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Get Ready for Fall College Fairs!Jennifer Sullivan
As a graduate of one small college (1,000 students in a town of 10,500) and former employee of another (900 students in a town of 10,000), I want to make a suggestion as you and your student are exploring colleges: Don’t be too quick to cross small-town and rural colleges off your list.
I compiled a bunch of advantages with the help of some small-town college alumni, as well as my experience with www.MyCollegePlanningTeam. Here are just a few:
Enrollment at small colleges fluctuates from year to year and a lot of them have sizeable endowments. This means that they tend to give large amounts of merit money to entice students to attend. Plus, in small towns, most off-campus housing is less expensive.
No campus exists in a bubble, and students need to be proactive about personal safety. However, in general, students may feel safer walking around a small town and a small campus.
Professors and administrators tend to live closer to campus, which creates more opportunities for your student to interact with them outside the classroom or office. There may be cookouts at the president’s house and informal gatherings at professors’ houses.
“It was nice running into my professors outside of school in random moments and having a non-class-related conversation,” one small-college alum told me.
Everything — from the grocery store to the laundromat — is probably within walking distance of campus. Students who patronize the local watering holes (after they turn 21 of course) can walk home instead of driving. “Sometimes we just want on a walk in town,” a former student told me.
In cities and larger communities, the colleges may expect students to find their own fun on the weekends. Said one parent, “My kid ended up choosing a small college in a big and exciting city, and there are very few organized on-campus activities. At this school they expect the kids to venture off campus for their activities and entertainment.”
I worked for one college that had only 800n students but more than 80 organizations!
There are fewer distractions. Per one small college alum, “College in a rural town can be a cherished time to focus on academics, becoming an adult and building lifelong friends. It can be a very rewarding experience to be in a beautiful, scenic rural college town. There is also something special about being together, ‘in the middle of nowhere,’ in the cold, and just focus on learning.”
Another alum said she just enjoyed seeing the stars at night and breathing fresh air.
With fewer places to go in town, students tend to do things in larger groups. Friendship groups also tend to be larger, more diverse, and a bit less cliquey, especially if the college is also small.
“Most everyone stays on campus on weekends because it’s too far to drive home,” one alum told me. “I think it helps students learn to cope with issues that might arise because they can’t always go home to escape the situation.”
City kids learn what life is like in the country, and country kids can see what city life is like when they accompany their friends home for the weekend. It’s also easier for students to become involved in town activities, like volunteering at the library or tutoring at the local elementary school.
There are a lot of reasons to cross a college off the list of schools you and your high school student are considering. Too big, too close, too far away, too expensive. Students should always choose the colleges where they feel most at home, but don’t let them ignore a college just because it’s “in the middle of nowhere.” Trust me…they won’t be bored!
Senior year is here! It’s an exciting chapter for your high school senior, with lots to do. We’re here to help you both along the way.