Small College or Big University: Which Is Right For You?

Debating whether to go to a small college or a big university?

Small colleges offer intimate class settings and confined campuses, and large universities boast big alumni networks and a wider range of academic options. So how do you choose?

Many small schools are private, liberal arts colleges that offer a unique education experience, such as Albion College in Michigan, University of Chicago or Carleton College in Minnesota.

However, big universities have a lot to offer as well.

I would recommend attending a big university if you want greater networking opportunities, a more active campus atmosphere and a range of academic options.

Jeff Johnson, a junior at Michigan State University said the active campus and large amount of people attracts him to a big school like MSU.

“Personally I love the fact that there’s always something going on around campus, no matter what time or day it is,” Johnson said. “Our academics and athletics obviously benefit from the larger size of the university, as well as the quality of campus events, from free movie screenings to guest lecturers.”

Brooks Swanson, also a junior at Michigan State University enjoys the feel of a big school as well.

“The sporting events and the big campus feel of East Lansing is a big plus for me,” Swanson said.

One aspect of attending a large university that Swanson and Johnson agree on? The network of people you encounter.

“Going to a big school like MSU is great because there are so many people to meet from all over, not just Michigan,” Swanson said.

“The sheer number of people, while intimidating, provides a great opportunity to meet new friends and gain new perspectives in class. Ideas are always challenged and discussions engaged, making learning much more interesting than the complacent alternative,” Johnson said.

Going to a large university opens the doors for opportunities based on its size alone. Whether it’s the diversity of the student body and professors, to the large alumni bases for career networking, a larger school cannot be beaten because of size.

Thomas Tookes, a student at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan also sees some advantages of attending a big university even without going to one yet.

“You get to meet a lot of people and there are more opportunities. There’s a lot more going on and you get the true ‘college experience’ at a big university,” Tookes said.

However, there are many disadvantages to going to a large school as well. If you prefer a more intimate campus, classroom setting and professor-student relationship, a big school may not necessarily be for you.

Johnson said with too many students in a classroom, staying focused could be difficult.

“It is quite easy to get lost in the large population and to simply float through classes and campus as just another student, without becoming too engaged,” Johnson said.

For others like Swanson, it is the bigger campus that often comes with a big school that can be disadvantageous.

“One of the problems I see is that campus is obviously big. You might live off campus and have an hour or more walk to some of the buildings if you miss the bus or don’t have a car at school,” Swanson said.

Just remember, when choosing the type of colleges to apply to and attend, you want to create an experience that is personalized and right for you. While some like the lively atmosphere of a big university, others prefer a quaint campus and a more personalized education.

Be sure to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of both kinds of schools, and keep in mind potential for job placement and networking opportunities during and after college.

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Madeline Fetchiet

Madeline Fetchiet

Madeline Fetchiet is a sophomore at Michigan State University, studying journalism and philosophy of law. Aside from reporting, Madeline enjoys tae kwon do, reading, writing, researching and traveling, and can be considered a music enthusiast. Madeline currently works as an intern for, and is a banquet server at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor, MI. Perfecting the storytelling side of reporting is something she looks forward to in her future career as a journalist.
Madeline Fetchiet

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