How to Get a Small College Experience at a Big University

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Kristen Seikaly
Kristen Seikaly

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Small colleges are great, but due to their hefty price tag, they might not be available for everyone. Furthermore, you might want to pursue a specialized field of study unavailable at a small college. But for some students, the small college experience with its individualized attention and lessened competition would make some sense, so what’s this student to do? There are a number of ways you can get a small college experience at a big university.

Consider your field of study

This is the most direct means to get a small college experience at a big university. Many universities have smaller schools within their campus for specialized programs. These schools include education, social work, the arts, business, nursing, and similar programs. If you are interested in one of these fields of study and a small school experience, you’ll want to look for universities that have specialized colleges for your program of interest. These specialized colleges often have a small college feel within the context of the larger university.

Join unique student groups

Universities often have a staggering number of student groups, which can be overwhelming to a student looking for a small college experience. It can also be exciting though. A larger amount of student groups increases your odds of finding a niche group that fits you just right. Plus, it’ll give you a small social circle just like a small college would. Your social circle plays a large role in your college experience, so knowing how to shape yours from the get-go will serve you well.

Find a campus hangout

One of the joys of small colleges is that they’re often found in small towns. This means that students know where the local hangouts are, like coffee shops or clubs. Finding a place like this on your university campus can help make your experience feel cozier. They’re also good places to meet new people, learn about campus activities, and maybe even find a job.

Live in a smaller dorm or off campus

Dorms are a popular place to make friends, but a large one can feel overwhelming. Finding a smaller dorm on campus can help you build a social circle, especially as a freshman. Some universities even offer specialty dorms for certain majors or demographics, so you might want to look into that option. After your freshman year, you may want to look into off-campus options for a quieter area, or for something with fewer people.

Many students attending large universities may feel odd about wanting a smaller college experience. While their peers may be loving the big class sizes, numerous social events, and similar university experiences, a student who wants a small college experience may feel left out. However, there’s nothing wrong with having your preferences, and it’s important to know these preferences before you even apply to college. If you hope to get a small college experience at a big university, look for these factors to help you find the right college for you. And if need be, a good college counselor can help you find a school that fits the bill, no matter what size it is.

Questions? Let us know!