Without visiting college campuses, it’s hard to get a feel for how a college’s size will influence your experience as a student. But trust me on this: a medium sized college is the ideal fit.
What is a medium sized college? College websites offer their various definitions, but the consensus generally falls in the 2,000 to 10,000 student range. I think of it this way: larger than high school, smaller than a hockey arena.
Unless an endless stream of unrecognizable faces—or four more years of high school—is your thing, a mid-sized college is probably the perfect fit for your post-secondary endeavors.
Skeptical? I was, too. But now in my third year at Calvin College, I’ve learned why Goldilocks always settled for the middle ground: mid-sized colleges are “just right.”
What you may give up as far as breadth of courses available—perhaps you’ll have to settle for “feminist literature of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries” rather than “feminist literature: 1892–1917”—you’ll more than make up for with intimate class sizes and deep discussion. Mid-sized colleges offer an impressive range of academic options and courses that are enriched by small but substantial class sizes for discussion.
You won’t know every face you see along the path at a mid-sized college. But, you’re sure to run into a handful of friendly faces almost everywhere you go. The familiarity of a mid-sized campus balances the homey feel of common friendships and the ability to disappear in a crowd when you’d rather be alone.
These colleges are full to the brim with student organizations, campus activities and residence life events. Mid-sized colleges always have something going on for students. But like daily life on campus, you won’t be lost in the masses. If you don’t have a friend to accompany you to an event, go anyway. You’re sure to run into one or two people you know already there.
Faculty who love to teach
Funding at mid-sized schools is smaller and differently structured than large research universities. Your professors will be there out of genuine love for their profession (regardless of access to grant money). Faculty at mid-sized schools are both masters in their fields and passionate about sharing their years of study and experience with their students. They won’t just be your professor; they’ll be your advisor, your confidant, maybe even your friend.
Mid-sized colleges and universities perform a lot of interesting and nuanced research. The type of scholarship that struggles to receive mainstream funding but provides valuable insights. Often, you’ll be eligible to work alongside a professor doing research and writing for scholarly journals. This type of experience, highly competitive at larger schools and less prevalent at smaller schools, will provide you with an unmatched edge when applying for jobs or graduate schools.
The intimate alumni network of mid-sized colleges means you’ll form tight bonds with fellow graduates and have inroads around the world. That’s all thanks to your shared alma mater. Mid-sized colleges still have big networks with even bigger connections—and they’re almost always glad to see a fellow graduate.
School size is easy to overlook in your college search, but it could play a significant role in your adjustment to school, involvement on campus, academic success and career outcomes. I bet, like Goldilocks, a mid-sized college will be “just right” for you, too!