Little Fish In A Big Pond: Choosing The “Big” School

For the most part, my friends and family were absolutely ecstatic that I decided to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the fall of 2011. They kept telling me how great a college it was and how amazing it would look on my resume when I went to apply for jobs in the future. Honestly, this did not really factor into my decision to choose U of I, I was particularly interested in how good their school of journalism was. However, like any important decision made in life, I was also met with some opposition.

See, I choose such-and-such small liberal arts school because I don’t want to be just a number…

Personally, I understand when people decide they want the smaller college experience. It’s just their preference and how they like to learn. In my situation, I was getting tired of the “small town” atmosphere and being singled out so frequently. You see, I came from a high school with a graduating class of only 74 kids. This never fails to make suburb kids gasp in shock and immediately ask if I knew every single person in my class growing up. Why yes, yes I did.

Despite the numerous questions I get for why I did not attend the college in my hometown and how it feels to be in lectures with over three hundred people, I am immensely happy with my decision to attend the University of Illinois, and I felt I should share why with both kids who are also in my situation as well as those who are not. It’s been one heck of a journey.

Attending a bigger college has given me a much broader perspective and introduced me to several different cultures, religions and lifestyles.

This is not to say that you cannot get this same experience from going to a smaller college, but I feel that attending a Big Ten university has really helped me get to know a variety of people. Honestly, I never thought I would meet a Zen Buddhist, a native of Russia and the creator of To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) in one semester. Through interesting meetings like this, I feel I have built up a well-rounded view on society and overall became a better person. I never would have thought any of this possible if I attended my local community college.

The selection of classes that my university offers several different class sizes and subjects. I always feel challenged and like I am learning something new, even when I’m not trying.

Once again, this is not claiming that you do not get a fulfilling education from a smaller college as well. However, I feel like I wouldn’t find a class called “Violence, Religion and America” at the liberal arts college in my hometown. The University of Illinois gives me so many opportunities on a daily basis to learn something new in an intriguing way. I honestly feel like choosing what I want to learn from such a wide selection has improved my productivity and learning tenfold. With the large number of faculty members the university has, I also feel like the number of perspectives I encounter frequently causes me challenge my previous way of thinking.

You are only a “number” if you resign yourself to that way of thinking.

Although several of my former classmates have argued that they could never attend my university because they would feel lost in the crowd, I can only say that is only a state of mind. It is easily breakable if you are confident in yourself and your skills. In fact, I often end up in smaller classes due to the size of my particular college at school. Also, if you take the time to talk to your professors both during and outside of class, you will find that they remember you quite clearly. Once you branch out and make friends, it is amazing how often you will run into people you know on such a large campus. Plus, the larger the campus the more stuff there is to do. So the moral of this point is, do not let yourself get boxed into a corner. Get out there, talk to people and let yourself be heard.

Final Thoughts: Is The Big University Life For You?

Overall, the point of this little “trip down memory lane” of mine was not to convince you that you should drop everything and attend a huge four-year college. In fact, that is the opposite of what I want you to take away from this tale. Mainly, I wanted to show you that you can do anything once you set your mind to it. For me, I was conquering my fears and breaking the boundaries of my small town existence. Just because I went to a small high school did not mean that I had to attend a small school. However, this may be exactly what another person wants for themselves, and there is no shame in that. Choose what feels the best for you, and do not let anyone else say otherwise. Big school or small school, it does not matter. Learn from my experiences and do what feels right.

And always, always remember: you are never a number. 


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Tori Stukins

Tori Stukins

Tori Stukins is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a degree in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Theatre. On campus, Tori can often be found working on various projects for Her Campus Illinois, acting in a production or reading. While at home, she enjoys working at her family’s restaurant or exploring with her friends.