settings are more appropriate for more aggressive, self-confident "go-getter" students who have no reservations about dominating class room and professor time. The onus of taking full advantage of educational opportunities is really on the student in a larger university setting -- the structure is simply not designed to reach out and engage passive students.

Here's a little secret: the number one benefit of a college education is developing the confidence to analyze, form opinions, and express them effectively. This is the lasting benefit that will pay dividends regardless of your future career: confidence in business meetings, sales presentations, pursuing research in science, etc. The whole point of a small liberal arts college is to instill confidence in forming and discussing ideas.

A shy student is far more likely to become "involved" in a small college setting. And becoming "involved" is the key to really having a ball in college. When you are involved, you look forward to classes.

Anyway, that's just my two-cents worth -- things I discussed with my daughter on the real-world pros and cons of different sized schools. My daughter is somewhat outspoken in class so I felt that she would find her place at any size school. However, one of her best friends is a bit quieter and less outgoing. I felt that a small liberal arts college would be the ideal place for her, really allowing her to blossom, where she might get tagged ia the same "shy" rut in a larger university.

By Fredo (Fredo) on Saturday, June 12, 2004 - 11:43 am: Edit

INteresteddad makes some great points and after re-reading your original post, Occidental jumps out at me. It meets most of your requirements and although it is small it's close to a city and about as un-high school like as possible.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, June 12, 2004 - 11:59 am: Edit

This is not intended as a knock on two excellent universities. But, after reading the original list, I can't really imagine two schools that would be less appropriate for a "shy" kid than Berkeley and Columbia. Berkeley because of its size. Columbia because of its New York location.

My inclination is that both schools would be a better fit for outgoing, confident, assertive kids. Instead of pulling an anonymous, somewhat passive student out of the shell, there is the chance that such a student could become simply invisible. If that were to happen, both schools could be lonely and depressing experiences.

By Marza03 (Marza03) on Sunday, June 13, 2004 - 12:19 am: Edit

Thanks to all the posters on this thread. I fit a lot of the descriptions that the original poster stated. I am also pretty shy and too intimidated to speak up in class. I chose to attend a liberal arts college in the fall but wasn’t sure if I had made the right choice. You made me more confident in my decision. Thanks!


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