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The Final Choice: Choosing your Best Fit College


There are several reasons why universities tend to have greater name recognition than small colleges:

  • Larger schools have more alumni in India because they went to Graduate School there. Remember that these are very different things. Make sure that the school that you choose values undergraduate education.
  • Larger schools are more likely to have NCAA Division I athletic teams.  The flip side of this is that many students are only attracted to the school because of the athletic teams.
  • At research-centered universities, the faculty often publish more and appear in the news more. The flip side of this is that they do not have as much interest in teaching undergraduate students.

2. Professional Programs

You’re more likely to find robust undergraduate professional programs in areas like business and engineering at a large university. Smaller schools consider these to be more suitable for Graduate Study and therefore do not have as much of a focus or funding related to those fields. Notable exceptions would be schools like Babson or Bentley for business or Harvey Mudd or Olin for Engineering.

3. Class Size

At a liberal arts college, you’re more likely to have small classes, even if the student/faculty ratio is higher than at a large research university. You’ll find far fewer giant freshmen lecture classes at a small college than a large university. In general, small colleges have a much more student-centered approach to education than large universities. NOTE: Student-Teacher Ratio is sometimes a scam in that some schools will count EVERY professor who is in anyway attached to the university when calculating that ratio. Class size is always a better metric to look at.

4. Classroom Discussion

This is connected to class size — at a small college you’ll usually find lots of opportunities to speak out, ask questions, and engage the professors and students in debate.

5. Access to the Faculty

At a liberal arts colleges and other smaller schools, teaching undergraduates is usually the top priority of the faculty. Tenure and promotion both depend upon quality teaching. At a large research university, research may rank higher than teaching. Also, at a school with master’s and PhD programs, the faculty will have to devote a lot of time to graduate students and consequently have less time for undergraduates.

6. Graduate Instructors

Small liberal arts colleges usually don’t have graduate programs, so you won’t be taught by graduate students. At the same time, having a graduate student as an instructor isn’t always a bad thing. Some graduate students are excellent teachers, and some tenured “research” professors are actually lousy.

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Prab Singh heads CollegeSource (http://thecollegesource.net/), an organisation that provides life coaching to adolescents and support to their family through the process of deciding their higher education and career goals.


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