04/01/2012

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Which to Choose: Large Research University or Small Liberal Arts School? One of the questions to ask yourself when you start thinking about college is whether you want to attend a college near home and live at home, or one that requires you to live on campus (a lot of schools require freshmen to live on campus). The next question to ask yourself is whether you want to attend a small liberal arts college or a large research university. Before you can answer that question, you need to first understand what people mean when they refer to "a small liberal arts college," and what they mean by "large research university." Both kinds of schools offer wonderful education opportunities, and enriching experiences, but they are different. They have different values, and, often, different costs as well as benefits. There are private for profit and public versions of both large research universities and small liberal arts schools, so while cost is definitely a consideration, don't assume that small always means costly; sometimes it doesn't. A large college or university typically has a large campus, a number of student service offices and lots of opportunities for social life. But you may feel lost in the crowd if you're not comfortable venturing out on your own and already adept at making friends. You may have classes with several hundred students, and very little contact with the professor teaching the class. You may find the opportunities to meet lots of different kind of people, and an urban environment exactly what you want. A smaller school can offer more personal and individualized attention by campus officers and faculty, and you might have an easier time making friends. You might find that you stand out in a smaller school, and crave the anonymity of a large one. It all depends on you, on what you want, and how you want to be in your future. [This post was originally written for College Adviser in 2011]