Krueger: University size matters


Photo: Nick Nelson/Iowa State Daily

Students browse though clubs and organizations looking for new ways to get involved during ClubFest on Wednesday, Jan. 18, in the Great Hall. ClubFest brings over 250 clubs and organizations twice a year.

Emily Krueger

From the corner of my eye, I can see the outline of the caterpillar bus tumbling down the road toward the bus stop where my feet are currently glued. I swallow, clutch the tiny map in my hands and twist as the bus screeches to a halt in front of my post. Today is my first day as an Iowa State Cyclone, and I am having difficulty settling the huge knot of butterflies in my stomach. I take a deep breath, disconnect my feet from their spot on the concrete and board the bus.

Existing as a student at a big university, it is easy to feel like you are a nobody in the midst of a crowd. An important part of the college experience is discovering how to stand on your own two feet. No matter if you are currently attending Iowa State and loving every moment, or you are planning to transfer to somewhere less populated, here are some ideas from someone who has the low-down on big colleges versus small colleges.

First up: the small-college experience.

In lecture halls of at least three hundred people, it is nearly impossible to get that one-on-one relationship with the instructors, and even more difficult to get to know your classmates. That was one opportunity I loved in small colleges: you could actually get to know the professors and a majority of your classmates. If you are having difficulty in a class, have no fear! You can easily walk from the dorms across campus, assuming class times were over, and receive the answers to your questions within ten minutes.

The financial aspect of going to a small college has its benefits as well. Financial-aid offices are often quick to respond and act when it comes to important documents such as students’ Free Application for Federal Student Aid and scholarship statuses. Although many smaller private schools’ tuition costs are higher, often multiple specialized scholarships are offered that bring costs below that of big universities.

Though there are many benefits to going to a smaller college, there are many disadvantages as well. Small or private colleges often have as much as 90 percent of the student body in the dorms or other on-campus housing. While everyone may be close-knit after a few weeks, it makes it difficult for the off-campus students to find a place to fit in with dorm dwellers.

Often in smaller colleges there are fewer majors to choose from, so if you switch majors after a year, you may end up having to transfer to a different school where your field of study is offered.

Next, large universities.

The number one thing that caught my attention at Iowa State was how many opportunities to get involved there were all over campus compared to my previous college.

For example, ClubFest, an annual event, hosts countless clubs that closely apply to your major in just about any way you thought possible. If you want to learn to swing dance, there is a pretty good chance that there is club you can join. Internship opportunities fly around the college’s CyMail like tiny digital roadrunners. Even part-time job opportunities that play as “mini” versions of your future “big kid” job are endless.

Another huge advantage to large universities are the majors they offer. If you start with a major in physics but then decide that a business degree is more up your alley, you can switch majors without putting yourself through the tedious process of transferring schools. There are also more hands-on experiences at big colleges, not to mention the scholarships and grants a person can apply for are practically limitless, helping with the semester costs. There are so many great people with whom to meet and network; the more people you know, the better the chance of gaining unique opportunities in your field of work in the future.

Most likely the majority of people reading this article are already Iowa State Cyclones. I absolutely love the big campus vibe, the bustle, the people and the opportunities that arise, so get up and take advantage of the opportunities presented to you! Get involved with the campus clubs and apply for that study-abroad internship you have been looking at but haven’t mustered up the courage to apply for. During your time at Iowa State, go all out and enjoy it! After all, learning to stand on your own two feet is a big part of what college is all about.