Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fear Factor #2: School Size

Last week we talked about the fear factor of distance.  This week we turn our attention to another fear factor: size of the school. 

Many students gripped by fear when they step onto a college campus for the first time.  Normally that sense of fear is eased as they take their tour, but sometimes, that fear stays as they walk around campus more and more and more.  Size definitely plays a big part in the initial mentality of a student and their evaluation of a school.

Kevin Kirk, Director of Campus Visits at Baylor University has this to say about size. 

“The size of a school does factor in for most students,” Kirk said.  “Although for the most part, it's not just the overall enrollment that is important.  Students are also very interested in class sizes, faculty to student ratios, the number/choices of activities, and can they find a small group of friends that they can relate to.”

Kirk says that at Baylor, he and his staff try their best to show potential students what it really is like and don’t try to make the campus smaller or bigger than it actually is. 

We do our best to show what is really there and what it is really like to be a student at our school,” Kirk said.  “The most important thing is for the student to get a realistic impression that will help them to make the right decision in school selection.”

Kirk said the best way to evaluate the schools that you are looking at is to visit each one of them in person and make a judgment call on size based on the environment.  He also said to talk to current and former students.

“Talk to lots of current students at a school to get the ‘real story.’” Kirk said.  “This will help to not be inaccurately swayed either way.”


The Bigness


According to fall 2008 enrollment numbers, The Ohio State University had the largest campus in the US with 53,715 students.  Arizona State was second with 52,734 and the University of Florida was third with 51,413. 

These are mind-boggling numbers for students who have maybe never been anywhere in their life where so many people are in one place at one time.  It can be pretty overwhelming.

“It’s slightly overwhelming in the beginning, just because the campus is so big,” said Texas A&M freshman Abbie Adams.

As daunting as this may seem, many students feel that you can reduce the size of a college by simply discovering your niche.

It was never really intimidating to look at big schools but whenever I got to UT, it was kind of intimidating,” said University of Texas sophomore Will McCarthy.  “However, by the end of the first semester I found good groups of friends and organizations that made UT feel smaller and more like home.”

Some students such as Aubrey Mowery, sophomore at the University of Georgia, say that over time, you become used to the big school feel and it doesn’t seem as big.

The campus seriously isn't that big,” Mowery said.  “Wherever you go, you'll learn your way around quickly, whether it's a large campus or a small one.  Also, it doesn't even feel like there are 33,000 or however many people on this campus. It feels so much smaller than that! I've gotten to know my group of friends and the student groups I'm involved in, and both of those have made the campus seem way smaller and more intimate.”


The Smallness

At the other end of the spectrum are the smaller schools.  These schools have smaller campuses, smaller enrollments and a more intimate feel top to bottom. 

“I absolutely love going to a smaller university,” said Oklahoma Christian sophomore Lane West.  “We have just over 2100 students on campus, and surprisingly you know most everyone.  OC is awesome in that they really stress getting to know the people in your class and the people you essentially are with everyday.”

Many students think that with the smaller enrollments, they get more of an education due to the relationships they develop not only with their fellow students, but also with their professors. 

“You get help from teachers a lot more,” said Spartanburg Methodist sophomore Kendall Sherrill.  “The teachers actually teach instead of lecture because the classrooms are smaller and they have time to explain questions that students have.”

“School seems easier,” said Western Carolina sophomore Lindsey Provine.  “I have great relationships with my professors and they care and know about me.”

Big or small, there is a school out there for you.  You just need to get out and find it.  

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