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Freshman Files: Life at a Small Liberal Arts College

January 18th, 2016

Today we have an entry from another student, Elizabeth Schein, who graduated from a fairly large public high school and chose to enroll at a small liberal arts college in an urban setting. She, too, had a number of excellent options, has made a very successful transition and has written thoughtfully about her first semester. We’re grateful that she’s happy to have us share her thoughts with the Shrop Ed community and hope our students and parents will benefit from what she’s written about maximizing academic and extracurricular opportunities.

“I really do feel as though being at a small college has helped me meet people, making valuable connections and friends. Even if I hadn’t joined any extracurriculars, it still would have been easy to make friends because there is a very strong community vibe and a sense of commitment to each other. I also do find that I can easily access my professors and feel comfortable talking in the small classes. I only missed one class all semester even though there were a few days when I didn’t really feel like going to class because my friends and professors hold me accountable for all my actions. Also, because of the small class sizes (and small college size), class discussions can and do continue outside of the classroom. Students (as with any higher education institution, probably) are very passionate about their interests and work so I often find myself engaged in academic conversations and at academic speeches, presentations, and activities.

Anecdotally, I decided to take a math class … and while it was probably the hardest class I’ve ever taken and I butted heads with the professor a lot, there were so many resources available to me and he had many office hours so I was able to take the class without a high degree of stress.

A lot of the professors live nearby or are familiar with the city so not only were they accessible but they were welcoming. In my one semester, I visited the president’s house as well as the homes of one of my professors and an alumnus.

Overall, I definitely recommend that prospective students at least consider the smaller colleges because I know that a lot of the time the concerns students have about attending tiny schools have to do with social life and access to activities, events, and a diverse set of people and they are worried that smaller schools won’t have an active social life or sufficient activities. That is not the case …; there are always activities, both campus sponsored and not. There are also many other colleges (nearby) so there is certainly no shortage of people. Many of my friends who attended huge universities don’t regret their decisions but admit that it can be a bit difficult to create a social life and make friends without participating in Greek life or athletics.

I joined the cross-country team and track and field teams and made a lot of friends through athletics as well as through my classes, clubs, and on-campus job. I felt as though I was well-prepared for my classes. Overall, I definitely did far less writing in high school (and the papers were shorter too) but I knew what to do and had more time to complete all of the homework in my college classes. Moving so far away from home was not a bad transition either because you’re always busy in college and I have a great roommate whom I get along with really well. The classes are hard and the weather is cold but I could not be happier … because there is so much to do here. There are nature walks, river activities, lakes to swim and kayak in, concerts, art galleries, tons of shopping, restaurants, and much more to do within a short walk, run, bike, or bus ride away. I’m never bored and I’ve met some amazing people with diverse backgrounds and while there may have been some culture shock initially, I can’t recommend living on-campus and in a city enough.”

Isn’t it interesting to contemplate all the different factors leading to a great school/college fit! Thanks, Betsy, for allowing us to share your thoughts with others and best wishes for continued success!

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